I adopted another dog

You may or may not have noticed that since my beloved dog Ziggy passed away last August, I’ve barely been writing on this blog. I’m not sure if the two correlate but their timing matches up.

Earlier this year, I wrote about how we really ought to be forming new year habits rather than new year resolutions. Well, one of my new year habits is to write more.

Back in November, I adopted another dog. His name is Capone. He resembles Ziggy in his stature and coloring, but his personality is quiet different.

Capone is fearless. He spent the first few months of his life transferring hands from adopters to shelter employees to foster families, before finally arriving to me. He loves all people. At the adoption events, he became used to many different sounds and smells, all sorts of other animals, and humans both young and old. He’s a joy to take out in public because he makes everyone he meets feel like the most important person in the world, smothering them with hugs and kisses.

He doesn’t require much exercise at all or even training. For one, he’s a low energy dog and much prefers snuggling to running. For two, he’s extremely sensitive to commands and thus picks up quickly whenever I’m teaching him new ones.

In short, Capone is everything I could have ever hoped for in a dog. He’s perfect for me. And when I look at him, I can’t help but be reminded of God’s grace and goodness. That no matter how devastating a loss, God turns all things for good. And often, for better than we could have even imagined.

A Rescue Dog Story

My beloved dog, Ziggy, passed away in a tragic accident on August 6, 2017. One of my good friends suggested that I write a letter to myself from Ziggy as a way to further my healing process from this loss. Writing the letter was so therapeutic for me. I decided to turn it into a video. You can watch the video here and read the letter below:

I don’t know why you picked me up that day. But I’m sure glad you did.

I was pretty scared at first, I hadn’t had the best experience with humans before you.

But you were different. I’d never had anyone talk to me like you did. I could hear the love in your voice.

I liked when you taught me words so we could communicate better. I know that made you really happy.

I liked having buddy around too. He seemed like he knew what he was doing so I tried to copy him as best I could. He was a good older brother for me.

I loved running in your dad’s backyard and at the park. I never knew belonging to someone could feel so free.

We really had a lot of fun together. Exploring, hiking, and traveling. It’s crazy how we liked to do all the same things. Like we were made for eachother.

I’d go anywhere with you. I finally felt like I could enjoy myself. You made the world a lot less scary.

I loved making friends with all the dogs in your neighborhood. I could’ve played with them all day.

But I loved playing with you and Matt the most.

I know you think Matt was your boyfriend, but let’s be honest, it’s obvious he was mine. Not that I’m trying to make you jealous or anything. Those yellow and orange balls he’d throw for me brought me joy like I’d never known.

I’m glad you kept buying them when I’d get too excited and tear them apart.

By the way, I’m sorry I tore up stuff in your house. I didn’t know what to do with myself when you’d leave. I always tried to play with buddy but he didn’t want to play with me. I was just trying to show him how much fun we could be having.

I tried not to do it as much once I saw how it upset you.

I always hated seeing you upset.

I hope you aren’t too upset that I got out that day.

I thought it was going to be like that time when you and buddy went for a walk and left me behind. Remember how I got out of your car on my own and chased y’all down? I was really proud of myself. I know you were a little mad at me but I could tell you thought it was cute. I thought it’d be like that.

I realized I’d made a mistake when I got to the highway. I started to panic and then everything went black.

While I was sleeping, I talked to God. I told him I wanted to go back to you because I really liked our life together. But He told me you have other things He wants you to do, that don’t involve me.

He promised I’d get to see you again. He told me there were angels who would throw the ball for me, endless fields to run in, and other dogs to play with here. That’s when I decided I wanted to stay with Him.

I hope you’re not too upset. You made me really happy and that’s all I want for you. I think you’re going to love whatever God has planned, He’s really good at keeping promises.

Soon You Will Be Confident in Who You Are and What Your Purpose Is

My new dog is what trainers refer to as “reactive”. Probably due to the fact that she had zero socialization during the first few months of her life. She sat alone, abandoned, and afraid during her most crucial development period. And then she came home with me.

dog

She’s a farm girl living in the city and she’s terrified of everything unknown. (Which given her background, is pretty much everything.) I’ve had her with me now for about four months. She’s been slowly gaining confidence and I thought it would be a great idea to send her to doggy daycare once a week. Not only to give myself a much needed break, but also to help her socialize. She loves dogs and I figured by watching the more confident dogs at daycare, she would learn to overcome her fear of people, as well as many other ordinary, everyday things.

Yesterday, we had our much awaited initial evaluation with a Doggy Daycare Center. Needless to say, it didn’t go well. She failed her temperament test. Apparently, once I left, she sat in the corner trembling and wouldn’t let any of the dogs or people come near her. She was terrified. Not the place for her, they told me and sent us on our way.

I was crushed. I’d been spending every day working with this dog for four months and I’ve watched her make incredible progress. To hear that she hadn’t progressed enough to attend a dog daycare, when other dogs are the one thing she loves most, was devastating. I felt exhaustion begin to overwhelm my thoughts as I contemplated just how long this road to recovery would be.

You see, I feel a sadness for my new dog. It makes me sad to think she doesn’t get to experience the fullness of joy that this life has to offer because of her own unfounded fears. I’m sad when I see her insecurities preventing her from enjoying the world around her. And mostly, I’m sad because her defense mechanisms prevent other people from seeing the real her. The dog that I know and love.

The sweet soul who can talk a big talk, but doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. The playful puppy who loves nothing more than a good game of fetch and close cuddling on the couch. She’s brave and courageous and incredibly bright. She’s fast and strong. Gentle and loving.

I could hardly sleep last night. I couldn’t stop brainstorming of how I was going to help this dog. I needed to go back to the drawing board. She was making progress but not enough. I spent the night formulating our recovery plan.

When I awoke this morning, I had a new sense of determination and hope. I found myself talking out loud to her. “You are going to be the bravest pup in all the land,” I said. “Soon you will be confident in who you are and what your purpose is.”

And that’s when it hits me. Isn’t our plight as humans more or less the same?

I wonder if God thinks the same thing about us? Feels the same sadness when He sees our own unfounded fears preventing us from experiencing all that life has to offer. When He watches us push away other people with our defense mechanisms. When our own insecurities cause us to hide who we really are.

“I know you,” He whispers to us. “You’re brave and courageous and incredibly bright. You’re fast and strong, gentle and loving. If only you could see the real you, the person that I know, then you would know your purpose. You could approach the world with confidence, letting other people know you in all of your glorious imperfections. And finally, you could experience the fullness of joy that this life has to offer.”

How Much Do You Love Me?

I recently rescued a puppy and as dogs always do, she’s teaching me a lot about life. Dogs have countless lessons to teach us and I’ve written on this subject before, but puppies, I’m finding out, have even more!

As a rescue, I’m unaware of what life was like for my puppy before coming to me. She has a lot of trust and anxiety issues, as many rescue dogs do. I have another dog, who has been with me since he was born, and the three of us have been in constant negotiation since the new puppy’s arrival. It seems with every new experience, the dogs are working amongst themselves to figure out who’s the boss. Whether it’s a bed, chew toy, food, or my attention. They’ve spent the greater part of our first few weeks together determining which one of them gets what, and when. The puppy will even try to play this game with me. She wants to know who’s boss.

It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Elizabeth Gilbert.

“There are only two questions that human beings have ever fought over, all through history. ‘How much do you love me?’ And, ‘Who’s in charge?'” (Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love)

Raising a rescue puppy, or any animal for that matter, is confirmation of this truth. At our most basic and animalistic level, it really all boils down to this.