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!



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 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.





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


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 (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.”