Salty’s presence was a balm to many, even those

who weren’t believers. Once Gundersen was asked to officiate a funeral for a woman who was married to an agnostic. Her son, a veterinarian, scheduled a meeting to plan the funeral. He and his siblings worried their father wouldn’t cooperate. But he did. Before the meeting, “Salty walked over to

him and he just stared into the dog’s eyes,” Gundersen said. “I looked over and his son, the veterinarian, was weeping. He patted the dog on the head and said, ‘Pastor, what do you need from me?’ ” From that point on the meeting went smoothly. “After the funeral his son said to me, ‘It was the dog;

it made all the difference,’ ” Gundersen said. “I couldn’t have done that—Salty did.” Also, while Gundersen was serving Ascension

Lutheran Church in Saginaw, Mich., Salty helped another grieving individual. When they first met, Laurie Rubier had

experienced three deaths in her family in the span of three years, the most recent being her mother’s. “She was in deep, deep grief,” Gundersen said, and it was hard to reach her. Enter Salty. One morning while Rubier was weeping in the sanctuary, Salty joined her. “Laurie looked at the dog and started talking to him,”

she said. “And out comes the whole story.” Rubier said, “I know that sounds kind of crazy, but it

felt like Salty was listening to me.” Rubier ultimately credits Salty and Gundersen for

helping her grieve. Gundersen counts this as one of Salty’s most astounding acts of ministry. Salty also followed Gundersen to Ohio to serve

St. John (Champion) and Prince of Peace (Cortland). He retired from ministry in 2015. It would be remiss not to mention the influence Salty

had on Gundersen, who said working alongside him made her a more calm, assertive leader. Eventually she will get another church dog. “I just can’t

see any downside to having a dog in ministry,” she said. “A dog makes people feel safe. There’s a lot of people who would love to own a dog and just can’t for whatever reason. Having the dog at church is like their dog.” Remembering and giving thanks for Salty, Gundersen said, “It was fun to bask in his glow.”

Erin Strybis is a content editor for Living Lutheran and admirer of dogs, especially her pet pug Gus.

Host a Tour

Remarkable Destinations Inspirational Speakers Enchanting Rhine &

Reformation Cruise & Tour November 8-17, 2018

Guest Speaker: Rev. Robert Flohrs

Cruise on the AmaWaterways AmaVerde Cologne, Koblenz, Heidelberg, Eisenach, Erfurt, Wittenberg & more 800-247-0017

& Earn Your Travel

Lands of the Bible Cruise Oct. 29 - Nov. 11, 2017

Guest Speaker: Rev. Dr. Philip Ruge-Jones

Cruise on the Celebrity Constellation to Rome, Athens, Bethlehem, Jerusalem & more

These ELCA Clergy can assist you with travel ministry options:

Pastor Russ Gordon: Pastor Rick Meier:


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