“We have what we call Dog Church" for people with special needs. “We sing and we laugh and play and we give a bible lesson..."
It was 2007. Larry Randolph was deep into his quiet morning devotional time. He was reading Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” (NLT)
Of course, being quiet before the Lord can be a challenge.
Larry explains that in his mind “It’s like a theater. The screens are going all the time. There’s the view of the kids, there’s the family, there’s the job, there’s the world – there’s these screens going all the time.”
But during his personal time with the bible that day, “God cleared those screens out of my mind” and “as I was reading that scripture,” God said to Larry’s heart just two words: “therapy dogs.”
Therapy dogs offer "unconditional love.” That term is also a phrase often used to describe the Agape love offered only by Christ.
Therapy Dogs? What!?
You can hear the spiritual drama of this message from God in our complete podcast interview just below:
Little did Larry comprehend at the time that God, starting with that divine hint, would lead him to create a unique ministry outreach called Canines 4 Christ.
The mission of the ministry is “to make a difference in the lives of people, by offering the love, kindness, and compassion of Jesus Christ. And we do that by using the dogs as a vessel.” The trained volunteers and special therapy dogs are deployed in many kinds of places: hospitals, nursing homes, schools, police departments, hospices, and they work with veterans and encourage people with special needs.
Canines 4 Christ also offers crisis response, deploying teams to locations of natural disasters or mass shootings. The volunteers often see peoples’ pain melt away when the dog shares puppy love.
Larry looks at the organization’s mission in a basic way. “When a volunteer takes a certified therapy dog out into the community, that dog is basically Jesus with fur…because they give this unconditional love that greets people with a warm nose and a wagging tail, and just a gentle mannerism, and that way it breaks the ice. It breaks the barriers of communication where people can talk.”
He smiles, “They’ll talk to the dogs first. Then you, the volunteer has a pathway…we just wanted to come in and say, ‘God loves you today’ and ‘How are you feeling?’” That conversation often leads to prayer, and sometimes to a bible study.
Special dogs for special needs
“We have what we call Dog Church. We bring the dogs in, and they actually have a church service” for people with special needs. “We sing and we laugh and play and we give a bible lesson … And it’s a wonderful way to minister to people that can’t have those dogs in their own home.”
Telling the complete story
Larry’s new book, Finding Grace, describes in compelling detail all the elements used to point him to God’s will - here's a sample:
Larry’s heart skipped a beat. Therapy dogs? Where had that thought come from? “God, was that you?” He already knew the answer. His heart said yes, even as his mind struggled to understand. What did therapy dogs have to do with anything? He was a real estate developer, not a dog breeder. Or a therapist. I don’t even have a dog.
And yet a certainty washed over him that he hadn’t felt since his first date with Susan—when he knew she would be his wife one day. “Therapy dogs,” he said, testing the words out on his lips. He got up and began to pace back and forth between the living room and the kitchen. “Therapy dogs . . .” he repeated. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Don’t lean on your own understanding. Hold on to love and faithfulness . . . therapy dogs.”
But Larry wasn’t a ‘dog guy’
Pondering the directive from God, Larry didn’t even have a dog. But his daughters changed all that when they visited his office one day. “They had this, about an eight-pound Bassett Hound, in their hands. And he was just a goofy-looking, big floppy-eared, drug the floor – huge feet – and they said, ‘Dad, meet Gus!’”
As it turned out, Gus “was the perfect God’s vessel that I needed at that time because he gave me so much joy and love – unconditional love.”
That term is also a phrase often used to describe the Agape love offered only by Christ. Larry knows that God sent Gus to him as an encourager at a time that he truly needed it with things going on in his life. And the comfort and affection Gus offered also helped lay the groundwork for what would one day become Canines 4 Christ.
Also, in our podcast you’ll hear from Jennifer Bleakley, co-author of Finding Grace, who explains the special meaning behind the book’s title and shares her enthusiasm about getting the word out about the wonderful ministry of Canines 4 Christ.
She hopes the book will energize people for Christ and will put this specific question on the hearts of those who read it: “To ask God, ‘What do you want me to do? What one step of faith can I take?’”