Last week I convinced my husband that we needed a rug for our formerly-formal dining room. It is in the process of becoming a “reading room.” This dream room will include a faux brick wall, crate bookshelves, art and bean bag chairs. It’s going to be thee coolest room in the house! The tan shaggy 8×10 rug is the longest haired rug I’ve ever petted. On the way home from purchasing this rug my husband and I spotted a young dad pushing a jogging stroller. I could sense the instant connection my husband felt with this man. He got embarrassingly excited. As we got closer to Jogging Dad I was afraid my husband was going to ask him for his number. From our van window we looked in the stroller to check out his baby. Except it wasn’t a baby. It was a dog! My husband was instantly furious, “That’s so stupid! Why would you push a dog!? Dogs are supposed to run with you! What a waste.” I was trying not to be judgmental so I took the role as Dog Dad’s advocate, “The dog’s legs are too short to keep up. Stubby dogs need fresh air too.” The Hubs was still annoyed.
At seeing Dog Dad I reminisced about the dogs I grew up with- First there was Heidi. She was part of our family for 12 happy years. She was a friendly black and white border collie. I remember her last day. She was under the kitchen table, no longer able to get up. She was miserable. It was time. My dad told me to tell her goodbye before I went to bed. The normal lower-middle class family might take her to the vet to be euthanized. Well my dad’s a bit more the old-fashioned-penny-pincher-type… After I heard the gun shot I knew she was gone. I’ve told this story before so I know you’re probably either horrified or laughing. It gets better, and by “better” I mean worse.
After Heidi was Shallbe-Hope. My parents drove the family to a farm. In the barn was a corral full of fuzzy black and white border collies. I climbed in and was instantly charged at by slobbering tongues and pouncing paws. It was great! We picked out the cutest littlest one. My dad and I enrolled her in Doggie Kindergarden. I walked her around an arena and taught her to sit, heel and come. More important than teaching the dog was the bonding time my dad and I had together. We’d never done anything like that before. Shallbe received a ribbon for graduating doggie kindergarden. I was so proud! Shortly after graduation we realizing something was wrong. Shallbe stopped growing. We picked the runt of the litter! And as typical of runts she had health problems. She dripped. She was a leaky faucet. My parent’s drove us to the top veterinarian hospital in the state. They spent more money than I ever imagined they would spend on bladder surgery for a dog. They did it because they knew I loved her. We took Shallbe home for recovery only to find out that she still dripped. Our house was beginning to stink, nobody would adopt a leaky dog, and putting a dog outside in a Michigan winter would be exile. My parents were at a loss. One weekend my mom told me I was going to spend the night at my best friend Tirzah’s house… but I needed to say goodbye to Shallbe before I left. Shallbe had run out of Hope. I saw my friend’s mom pull in the driveway and ran out to greet her. Then I remembered Shallbe. I frantically went back to look for her. I tried to go back into the house through the garage but my dad said I couldn’t go in there. I couldn’t find her. Years later I realized it was because she had already been sent to the gas chambers. *Insert gasps* My mom’s technique of using my best friend to distract me from sadness worked until bedtime. Poor Tirzah, I cried and cried that night. She comforted me as best as a 12-year-old knows how. She put her arm around me and assuringly said, “You’ll see her again in Heaven.” Hopelessly I responded, “No I won’t. Dogs don’t have souls only humans do.”
So my childhood experience with dogs was a mixture of wonderful bonding time and horrifying disappearances. My husband and I are hesitant to ever get a dog. Obviously stubby-legged dogs are out of the picture. It would need to be able to run with us, because we like to pretend that we’re runners. No Doggie Daddy stroller for the hubs. I think I understand why the dog stroller frustrated him so much. Dogs can take up some much time and energy (and money!), but the irritation comes when people substitute a dog’s companionship for a humans. My husband is right it’s a waste.
Animal Lovers, hear me out. Having a pet can be absolutely wonderful. Good grief, it’s even been scientifically proven that an animal’s companionship can help people live longer. The retirement home where I used to work had a in-home cat for that reason. Working dogs are especially great because they are trained to save lives. My friend Kathy’s service dog helped her do activities of daily living that because of muscular dystrophy she was not able to do. Her dog, Sugar Daddy (named after the candy not a pimp), helped open doors and pick up items off the floor. One day Sugar Daddy potentially saved her life. She leaned over too far in her wheelchair and because of a lack of muscle strength she couldn’t get back up. Struggling to breath and on the verge of passing out Sugar Daddy put his paws on her lap and used his head to push her back up. *Cue the tears* He was a hero! Sew a cape on that working dog’s vest!
Not many people have a working dog but many families have a pet. Pets can be a useful instrument to encourage love and teach responsibility. When the dog is disobedient or has an accident instead of yelling or smacking the dog out of anger mom and dad can consistently discipline out of love. I’m no dog expert so don’t ask me how to do this! A dog should feel welcomed in the family and not to be left in a kennel and ignored. Kids can learn the responsibility of caring for another being by letting it outside to potty, feeding, bathing, and cleaning up its messes.
By teaching children love and responsibility through caring for a dog there can be an eternal gain, but sometimes dogs are just a straight up nuisance. I would struggle to remember Jesus if a dog peed on my new rug! Dogs (and pets in general) can be a distraction from more important things, things that have souls. Or worse yet a love for an animal can take the place of loving other humans. This is what my husband was talking about when in his disappointed over Dog Dad he over-compassionately exclaimed, “What a waste!” As a Christian if there is no eternal gain in having a pet than there is no gain at all. My Aunt Donna is the biggest dog-lover I know. I call her the dog whisperer. She has three stubby-legged dogs of her own and she runs a doggie daycare. She is excellent at what she does because she truly loves dogs. God has gifted her in this area, and on top of being the biggest dog-lover I know she also loves the Lord. She knows that if she were only to show Christ’s love to the dogs and not their owners she would be completely missing the mark.
I just became a proud “Aunt” to a Golden Doodle named Indie Rose. She has been blessed with Godly parents who can use her as an instrument of love. They are much more saintly than me! With Indie Rose’s fuzzy tan fur she reminds me of my new rug. I got to meet her last week at a birthday party. She is ADORABLE!… until she nipped at me- then hat was the end of that relationship. The party was full of noisy children (including my 3) and the dog’s barking increased the noise volume by about 50%. If you haven’t guessed it already I am not exactly a dog person. I hope someday to be one but at this phase in life I praise God that his mercy’s are new every morning because by 5:00pm they seem to be running low. Perhaps when all of my children are past the potty-training years and my rug is not so new we can venture the dog life, but for now I am content with petting my new Golden Doodle rug.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22,23
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13: 34, 35
Dear God, help me to keep an eternal perspective on what I spend my time and energy on. Let my work not be in vain but have an eternal gain for your You glory. If You would find it fitting for our family to have a pet some day please provide the right one at the right time. Give me peace about declining adopting any pets in the mean time.