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Tag Archives: unconditional love

A Recovering Cat Person

This isn’t a cat-bashing edition. I was just thinking about how much I love and am loved by my dogs. In the last decade, I’ve grown into such a dog person that even when people come to our house, they are unaware that we actually have a cat. She just does her thing, and that doesn’t usually involve people. She likes it that way. She lets us know when she wants attention, and the rest of the time she is content to be a loner. I’m an introvert, so I totally respect that. It’s one of the best qualities of cats. They are so easy to take care of. And honestly, constantly tripping over my dogs who are clamoring for attention can be difficult.

I grew up as a cat person and thought that was all I needed. We had dogs, but they lived outside. My parents had grown up in rural farm areas and that’s how they did it. Plus, my mom said dogs smell.  We had a couple cats at a time in the house. They were funny and spunky, and my Siamese Suzie was even lovable and cuddly. Suzie started out as my sister’s cat, but I ended up adopting her and she was a huge part of my life. This time of year I remember her the most because she loved Christmas. We used to joke that any picture taken of the Christmas tree was sure to have Suzie in it. This is also the time of year when she died, at the ripe old age of seventeen.

I was a mess.

My husband surprised my by allowing a kitten to pick him out a couple weeks later. That’s how we got our current kitty, who is now sixteen. Truffles, our crazy tortie. I had told Robert I knew losing pets was hard, but I never wanted to be without one. They complete a home, and though one can never take the place of another, each can hold a new and special place in our hearts. Now that Truffles is older, I’m not as terrified of her attacking me out of nowhere anymore. She’s fairly mellow now and just purrs all the time.

Truufles and MJ

A few years after moving into our house, I conceded to fulfill the promise I had once given Robert that we would get a dog. I always thought dogs seemed so needy, and I did not think I would ever love a dog like I had loved my cats.

Now, this is not to discount the love I had for Suzie, or even for Truffles now. I do/did love my cats. But somehow that neediness of dogs, I have come to see, is really just because they love so deeply. Seriously, I know my husband loves me with as much capacity as one human can love another, but I still don’t think he loves me as much as Dylan and Mara Jade love me. I just walked down the driveway to get the mail a few minutes ago, and they were concerned for my safe arrival back into the house. Sometimes I sense one of them staring at me, and when I look at them, I can almost see hearts in their eyes. Their expressions are so doting and intense. Have you ever looked into the eyes of an Australian shepherd?

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Again, this time of year, I remember my Suzie and how devastated I was when I lost her. Dylan just had his twelfth birthday earlier this month. He still has plenty of moments when I completely forget about his age, but sometimes, even in little things, I notice him slowing down. I see the white fur filling in around his snout. Sometimes he just doesn’t want to get all the way up onto the bed without taking a break on the ottoman at the foot of the bed first. And then there’s MJ, Mara Jade, our puppy. Of course, she’s ten now, so even though we call her our puppy, she’s technically considered a senior now as well, though we haven’t really seen any signs of her aging, other than the dusting of single white furs spread out on her head.

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All of our pets are in their senior years, and I don’t think I’m ready for that. They’re more than just pets; they’re family. The kind of family that sheds all over, throws up at the most inconvenient times, and lays in every doorway you want to walk through, quickly getting up to move as soon as you begin to raise your foot to go over them. I wouldn’t trade that though, because their love is more unconditional than most people can give. Is it coincidence that dog backwards spells God? He seems to have made them with the ability to love nearly as much as He does. As they age, I commit to being there for them and always doing what is best for my fur-babies, as they have always been there for me.

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Keep Making Me Better

My husband and I have wanted to be missionaries or some sort of heroes in the battle against human trafficking. Wanting to stand in the gap for others makes us good people, right? I guess I was feeling like I was a pretty good person. I left my teaching job in order to begin reflection and finding our place in this (also because I felt God urging me to leave it since the job consumed me). I spent a year recovering from my career, writing, and wanting to get in touch with what God’s plan was for me. However, I found myself lacking in the spiritual revelation area.

Parenting in any form had never crossed my mind. That would get in the way of what we really felt we should be doing in helping others. We were so much the unparents that people joked about how unparent we were.

Then, through a series of events still unbelievable to me, we ended up agreeing to take in a four-year old girl, related to me. We knew it was the right thing and were beginning to see how God had made a way for us to be in place for this child when she needed us, but it was hard, and we were only beginning to see it, after all. At first, I felt like this might get in the way of us doing the big plan we knew God had for us. I also was selfish because I didn’t know how I was going to have time to be me anymore. This was a legit worry for a couple who never planned to have kids in over 14 years of marriage. And it was a legit shock to my world since I had just experienced a year of total freedom to do what I wanted, when I wanted. But, still, I was being selfish. I had to grow up and look beyond myself.

We were doing the best we knew how to raise a displaced little girl, but my inexperience had me wondering why God would have her with me, of all people. There had to be someone better equipped. People seemed to think my husband was made for the role, but all the jokes from the past of me being such an unparent were messing with my confidence and making me feel overwhelmed and sorry for her having been placed in my care. Surely God had made a mistake. Oops!

One day, I picked her up from school and had to take her for a school physical. Maybe she hadn’t slept well the night before, because she was moody…or maybe she was just picking up on my insecurity. She threw a fit I didn’t understand and I didn’t know what to do. When we arrived at our destination, I could no longer hold back my tears. I apologized to her for having to live with me because I wasn’t sure what I was doing and she deserved better than me. She looked at me with big, loving eyes and began to cry too. She hugged me so tightly. In that second, I realized this little girl had been traumatized by rejection, and I had to pull it together for her and give her the sense of security all children need, because she was acting up only because she was scared and living with hurt from the situation that had brought her to me in the first place. We couldn’t both be scared. I was the adult. I had to reassure her and be strong and loving. I let her know then that I was going to do my best to be better. It’s still not always easy, and many sacrifices have been made by my husband and I, but she has been every bit as much a blessing to us as I hope we have been for her. We’ve learned routine and shared in love and learning…and I feel God has been using her to help me grow up just as He is using us to be her protection and love. When you love someone, selfishness has a way of going away, and without resent. It has to, or someone will suffer. I refuse to see her suffer any more.

I never would have planned this for my life, but it wasn’t my plan. It was God’s. He has allowed us to be the security, love, and safety she was afraid she no longer had, and He has helped us to be more like Him, which is what the Bible tells us to do.

Are we there yet? Of course not. We are constantly learning, but this blessing wrapped in a child has truly opened our eyes. We’ll never be perfect, but we are constantly learning more about how to love like God loves and to put others before ourselves. He has equipped us in love, finances, and support from so many people around us. It’s a continual adventure, but we’ve learned to trust God in all of it.

When I heard the following song one day and truly listened to the words, I knew God was using it in that moment to speak to me. Maybe it can speak to someone else right now too.

 

It’s a Girl!

I didn’t have a baby, but I am finding myself suddenly in a mommy role. That is my explanation of why I haven’t been and probably won’t be posting much new material here for a while.  I may just share some old stories and poems until I work out a routine that allows me time to write again.

It’s a sudden life change, and where most people have 9 months to prepare for a child, my husband and I had exactly 9 days. I won’t go into the details of what has brought my adorable 4-year-old grandniece (remember, that doesn’t mean I am old!) to live with us, except to say that we will will be taking care of and raising her for a period while her mom works to make a better life. I’m actually quite proud of her right now, because sometimes doing the right thing is the hardest thing, but I guess that is the same for Robert and I at this point too.

We certainly shocked many people with the sudden addition to our household (including the dogs who are really trying to figure out why this small person makes weird noises) because we have lived child-free for 14 years of marriage and had declared it was the life for us.

But sometimes…life happens, and you feel called to do something that seems crazy, because you NOW know God has been preparing you for it (even though I still feel wildly UNprepared), and because she’s family, and because she needs a safe and loving home, and even though you have little experience in these sorts of things, you just know it’s what you’re supposed to do.

Ugh- I’m rambling.

This is my world now, for an indefinite time.  What a challenge we have before us, but we’ll learn.  The weirdest part so far is people in stores assuming I’m her mommy.  I’ve never been a mommy figure to anyone but a couple silly dogs.  And now I suddenly have a pink room in my house. Sigh.

Dylan looks about as freaked out as I am, but he also loves her, and so do I.

Dylan looks about as freaked out as I am, but he also loves her, and so do I.

 

#5 Those Crazy Aussie Dog People

I’ve spent a week attempting to entertain with stories about my two delightfully loving, yet headstrong Australian shepherds.  Yet, I’ve only scratched the surface.  I’m sure more dog blog posts will come, but I recommend you go out and get an Aussie or two of your own so you can experience the joy for yourself and you will not need to live vicariously through me…because that’s a scary thought.

I mentioned in an earlier post that the day we brought Dylan home forever changed my world.  It wasn’t instantaneous, but crept over me slowly, like my little ninja MJ tends to do while we’re watching TV or trying to sleep.  These dogs opened my eyes to an unconditional love not often seen in people, unfortunately.  They have inspired me.

The world is a complicated place, unless you’re a dog.  People commit cruel acts towards one another all the time, but not dogs.  People judge one another, even when they don’t know each other.  Dogs tend to be accepting.  We can learn from dogs.

Dylan’s sire is a therapy dog with Delta certification.  He visits the elderly in nursing homes, and helps kids who have difficulty doing so to read.  Their intelligence and their loving and accepting demeanor often make Aussies a good breed for such  endeavors.

We see it in our dogs too. During a trip to Petsmart, a boy with special needs saw our dogs and came, practically running, towards them and plopped himself down on the floor in front of them.  Now if Robert or I sit on the floor by the dogs, they tackle us.  If we run, period, Dylan will attempt to bring us down.  They tend to get excited beyond control.

An attack might look like this…

…or this. (again, ignore the dates from our confused camera)

Not this time.  Both dogs remained calm and let that boy pet them and put his face close to theirs without them licking him or pushing him down.  They knew.  The boy’s father told us his son loves dogs and thanked us for letting him spend some time with them.  It was our pleasure, and the dogs’ pleasure too.  We could tell they were loving it.  They understood their boundaries, but they still got some lovin’ out of the deal.

We were able to bring the dogs with us to Christmas at my sister’s the year of my grand nephew’s first Christmas. He was at the age where he was using anything and everything to pull himself up, including Dylan’s long fur, which apparently was easy to grip onto.   As far as we knew, Dylan had never been around a small child like this before, and it was clear he was taken aback by the assault, but he somehow knew this child meant him no harm and he was not to retaliate in any way.  He suffered silently and bravely.

A few months ago I had a horrible day at work.  Honestly, I do not remember the details, but it was one of those emotionally draining days when one thing after another piles on (I’d probably been cussed out by a parent who was mad I gave her kid a zero for work she didn’t turn in or something equally unjustified in her eyes).  This was a day when I left as soon as my time was up for the day (I tend to stick around for at least an hour or so) and I fought back the tears during the drive home.

My homecoming routine is to set down all the work I have to bring home, let the dogs out of their crates, and take the dogs out back to potty.  Their routine is to attack me with love and music (they both sing), which means they jump up and rub on me. On this day, I let them out but denied them each their “welcome home, we love you Mommy” time.  I’d been holding those tears in and wanted to let them out quickly so I wouldn’t have a breakdown in the backyard.  Once back inside, I collapsed in a chair, placed my face into my hands and sobbed- we’re talking audible, body-shaking sobs- like I hadn’t in years.

At first the dogs stood back, tilting their heads as they watched.  MJ even seemed a bit scared at first.  Slowly each dog came to my side and nuzzled me until I looked up at them.  In that moment, MJ did her snarl which means she wants to make sure it’s ok to approach you, and both dogs placed their upper bodies in my lap, all at once.  It was a lot of dog to have in my lap.  They were sneezing their laughter sneezes and nuzzling me, and all the while their eyes expressed concern.  They weren’t sure what was wrong, but they wanted to fix it and let me know they loved me.  They do these actions often anyway, but there was something different about their approach and delicacy in the matter.

I recently read about an organization called the Heartland Alliance which uses therapy dogs to comfort victims in court when they need to testify.  For example, a young girl had to testify against her father who had sexually abused her.  A golden retriever had spent time with her getting her comfortable with what would come and was even able to be in the courtroom as she gave her testimony, apparently nuzzling the little girl when she paused for too long, to give her support.  With that dog’s help, the girl got through it and her father was locked away.  What an amazing story!

My husband and I have felt a pull to DO SOMETHING to help fight human trafficking, or to help the survivors.  One idea that keeps knocking around in my mind is the idea of therapy dogs.  We would love to have land, dogs, and a sort of “retreat” for survivors to come as part of their recovery.  I have no idea how to make that happen, but we’re believing that God does. Also, neither of us are counselors, but we believe if it’s meant to happen, everything and everyone we need will come together.

None of this would even seem an option today had we not adopted Dylan back in March of 2007.  His love, and MJ’s love inspire me.  They have all the qualities these survivors would need.  Acceptance, unconditional love, and hope.  These dogs display hope every moment of the day.