After a series of devastating personal losses, Larry Randolph finally had things under control. Then one morning while praying, he felt God speak two simple words to his heart: “therapy dogs.”
There was only one problem. Larry didn’t have a dog, and hadn’t since the loss of his beloved basset hound, Gus. Why would God say that? Could Larry even open himself up to loving a dog again? He had far more questions than answers.
But then came Grace.
Together, Larry and his beloved white Lab Gracie brought hope and healing to hundreds of sick and lonely people. But when Larry’s own life took a shocking and terrifying turn, it was up to Gracie to rescue Larry and his family too.
When God Speaks
Excerpt from Finding Grace: The Inspiring True Story of Therapy Dogs Bringing Comfort, Hope, and Love to a Hurting World
Larry eased the door closed behind him and treaded softly down the hall. He smiled to himself, thinking of how quietly he used to sneak from the bedroom, afraid any noise would wake his new wife. But after nearly five years of marriage, Larry had come to realize that Susan could sleep through almost anything.
Sunrise was still thirty minutes away, and there was no light streaming through the windows. Larry made a pot of coffee in the kitchen, poured himself a mug, then continued to the living room. His routine was as familiar as it was necessary. He craved these quiet moments in the morning before the noise of his workday began. It was a routine he had put into practice years ago when nothing had felt familiar or certain, and his soul had been desperate to hold on to something solid.
Placing his mug on the side table, he settled into his recliner and reached for his Bible.
“Good morning, Lord,” he prayed aloud. “Thank you for this new day and for being here with me.”
The hum of the air conditioner and overhead fan—necessities for enduring Florida summers—provided a soothing soundtrack as Larry sat in quiet awareness of God’s presence. With a busy day ahead of him, this focused time was like fuel for his heart and mind. He prayed first for Susan. Then for his daughters, Kristy and Heather; Susan’s daughters, Tara and Brooke; their sons-in-law; and his young grandchildren. His prayers then turned to friends from their Bible study and for his workday ahead, full of real estate proposals and client meetings.
“Lord, I give my day to You. Help me speak with wisdom and grace today. Guide my conversations and help others see You in me.”
As he opened his Bible to the passage he had been reading the day before, an odd restlessness settled over him. It was a feeling he had experienced several times over the last few weeks. Thankfully, though, the feeling never lingered. He figured it was probably work-related stress. Or maybe, Larry thought, looking around the freshly painted living room, this feeling has to do with Susan’s determination to repaint every room in our townhouse.
No one could accuse his wife of taking it easy in her early retirement. Instead, she poured herself into all the things she’d never had time for when she was working. Now Susan was busier than ever with her community Bible study, volunteering with Meals on Wheels, and turning their townhouse into a cozy and beautiful home. She joked that retirement had become a full-time job.
Larry took a sip of coffee and tried to push the unsettled feelings aside. After all, life was good. His own retirement was approaching, and he and Susan were looking forward to traveling and visiting their children and grandchildren. He had everything he’d ever wanted—everything that at one point in his life he’d thought he would never have again. Larry smiled to himself. I’m sure my restless feelings are because I never know what color the living room will be when I come home.
His Bible was open to the third chapter of Proverbs. Even though he had read through the book countless times, there was always some new nugget of wisdom God would show him.
He started reading silently, then paused at Proverbs 3:3: “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.”
“God, please help me to pursue love and faithfulness in all I do. Write them on my heart.”
He stopped again two verses later—not to pray, but to catch his breath. His heart was racing. It wasn’t alarming. In fact, it almost felt . . . joyful, like the anticipation before opening a gift. He read Proverbs 3:5-6 aloud: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Larry knew the words by heart, and yet it was like he was reading them for the first time. He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. Experience had taught him that this feeling of joyful anticipation while reading Scripture was usually God’s Spirit gently speaking to him.
“Lord, I want to trust you fully and submit to your will. Is there something you want me to do?”
And then suddenly, in the silence, there it was.
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.”
It was like trying to create one image from two different puzzles. “Lord, please help me understand.”
He considered waking Susan. But what would he say? “Good morning, sweetheart. What do you think about therapy dogs?” No, he needed to sit with this a little while.
“Therapy dogs,” he repeated the words again. The words hadn’t come out of nowhere. Could God be speaking to him?
But what would he say to Susan? They had only been married for five years, and he had already taken her to hurricane-ravaged Louisiana to help feed victims of Katrina, to Tanzania to build churches, and to south Florida to build houses with Habitat for Humanity. Could he really ask her to join him on another wild adventure? And why would God ask him to do something with therapy dogs now?
Maybe I heard him wrong, he rationalized. Maybe my subconscious had just been remembering Gus, or maybe I dreamed about him last night and he was just on my mind this morning.
Larry’s pulse began racing as his heart accepted what his mind was still fighting.
Trust me, not your own understanding.
“Okay, Lord, I will do whatever you want me to do,” Larry spoke aloud. “But, um . . . I think you might have to bring me a dog first.”
Adapted from Finding Grace: The Inspiring True Story of Therapy Dogs Bringing Comfort, Hope, and Love to a Hurting World by Larry Randolph and Jennifer Marshall Bleakley, releasing from Tyndale House Publishers in October 2023.
About the Authors
Larry Randolph is the founder and president of Canines for Christ Therapy Dog Ministry.
He served in the Coast Guard Reserves; is a graduate of the Billy Graham School of Evangelism and a Billy Graham Rapid Response Chaplain; and is a board-certified crisis response specialist. Larry’s latest book, Finding Grace, will release on October 17, 2023 from Tyndale House Publishers. For additional information about Larry, go to: Canines for Christ | Blog | Facebook | Ministry Promo Video
Author photo by Pete Van Valkenburg, Copyright © 2023. All Rights Reserved.
Jennifer Marshall Bleakley is the author of Joey, the Pawverbs devotional series, and Project Solomon. She holds a master’s degree in mental health counseling and worked for several years as a grief counselor before discovering her passion for writing. Jennifer’s latest books, Finding Grace (Tyndale House Publishers, October 2023) and Pawverbs for Kids (Tyndale House Publishers, September 2023). For additional information about Jennifer, go to: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Pawverbs for Kids
Author photo by Greenflash Productions Photography, copyright © 2019. All rights reserved.
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