Pack animals


We own (or are owned by!) a schnoodle (schnauzer/poodle mix) named Rascal. Most of the time he behaves quite well–but the last few weeks, he has decided that he is not getting enough attention, and so he’s become much more demanding!

He is right about the lack of attention… Due to a number of situations beyond our control, we’ve had to be gone quite a bit, and so while he’s had a warm place to stay with food and water, he hasn’t had the attention / interaction he wants. And it’s showing up in several ways.

When we get home, he demands attention–yipping at us if we ignore him…pulling kleenexes out of the trash and shredding them (his favorite activity when he’s out of sorts)…jumps up to sit in my lap if I’m at the computer…just generally getting underfoot.

It’s really made visible the fact that dogs are pack animals!

He won’t eat unless we’re in the kitchen with him. We don’t have to be eating ourselves–but we have to be there. If we leave, so does he, and he usually won’t go back to his food.

At bedtime, he waits for us to get settled in, and then he takes his place in the bed–either laying on top of one of us or snuggled as tightly as possible into the crook of my knees. (And he doesn’t budge! If you want to move him, you have to physically pick up the blanket and roll him into a different spot.)

Why all this?

Because–I think–he needs the closeness. He needs to know that he has a connection that’s important…that while it may have been stretched recently, it’s not been broken.

As I’ve thought about his needs–and the frustration sometimes that his demands for attention have caused–I’ve come to realize that what’s true for him is also true for us.

We’re pack animals as well. Maybe not quite in the same way as Rascal is, but we all need companionship and attention from those we love. We need to be shown that we’re cared for…that we matter. And at times, we’ll do whatever it takes to make sure we get that attention. It’s definitely making me look at some behaviors of others I love in different ways!

Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is coming up this weekend, and I got to thinking…

I wonder how many of us know the history of this particular holiday. Here’s one version of the story:

The story of Valentine’s Day begins in the third century with an oppressive Roman emperor and a humble Christian Martyr. The emperor was Claudius II. The Christian was Valentinus.

Claudius had ordered all Romans to worship twelve gods, and had made it a crime punishable by death to associate with Christians. But Valentinus was dedicated to the ideals of Christ; not even the threat of death could keep him from practicing his beliefs. He was arrested and imprisoned.

During the last weeks of Valentinus’s life a remarkable thing happened. Seeing that he was a man of learning, the jailer asked whether his daughter, Julia, might be brought to Valentinus for lessons. She had been blind since birth. Julia was a pretty young girl with a quick mind. Valentinus read stories of Rome’s history to her. He described the world of nature to her. He taught her arithmetic and told her about God. She saw the world through his eyes, trusted his wisdom, and found comfort in his quiet strength.

“Valentinus, does God really hear our prayers?” Julia asked one day.

“Yes, my child, He hears each one.”

“Do you know what I pray for every morning and every night? I pray that I might see. I want so much to see everything you’ve told me about!”

“God does what is best for us if we will only believe in Him,” Valentinus said.

“Oh, Valentinus, I do believe! I do!” She knelt and grasped his hand.

They sat quietly together, each praying. Suddenly there was a brilliant light in the prison cell. Radiant, Julia screamed, “Valentinus, I can see! I can see!”

“Praise be to God!” Valentinus exclaimed, and he knelt in prayer.

On the eve of his death Valentinus wrote a last note to Julia, urging her to stay close to God. He signed it, “From your Valentine.” His sentence was carried out the next day, February 14, 270 A.D., near a gate that was later named Porta Valentini in his memory. He was buried at what is now the Church of Praxedes in Rome. It is said that Julia planted a pink-blossomed almond tree near his grave. Today, the almond tree remains a symbol of abiding love and friendship. On each February 14, Saint Valentine’s Day, messages of affection, love, and devotion are exchanged around the world.”

For many of us, it’s just a nice day to exchange those tokens and messages with someone we love. But underneath it all–at the foundation–there’s so much more! We care and love for others–because…”My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God” (I John 4:7). What a beautiful gift for this weekend!


When I was a child, I remember asking–and being asked–“Can you keep a secret?” Most of the time, the secrets weren’t particularly important, at least in the long run, although they were important to me at the time.

As I grew older, the secrets changed form. Sometimes they were still simple; sometimes they provided a way of creating a pleasant surprise for someone (i.e., the party we did for my parents’ 25th anniversary–which they thought was going to be a birthday party for me).

But as I’ve grown older, I’ve become more aware that while there are still some secrets that are simple or that don’t hurt anyone, there are others that can create difficulties in our relationships–that can keep us from really being honest with each other. Sometimes they are kept secret for the best of intentions–and some secrets go back many, many years–to a time when we really didn’t talk about “those” things. But they still impact us.

So why do we keep those secrets? Fear… Fear of what others will think of us…fear of whether our thoughts really have any value…fear of society’s stigma…the list can go on and on.

But when we are not honest with ourselves–or each other–we can’t truly know and help each other. Our relationships suffer…our community suffers.

Opening up is not easy. It requires us to be vulnerable. And yet, that is exactly what we have been called to do–to be vulnerable, because it is only in that way that we allow God to bring healing into those broken places–broken in oursleves and broken in our relationships.

Secrets that allow us to create pleasant surprises for others are, I believe, still okay. But the secrets that cause us to build walls around us–to shut others out…those are the secrets that we have to find the courage to let go…in order to create what Scott Peck calls “true” community, not the pseudo-community that we so often live in.