When I was fifteen years old, I was viciously attacked by my own dog. It required an emergency trip to the ER, 24 stitches on my face and 10 more on my left hand. I was devastated because I was a natural born dog lover and this event set in motion a fear I’d never had before: the fear of dogs.

Fast forward almost thirty years. I’d attempted to have several dogs but I didn’t trust any of them…I was scared and I suffered from PTSD. Certain barking or growling sounds from any dog would send me running in the other direction!

When my youngest daughter was five, she begged for a dog and in my heart I knew that growing up with a K-9 friend would enhance her life. But I wondered if I could get over my fear of dogs…could I trust a dog again? I would have to muster up some good old courage to give her the opportunity to experience having a new furry friend.

That’s when Enzo came into our lives. He was the perfect dog! It felt as if God had custom ordered him for our family, and more importantly, to heal my fear of dogs so I could return to my “dog loving self” again! Enzo was a large, almost 100% black German Shepherd with a kind, calm and gentle disposition. Often, I referred to him as the gentle giant. Over the 4 1/2 years we had Enzo, God used him to mend the trauma of my dog attack and though it wasn’t easy, I learned that courage is learning to trust again. 

Lesson #1: Courage is learning to trust again.

About 3 1/2 years after getting Enzo another German Shepherd came into our lives. I was NOT in favor of getting a 4-month-old puppy, but after a lot of begging from my family I reluctantly agreed and Bella joined our family. Soon, I would come to understand that Bella was a gift from God…His provision in advance. I would learn that courage is embracing God’s provision even when you don’t understand why or what it’s for. It’s trusting in God’s plan and that He has His reasons. 

Lesson #2: Courage is embracing God’s provision even when you don’t understand why or what it is for. 

Five months after getting Bella, Enzo became ill with an incurable spine disease. For seven months we helplessly watched our gentle giant deteriorate. It was heartbreaking and we dreaded the visit to the vet…the visit that Enzo would not come home from. I didn’t want to make that decision. How could I choose to end his life? But his suffering was unbearable and unfair. I was reminded that courage is so often making the tough, right decision even when it hurts or doesn’t feel good. 

Lesson #3: Courage is making the tough, right decision even when it hurts or doesn’t feel good.

Up until the day of Enzo’s final visit to the vet I hadn’t let myself grieve. Crying is painful and I didn’t want to emotionally go there…to that place of experiencing the feeling of loss. Enzo was a special dog. He did what no one else could do…he healed my heart from the fear of dogs. I was afraid to say goodbye. I was afraid to feel grief and loss. That’s when I realized that courage is allowing myself to grieve. It’s giving myself permission to bravely experience the heartache of losing something or someone I love. 

Lesson #4 Courage is allowing yourself to grieve.

It was a surreal moment when I realized that in the midst of loss life still goes on. Grieving is healthy and it has its rightful place in our lives, but we are not meant to get stuck there. Life does go on. Grief is a process and we’re meant to move through it. I discovered that courage is continuing to live after grief and loss. It is refusing to let the pain keep you from loving, smiling and enjoying life. Courage is finding a new normal.

Lesson #5: Courage is continuing to live after grief and loss.

Who knew that Enzo would teach me so much about life and courage and that he would heal my heart in very specific ways. His legacy lives on because the lessons he taught me live in my heart. Because of him I am not afraid anymore and I am back to my “dog loving self!” Now, I can fully enjoy being a dog mom to Bella, the second K-9 to take up landscape in my fully mended heart. I can see clearly that God’s loving hand was at work…preparing our family for the loss of Enzo by bringing sweet Bella to us. I love how God uses everyday life to reveal Himself more and more to me, to teach me, to grow me and to show me His never-ending love.

Courage Challenge Question:

Of the five courage lessons above, which one speaks to you the most? Is there an specific situation or area of your life that God is asking you to step out in faith and courage today?  

Many Blessings,

JJ Gutierrez


Grow in courage and faith when you get your copy of Chickening IN-from FEAR to Courageous FAITH