Tag Archives: pets

For the Love of Dog

You’ve heard of the differences between cats & dogs – that cats are independent and aloof, whereas dogs are pack animals, loyal and social to a fault. Interesting, isn’t it, that by simply reversing the letters, you get ‘god’….hmmm….

I’ve been in daily contact with a 2yo Golden Retriever. When I am the only human in the house, she insists on being as close to me as possible. More than two steps of distance in any direction is enough to get her to move, and when I’m alone in the house but not accessible, she lets out a mournful cry that would melt the sturdiest heart. I may have my reasons for being away from her, and know that I’m still being responsible for handling any emergency that could arise, yet she cries out for my company, the distance is too great. (well, she’d be thrilled with any of us humans, but that’s beside the point at hand)

Now, as a human who could be caught off balance and injured by falling, I’m rather uncomfortable finding her laying just behind my ankles.  I admit to being bemused when I open the bathroom door to find her laying against it.  Then there’s that despondent howl.

It was said, I believe by C.S.Lewis, that if you wish to know what worship looks like, look into the eyes of a dog.  It’s not that they’re always wanting you to feed or entertain them, they are most often content with being near. They stay near enough to be petted, to commiserate with your pain or grief, and to notice when you grab your coat & keys, in case they could go for a ride and see the world with you.  Of course, if you leave food unattended, they’ll be quick to snatch the blessing.

It struck me one day, do we have the same affection and devotion to God?  He won’t fall if we’re resting at His ankles, and there’s no telling what treasures or caresses we may get if we move to follow His every step.  We’ll certainly look back on a life less wasted if we’re alert and responsive, and may even get to see the world with Him.  The enemy will have a tougher time getting to us if we’re near and attentive to God – oftentimes, we make the tempter’s job way too easy.

Do we miss God when He’s not immediately accessible?  Do we cry out for His presence and wait in the last place we were with Him, or do we run off and content ourselves with a toy?

I’m not sure I’d recommend going to prayer with your tongue lolling and your behind wagging, but you may want to give some thought to what your devotion looks like, from a dog’s eye view.

Surrogates

Those born with the gift of nurturing begin the practice early.

We carefully study our parents to see how it’s done, then take great care of dolls, family pets, even siblings. We look forward to the day when we too will have the house, spouse, and children into whom we can invest our joie-de-vivre, hard-won wisdom, and even favorite recipes.  Someday, we imagine, we will guide our children on magical discoveries:

Caterpillars become butterflies.

Those low twinkles are lightning bugs, and you can hold one.

Every rain is followed by a rainbow.

…and we will gently hold them through the hard lessons:

Even the sun goes to bed.

Butterflies and lightning bugs go away for a season.

Every rainbow follows rain.

Seasons turn to years as we continue to watch for the one who will walk beside us in the fulfillment of this dream.  Some find their companions early, some late, and some…never.  In the meantime, we continue our practice on surrogates – other peoples’ children – babysitting and buying for nieces and nephews, cherished friends, and pouring our creativity into sunday school classes or scouting troops.  We share with their parents the ecstasy of first words, first steps, first holidays… we share in the concern over fevers and broken bones and broken hearts…  always with the reminder that, though we may love them like our own, they really are someone else’s children.

Enter the ‘spinster paradigm’ – the single person with the car, career, house, and three cats.   While three cats and a rocking chair is the classic joke setup, sometimes these take the form of one or more dogs.  Whatever the form, there’s someone to miss you when you’re gone and greet you when you get home.  We feed, clean up, train, and entertain these furry friends, hold them in our arms, take them to the vet, and make deliberate arrangements for their social lives.  They read us as well as we read them, sometimes better.  We learn each others’ rhythms and emotions, and respond accordingly with an ear scratch, a head on the lap, or both.  The lines between pet and master get blurred when they insist on getting fed, being let out, or avoiding the bath.

We do realize that they can’t perceive rainbows, don’t follow the progression of caterpillar to butterfly, and that we really don’t want them to catch lightning bugs (spiders? well, that’s another matter).  We know they won’t pass our stories and wisdom on to the next generation after them, other than some brief instructional help on how to operate the pet door and where not to poop.  We know, though we avoid the thought as long as possible, that we will most likely outlive them.

When that day comes, we ask one thing of you who have human companions and children of your own.  We ask that you keep to yourself the harsh truth that these furry friends on four legs are not our equals.  For us, they are surrogates, the closest we will ever have to that blessed gift –

for us, they are our children.

Stretching or Reaching?

One of my cats caused me to ask a profound question one day… she’s the one who was in charge of waking me up with a gentle nudge each morning, more for the sake of their breakfast than my work schedule. Lounging on ‘her’ side of the bed, she stretched one little white-tipped paw toward my arm… smiling, I asked, “are you stretching or reaching?” A simple question, if she were trying to get in contact with me, I’d need to move just a bit to meet her – but if she were trying to stretch, my moving toward her would instead become a roadblock. Think about it – have you ever built up for a really good stretch or yawn, and just as it was going quite well, something or someone interrupted – you arrived at the ceiling or wall, the phone rang…and there was the frustration of an unfulfilled stretch and a bit of harsh attitude toward the interloper.

No, this isn’t my cat – I don’t have pic’s of them stretching (or reaching)

The question played in my mind for a while… reaching… when you reach for something, whether it be near or far, you have a certain expectation that you will touch or grasp it. Your level of desire can be measured by what it takes to make you give up – will you stand on tip-toes, fetch a chair, ask for help, or surrender & leave the desired thing where it is, out of reach? Sometimes the expectation is painfully unmet – like reaching for a child’s hug, only to have them turn away… a few of these, and we might give up the desire to hug children, or anyone, because we’ve learned to stop reaching, to stop being disappointed, to stop trying.

When you stretch, other than being interrupted, it’s very self-satisfying. It’s healthy, of course, to stretch – to un-kink the muscles or prepare them for a workout, but it’s admittedly focused on one. The objective is centered in ‘my’ satisfaction, the activity is done ‘my’ way, only I will know whether I’ve done what I set out to do, and only I will reap the benefits. Other than in classes such as yoga & tai-chi, it’s not a connecting activity.

God seeks for us to connect with Him – to do more than stretch, but instead to reach with the expectation that we will come in contact with Him and receive what He has for us. That may be instruction, or comfort, or admonition, but whatever it is, He is wise to know what is best and faithful to provide what is needed.

Wise parents will work with young children to teach them to reach…keeping themselves just beyond the reach of a toddler learning to walk, but never beyond the length of their own arms, in case the little one loses balance. We learn confidence when we successfully reach for something and acquire it, whether confidence in ourselves, or confidence in the one keeping supplies & security nearby. We also develop strength and coordination – imagine a baby who never had to stand & walk to get to Mom & Dad or explore his/her world…their little legs would never learn to carry them, and they’d become spoiled demanding tots, insisting that every object of their desire be placed in their hand without any effort on their part.

Our Father is the supreme wise parent – holding us close, and bringing us through phases of reaching….that we may learn to walk, or be seen by others to be walking that they may take up the challenge…that we may have confidence that whatever we need is in His hand… that we may develop strength and endurance for times when the object of our desire is not immediately available. He is also the supreme gentleman – though He longs to move close and make contact with us, He will not interrupt a stretch, but rather will wait until we actually reach for Him.

So, as you read & pray & do the things that a child of God is ‘supposed to do’, ask yourself, are you Stretching, or Reaching?