Charity Never Faileth

Content Warning: Animal cruelty. Names and some identifying details have been changed.

I served my mission in the heart of the Bible Belt, so converts were not exactly forthcoming. We worked hard as missionaries, but our labors rarely bore the kind of fruit expected. One of my companions pointed out that even if nobody got baptized as a result of our preaching, as long as we did it out of love, we were successful missionaries because charity never faileth. I filed that away in the back of my head and forgot about it when I finished my mission.

Two hands arranged in the shape of a heart, with sunlight streaming through

There is a guest suite attached to my house, set up in such a way that I can either use it as a separate unit, or I can open a door in my kitchen and expand the house into a larger one. Typically I bolt it off and rent it out as a furnished apartment to help pay the mortgage.

A friend, Christine, was renting the apartment, and she was going to be out of town for several weeks, so she asked me if her family member, Joan, could stay there for a little bit to get back on her feet. I said that was fine. Joan brought a little dog with her. The lease said no pets, but I decided I was okay with it because I’m an animal lover, though I’m more of a cat person.

Joan kept different hours from me, so I would sometimes go days without seeing her, and since it was a separate unit anyway, she was more like a next door neighbor than a roommate, so when I didn’t see her car for four days, I thought nothing of it. Christine texted me and asked me to make a repair in the apartment, so I went in there. When I entered, I found the dog abandoned, skinny to the point I could see her ribs, terrified, with no food and water.

I immediately gave the dog water, which she lapped up gratefully. I grabbed a cup of my cats’ food which she ate like it was manna from heaven. I reached out to Joan and got nothing. I called Christine and told her what I had found, and she was furious. Apparently this is not the first time this dog has been similarly abandoned. It turns out Joan had skipped town, leaving the dog behind. Christine said she would take the dog but that she couldn’t get to town for another few weeks.

I called another friend, Sarah, who loves dogs and asked her how to take care of a dog. Since she knew I had so much else on my plate, Sarah offered to foster the dog for a few weeks until Christine got back into town. Christine and her husband Ron got into town a few weeks later, and they were reunited with the dog. (Ron had cared for the dog after the previous abandonment, so they were already best buddies.)

A week later, Christine passed away suddenly. Ron was devastated, but he was glad that at least he had the dog to keep him company. After the funeral, Joan took the dog back by force. Ron was beside himself when he told me this. I did my best to comfort him, but I was upset, too. The authorities were either unable or unwilling to do anything about it. [1]

Christine, Ron, Sarah, and I all worked very hard to rescue this dog, nurse her back to health, and give her a safe and loving forever home, and it all fell apart. Despite our best efforts, it wasn’t enough, and the dog is back in the hands of her abuser.

I was having dinner with Sarah, and I filled her in on everything that had happened. She responded that I had done everything I could. Rationally I knew that; there was nothing more that I could have done. But I also felt like I had failed, and I don’t like failing.

Scripture teaches that though tongues, knowledge, and even prophecies fail, but charity, the pure love of Christ, never fails. [2] We were not failures because what we did, we did out of love for an innocent creature. Scripture further teaches that God is mindful of the falling of even a single sparrow [3] and that He feeds the birds. [4] If God watches over birds, I have to believe He watches over dogs, too.

I’ll probably never know the ultimate outcome of this situation, but I love and pray for that dog. I hope she ends up in a loving home far away from Joan’s selfish neglect. And even though things didn’t work out this time, we didn’t fail because charity never faileth.

[1] At least there’s a paper trail in case something else happens.
[2] 1 Corinthians 13:8
[3] Matthew 10:29
[4] Matthew 6:26


Trudy is a legal professional living in the southwestern US. She has three cats who allow her to live in their house in exchange for a steady supply of food and treats.

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4 Responses

  1. Katie Rich says:

    So heartbreaking. It is so hard when our best efforts don’t lead the the results we desire. But I think you are right that you did all that you could and with the best intentions. I’ll file away this idea as well, because we can’t always control outcomes, but we can lead with charity.

  2. BETSY SHAFER says:

    ‘Endorse yourself’ . . . it’s a good idea . . . but keep that pooch in mind and if you get a chance nab it!

  3. nicolesbitani says:

    I want to sear this line into my memory as a mantra for all those things where I might feel my efforts didn’t make a difference: “I’ll probably never know the ultimate outcome of this situation, but I love and pray for…” Thank you for showing such kindness to a vulnerable creature. I truly hope we all will be held accountable for our actions (especially those for or against the most vulnerable creatures) someday.

  4. I love that you tried. I am so sorry about the loss of your friend.

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