Sunday, February 07, 2010

A Stray

We are a dog kind of family… but I really didn’t want to have another dog for awhile after little Tori passed away. Mostly because I had done such a poor job raising her that she was unruly and not much fun in the last years of her life. There was a part of me that just didn’t want to fail another animal, as well as a part of me that just wanted to be lazy.

But if you are a dog person… you are a dog person. I was finding myself feeling an intense emptiness in the house when I came home alone. Another thing I noticed was just how messy we are. Crumbs galore have collected a lot quicker than ever… so I’ve been vacuuming A LOT more.

It hit me one day… we should get another dog! But I kept it to myself hoping the feeling would subside. But it didn’t and finally I spoke to my hubby about it. We talked about getting a dog who needed to be rescued rather than getting a puppy. After thinking on it for only a day or two, we decided to go for it.

First thing I did was look online at to see what all was available. Wow… there are a lot of dogs out there needing a good home!! I couldn’t believe it. After reading and reading… I narrowed it down to about 20 dogs. From there we did some research on the breeds and were able to narrow it to about 10 and from there filled out paperwork and made calls to see what I had to do to meet the pups we had picked. Only four of them were available to meet quickly… not that we were in a huge hurry but… we were feeling ready and were motivated.

I ended up planning to meet only 3 dogs. I wondered how I would know which one was the right one. My mother told me, the dog really picks you in most cases. In between our appointments, Brett and I went to the local animal shelter to see what was there too. I was surprised to find only 3 adoptable dogs were there. When I walked in the room, over 20 dogs were barking at me. The officer showed me over to the 3 that were adoptable. Of the three, two immediately began barking and jumping up at me in their runs. And then there was this third one in the middle, who just sat there as pretty as could be, looking up longingly and patiently to be noticed. Not a bark, not a whimper, just a stare. I think she knew the moment she laid eyes on me I was going to bring her home.

Having lived with a jumping, barker for 18 years… this non-barking, non-jumper really grabbed my attention. We took her out to the run outside and spent some time with her. She already knew how to sit and walk on a leash and I had no idea if she was housetrained (but I guessed she was since usually that is the first thing you teach a dog, before sit – ya know?). We left her there… but I called my husband at work and said, “I’m taking you to meet Ms. No Name when you get home.”

He met her at 5:00 and after only being with her for 10 minutes or so my husband, the man who almost always thinks ahead, plans and makes solid decisions said, “Let’s get her.” So we did.

Let me tell you, she is something. A real dream. Completely trained and sweet. She is protective and kind, gentle but playful. Awesome with my son and she really likes me a lot, too (smart girl). She’s not perfect, needs some further training but for the most part… she is a dream – whoever had her before us did a way better job with her than I ever did with Tori. I feel like I don’t deserve her.

As nice as this all sounds… there is a very sad side. A part that made me cry. While we did bring home an awesome dog, and saved her from the concrete, fenced in, cold dark place she had called home for over two weeks… there were so many other dogs out there that I couldn’t bring home. I felt this tremendous guilt over NOT picking the two that were housed right next to her. I mean they were cute, and they just wanted attention. They had done nothing wrong… yet I essentially rejected them. And what about the two other dogs I had actually met and spent time with? Why weren’t they good enough? Why hadn’t I picked them? Weren’t they deserving of a good, loving home too??? Call me a wimp, call me a sap… but this made me cry. My husband said, “We can’t take them all Wendy, we have to do what’s best for us,” as he patted me on the back lovingly. That is the truth, but that is the hard part… it feels so selfish. We didn’t pick the beautiful but hyper boy because he was going to be too much to handle and we didn’t pick the rough around the edges shepherding dog because she was a little too aggressive (and it didn’t help that she was covered in mud and smelled really, really bad). We picked the nice, pretty, gentle, quiet, easy-to-handle dog - the easy pick. Oh, the guilt. I knew I would feel that guilt after I made my decision. The fear of having to make that choice was one of the reasons I didn’t want to deal with getting another dog. It seemed easier not to have to choose. It seemed easier to live without the love of a dog than to have to accept one and reject all the others. But in going through with the decision-making process, I did come out on the other end having helped... at least one. I couldn’t help them all, but I helped one. And I have to remember, helping one is good. My heart and my house aren’t big enough to properly care for more than one.

Maybe it’s because I work in recovery that I let this guilt get to me. I mean, my experience has shown me that even the hard to handle and aggressive ones are completely deserving of a chance. In fact, when given the chance… the hard to handle and the aggressive ones can become just as gentle and obedient as the easy pick. But with us humans, it’s a choice to embrace the decision to try to get a chance and change (which ironically seems like the hard way but only makes life easier in the end) or to stay the same, never have to make a decision, never put ourselves up for rejection, never change or give ourselves a chance at a new life… to stay stray. Dogs don’t have that kind of free will… they rely on us and we get to pick which ones to keep and which ones to toss away and make stray. Maybe that’s why the decision hurts when it comes to dogs.

I am so lucky to have a God who doesn’t act the way I do, a fickle and judgmental owner of a meager pet. I am so lucky to have a God whose heart and house is big enough for all of us. I mean, aren’t we all just a bunch of stray dogs who, for whatever reason have lost our way from time to time??? Haven’t our sins left us caged like animals waiting for someone to come in to the dimly-lit room and rescue us??? But, God isn’t going to walk into the shelter and judge who He is going to bring home with Him based on who barks the least, who is able to control their jumping spirit the best, who is the cleanest or who smells the sweetest. No!!! He sees so much deeper than that. He knows our hearts and loves all of us equally. He treats us as sons and daughters and welcomes us into His grandest room without even asking us to wipe our feet. Okay so, I will probably wander away again, a stray who has found a great home with only my stupidity to blame for leading me astray again. I will probably pick up the scent of temptation and follow it in oblivion until I’ve gone so far off the path that I have no idea how to get back home. But rest assured, He will be there… watching for the strays. Ready to gather me up again and take me, all of us, home. If you’ve ever been a stray, you know what I’m talking about. And if you’ve felt God’s grace wash over you, then you know it’s better than a flea dip. It’s probably the best thing to ever happen to you. But, the first part was opening yourself up to be rescued. If you had kept wandering around out there and never let Him near you, He couldn’t have done His magic.

Maybe you’re a stray right now? Or maybe you’re in denial about being a stray. Either way, it’s not real fun. It’s lonely and things just keep going wrong. No matter how hard you try, it all just falls apart. There is an emptiness that you can’t explain… you’re friends don’t fill it, your spouse doesn’t, your home and possession don’t do it… nothing fills it. You’re just out there wandering aimlessly just like a stray, but nobody can tell because, “you’ve got it together, baby.” Well, there is only one thing that fills the void and completes the life of a stray… a good owner.

I like to think of God as my owner. I came to Him broken hearted baring my soul, pouring my pain and emptiness out at His feet hoping He would take me in. I begged Him to rescue me, and He did. Even now, I know I bark too much, I’m unable to contain my excitement at times, and yes – I’m even stinky every now and then, but the day I accepted Him as my rescuer, He did all the paperwork. He signed a contract of ownership of me. He even had me micro-chipped immediately so no one could ever take wrongful possession of me ever again. The loyalty of a stray to their new owner is almost unbreakable, but the love of the ultimate Owner is completely immeasurable… and totally fulfilling any void anyone could ever have, even a stray that goes astray. “…God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” Acts 10:34-35 I will leave you with this thought, as scary as it is to make changes in life, in order to embark on the greatest relationship of your life, you must be willing to make the choice to accept One... and reject all the rest.

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