Love on four legs

I am a dog person. Always have been, beginning with Lucky, the toy Boston bull terrier we had when I was a kid.

Our most recent dog was Rascal, a schnoodle. We got him when he was about six months old and had him for thirteen years. He died a couple of months ago of heart failure. We knew that was probably coming; we just didn’t expect it so soon.

I knew I wanted another dog. But I was thinking that I would probably wait for another month or so…get through some major activities I have coming up. But…

Some friends who volunteer at a shelter called and said they had a dog that they thought would work. I wanted a small lap dog, and they had one. So we went out to see.  They brought her down the hall to the meet-and-greet room–and she was perfect! She and I immediately bonded, and she came home with us.

Her name at the shelter was Little Girl–but that didn’t seem quite right. So she is now Little Bit, and she is happily making herself at home. The only challenge is that she has staked such a claim on me that she doesn’t want to let another dog around…and we had planned on allowing another dog to join the family for our grandson. But that’s apparently not going to happen–at least for a while!

She is mine–definitely mine! She is excited to see other people, including Charlie and our grandkids…but I am hers!

She’s 3 years old, a terrier mix, and she’s working at figuring out all the newness around.

There are times when you just need love on four legs…love that is unconditional, that claims you regardless of anything else. And so…meet Little Bit!

 

Love…death…holes

Loving is difficult. It makes us vulnerable, and we’re not good at that. We want to be in control…because so much in life is out of our control.

But life without loving is also difficult. It isolates us…keeps us locked inside ourselves.

Both giving and receiving love is important. We sometimes love with conditions, but there are times when love is completely unconditional…and that often occurs with our pets.

Rascal

Rascal was a member of our family for about 12-1/2 years. He came to us already named–and we laughed about the fact that he often lived up to–or down to–his name. But he crept into our hearts. He knew when we were hurting, knew when someone needed a hug. He was independent–but willing to lay down that independence when someone in his pack needed him.

At his last checkup, we discovered that he had potential heart problems. We could have had more testing done–but even if we had found out for certain that there were problems, there wasn’t anything that could have been done at the time. So we knew we were looking down the road at the end of our time with him, but we thought it would still be a while.

That wasn’t to be, though.

Friday night he started having breathing problems–and Saturday morning at 7:00, he crossed the rainbow bridge.

I’ve been grateful that he was with us all night…and that he was snuggled up next to me when he took his last breath. He was not alone…he was with his pack.

But now there’s a hole. We keep looking, expecting to see him snuggled in his blanket on the couch…or sitting in the chair, watching and ready to bark at intruders who enter “his” space…or looking at us when we leave, waiting for us to say, “It’s okay, boy, we’ll be back in a little bit.”

The house feels empty.

I know the hole will fill…down the road. And I know we have lots and lots of memories of fun times with him. But we still feel the loss. He is not the first fur baby we have lost…just the most recent.

Loving is difficult. It makes us vulnerable. But, as Anatole France said, “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. ” Without loving, without both giving and receiving unconditional love, we are not whole.

 

Fears!

Rascal

Rascal

Last night was a scary one for our little dog. Rascal is very brave when he is outside–if he had his choice (i.e., could get out of his fence without his leash), he would go after squirrels, rabbits, wasps, bees, flies… Inside, he definitely lets us know when anything (human or 4-legged) is in his territory…which is as far and wide as he can see!

However, there is one thing that he is terrified of in the house–and when he sees or hears it, he will cower as though his world is coming to an end. That happened last night.

All of a sudden, Rascal saw something fly over his head, and he heard it buzz. That was all it took–he headed for the door to go cower in his dog house outside. We finally got him to come back in when it was bedtime, but he was very tentative about coming inside.

We were just getting ready for bedtime preparation (teeth brushing, showers), when he heard the noise again. We wouldn’t let him go outside…much to his dismay. I wrapped him snugly in the comforter so that he (hopefully) couldn’t see/hear the problem, and he was okay for a few minutes…but only a few. Then it was down on the floor, into the bathroom, and behind the toilet stool–the safest place he can think of when he’s restricted to those two rooms. He cowered there all through Charlie’s shower, looking at him with pleading eyes. We called him into bed with us–no deal! He wasn’t going to budge from his safe place! The only way we got him to come to bed was to physically pick him up and carry him in–and then hold him until he began to relax and feel safe.

So what is this horrible thing that terrifies him in the house? A fly. Yes…a common house fly!

He will snap at them outside…he will snap at (and eat) wasps and bees…but if a fly is in the house, the world is ending!

It seems crazy…and we try to reassure him that he is safe…that we will protect him. But he’s not sure he buys that–at least not until the fly hasn’t been seen or heard from for quite a while.

And this whole incident got me to wondering about myself. What am I afraid of? Is it really something as simple as a fly? Why?

I call myself a Christian and say that I trust God. But do I really? If my fears are the equivalent of Rascal’s “fly” fear, then there’s a disconnect between what I say and how I act.

How is it that Rascal can deal with big things? but a small thing that only buzzes can send him into absolute dread? And me? Well, I think that’s something I need to spend some time figuring out for myself…with God.

Being Part of the Pack

ICMO_12-05-2010_0528_1

I love letting my dog join us in bed! I really do…Rascal is a 17-pound schnoodle (poodle and schnauzer mix) who sometimes thinks he’s human. As he jostles, pushes, and shoves until he finds a place where’s he comfortable–usually using one of us as a pillow and making sure that he’s connected in some way to both of us–I’m reminded again that we need connections…we need touch.

We are none of us meant to be alone–not completely alone. We may want and need our quiet, personal time, but we also need to know that there is someone (or sometimes something) that we can hold tight. I think that’s why children love their teddy bears or other stuffed animals so much. They can hold to them tightly.

Rascal has a strong sense of who gets his attention when! During the day, he’s usually in “his” chair–unless I’ve come home from work for my daily nap. Then he hops in bed with me, waits until I’ve settled in, and snuggles his 17 pounds as close to me as possible…usually in the crook of my knees. When we sit to watch the evening news (or perhaps a show or two), it’s “Daddy’s” time. He’ll sit in my lap if he has to until Charlie sits down–and then it’s immediately over to his lap. And at bedtime, he needs the connection with both of us, snuggled in and using one of us as a pillow but making sure he is touching the other.

He also seems to have an innate sense of when someone is hurting. He will snuggle in my lap when I’m sick–but the moment he senses that I’m feeling better, he hops down and goes back to “his” chair.

I think back to the dog my brothers and I had as a child. My folks were fine with us having a dog (they were allergic to cats), and so Lucky–a toy Boston bull terrier–joined our family. In many ways, she was my dad’s dog when he was home from his trips–he could get her to behave properly and could walk her without a leash without her running off. And yet, I think we really didn’t understand her needs. Her bed was in the basement–and so when it was bedtime, it was downstairs for Lucky…separated from her pack and left by herself for the night.

We have done differently with the dogs we have had through our time together. They’ve all been permitted to be with us–but somehow Rascal seems to be the one who has shown us the most importance of being part of the pack…of the togetherness and connections we all need.

What are you afraid of?

Rascal

Rascal (my dog) loves going after bugs that are crawling on the floor…wasps and bees that buzz around in the summer…. He will snap at them…play with them…eat them…

But let him hear or see a fly, and he is panic-stricken! He will cower in the darkest corner he can find…bury his head in my lap…go outside and hide in his doghouse. Once he becomes aware of a fly in the house, it becomes a challenge to get him to come in and stay in…and once in, we know where we’re likely to find him–backed in as far as he can go under the desk, under the kitchen table, behind the toilet stool in the bathroom…

His reaction doesn’t make any rational sense. Why would he continue to go after wasps and bees and yet panic at flies?

Once we have killed the fly, it still takes time to convince Rascal that he is safe. Then is when he needs the gift of touch–needs to push himself into a lap as tightly as possible…demand that at least one hand is stroking him…and yet I can still see in his eyes the fear that the fly may not really be gone. His eyes wander the room constantly, and the slightest noise that sounds even remotely like a fly puts him on edge, ready to flee again.

But is that really so different from us humans?

Yes, there are rational things to be afraid of. There are battles we find ourselves needing to fight at times. But how often do we go after the wasps and bees in our lives–and yet panic over the things that can’t possibly hurt us?

Unfortunately, when I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that I’m often like Rascal. I can deal (mostly!) with the big things–but the little noisy things sometimes throw me for a loop and I want to hide. I don’t really trust God to protect me, and I find myself on edge, ready to run away, to find a hole where I can hide.

But flies have never hurt Rascal–and they won’t hurt me either. Both of us just need to learn to trust those who love us, who say, “I’ll take care of you…you’re okay.”

Scaredy-cat

Rascal

I have a 17-pound schnoodle (poodle and schnauzer mix) named Rascal. Quite often he lives up (or down!) to his name–bold and anxious to run and play.

Except in one situation…

If he hears a fly buzz in the house, he is absolutely terrified. He will cower…find his hiding place under the corner desk and get in the deepest, darkest corner he can…shadow me like a 2-year-old, almost tripping me sometimes.

I don’t know why flies terrify him. He’ll go after wasps and bees with no problem, but let there be even the slightest inkling of a buzz, and all his bravery disappears.

Yesterday there were a couple of flies in the house. So he insisted on going outside, enjoying sitting in the sun for a while, and eventually hiding in his doghouse. He would not come in–not until we absolutely insisted, because it was getting close to bedtime.

He skulked in…tail between his legs, head constantly swiveling and ears cocked, watching and listening for any sight or sound of the dreaded flies.

When I went upstairs to take my bath, he almost tripped me because he was cowering so closely. And while normally he checks out the upstairs rooms and then heads back downstairs, last night he curled up on the futon in the spare bedroom–where he could still see me.

Then it was back downstairs and time for bed. Right!

I called…he looked at me. I called again…he came into the bathroom off the bedroom and just looked at me again. I got into bed and called…he looked and then hid behind the toilet in the bathroom. This wasn’t getting us anywhere! So I got out of bed, picked him up, and physically put him on the bed. I made him lay down, put my arm over him to make him feel more secure–and he finally relaxed. So did I. Big mistake!

He wiggled out from underneath my arm, plopped onto the floor, and back into the bathroom–probably behind the toilet again. I was too tired to go check. But I assume that’s where he spent the night.

Normally he wakes me up by making chuffing noises (kind of like a sneeze) and, if that doesn’t work, nosing me–and then yipping. This morning we skipped the physical touch–he stood by the toilet in the bathroom, chuffing and yipping.

I dressed, trying not to trip over the 4-legged leech that was clinging to me, and when I got his harness and leash out for his walk, he tore out of the house! As far as he was concerned, the walk could have gone twice as long–he wasn’t anxious to re-enter the house and be exposed to the dangerous insects that make such horrible noises!

I’m at work now–and he’s back outside. Maybe by this evening he will have decided that it’s safe in the house again–that his humans have removed that horrible buzzing critter…but I’m not counting on it.

It’s going to be a long summer!

Four-legged Angels…

Yes, I believe in angels…and I believe they come in all kinds of different forms. This past weekend I was blessed by a 4-legged one.

I’ve indicated before that I’m owned by a schnoodle (a schnauzer-poodle mix…small variety). Rascal is independent and while he sometimes demands attention, such as going for a walk or being played with, his decision to sit in your lap is definitely his. I can pick him up and put him in my lap, but if he doesn’t want to be there at that particular moment, as soon as I take my hand off his fur, he’s hopping down and heading off to do what he wants to do.

I didn’t feel good this last weekend. I was fighting a cold that left me feeling like I’d been run over by a truck! I slept more hours during the day than I’ve slept in years, and didn’t feel like doing anything except laying in the recliner.

Rascal knew it. Someone–in the ways animals know–he knew I didn’t feel good. He knew I needed loving attention…and he spent hours curled up in my lap, just being there.

When he sensed I was doing a little better, he left my lap…but not the room. He went back to the chair he has claimed as his own, where he could continue to watch me.

And during the nights that I needed to sleep in the recliner rather than the bed, he wouldn’t stay in the bedroom with my husband. Instead, he was out, checking on me–either in my lap or in his “watch-chair.”

When he comes in from “doing his duty” outside, he normally can hardly wait for his reward (a mini carrot). But especially when I was feeling my worst, he would come in, come check on me, and then return to my husband to get his carrot.

I’m back at work now. Still fighting the last of the cold, but definitely feeling better.

Rascal can’t talk–not in the ways we humans do. But he brought a ministry of presence and unconditional love that was a blessing as I recovered.