Thursday, September 30, 2010

Slaying Giants

This is Bailey (hi Bailey!). Bailey's owners told me that he has "little dog syndrome." For those of you who have never heard of this, it's when a small dog has no qualms whatsoever of taking on a bigger dog. Sometimes, a MUCH bigger dog.

Perhaps it is foolish for a small dog to have a big attitude, particularly when it might get them in trouble. However, I find it respectable. Maybe it's because I don't always know when to keep my "bark" to myself.

Sometimes God gives people a double dose of courage. While I don't think I fall under that particular category (mine is probably under "foolishness" instead), David took on Goliath and that turned out pretty good for him, yah?

So, what are the giants in your life? Can you slay them on your own? How's that workin' for you? Have you seen a little dog in action?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"I've Got Something to Say"

This is Sandy (hi Sandy!). Sandy is a talker.

Just ask her owners. She'll tell you how she feels about EVERYthing.

"There's a time for talking and there's a time for shutting up." That's a (very loose) paraphrase from Ecclesiastes, and the 1960's band "The Birds" put it to music. Living alone, I find myself at the extremes. I may find that I haven't talked much all day. Then, when I'm with people, I can't seem to stop talking. It takes a lot of self-discipline to find the middle ground.

To me, all of life is like that - a tight rope, a balance beam, a....put your analogy here. Our society goes to extremes, with moderation not valued. "All You Can Eat" is not supposed to be a personal challenge. Staying awake ALL NIGHT or sleeping all day - not really the ideal lifestyle. Yet our extremes are what we boast about to friends and coworkers.

Sure, a conversation doesn't go very far if you report over the water cooler you ate three balanced meals and slept for eight hours, and put in the recommended amount of exercise. Boring, right? Maybe.

The thing is, none of us ever "get it right" no matter how hard we try. Trying is good - seek the balance that is healthy. But, don't beat yourself up when you fail because I'll be right there next to you, failing. God prescribes for us a physically, mentally and spiritually better way to live. We won't live up to it, but striving for it is for our own benefit. And when we inevitably fall short, God still loves us.

What is your moderation challenge? Is it easier to see it in others than yourself? Have you managed to "get a grip" on one area of your life only to find a different challenge? What do you like to talk about?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"She's Off Her Feed"

This is Ireland (hi Ireland!). Ireland stayed at the kennel for about a week or so recently. Her owner told me she may not eat well and wasn't much of a treat-eater.

Not a treat eater?! If only I had that problem...

About 20% of the dogs I watch don't eat well when their owners are away. Most owners say this is true when they are gone all day and the dog is home. Dogs tend to be social eaters - they like company. After all, dogs are pack animals and do things as a group. It's also reassuring that "all is right with the world" when their owners are around. Some behaviorist believe dogs will put off eating when the owners are away because they wonder if there next meal may be delayed.

God created us to be with other people. While I do enjoy my alone time, I make an effort to be with people and in "intentional community" (love those buzz words), even though it's difficult many times. Overall, its benefits outweigh the negatives. Even the negatives can be used for good, actually.

What is the hardest thing for you with relationships with others? What keeps you away? What draws you in? What is your dogs favorite treat?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Giving the Illusion of Obedience

This is a picture of Rocky, who was the beloved and devoted dog of Faye and family. Doesn't he look noble?

Look - he was gentle with children:

And he appreciated people of all generations:

Was he not the perfect dog? Here's a story about Rocky.
One day, Faye finished patting out five juicy burgers, placing them on a plate, ready to be grilled. In the next room, the dryer dinged. Wanting to spare ironing, Faye needed to grab the shirts before they could wrinkle.

Then her eyes met Rocky's. Relying on his past reliable obedience record, Faye backed Rocky into a far corner, had him "sit", and told him firmly to "stay!" She zipped around the corner, retrieved the shirt, and popped back into the kitchen. There was Rocky, sitting perfectly in the corner.

"What a good dog!" Faye told him, reaching for a treat. Resisting temptation surely deserved a reward. Then she looked at the plate again. Four burgers, not five.

It seemed that Rocky had obeyed, but he had not. "Surely your sin will find you out!" In our own behavior, we can fool other people. But we can never fool God.

What bad behaviors have others hidden from you? What do you find the most challenging thing to resist? What do you like on your burgers?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Pets of Your Lifetime

When Paula emailed me a picture of Wilson to memorialize him, she also sent me the above picture as a surprise. Who are those adorable little dogs, you may ask? They are Pepsi and Brandy, Paula's dog and my dog, our dogs we had growing up. We were about 9-10 years old, and if memory serves me correctly (always dicey), Brandy lived for 14 years and Pepsi lived 15. That's quite a time span in the lives of two little girls who went through their teens and even into college years.

One of the great things I enjoy at the kennel is watching the children of families grow up, and their dogs along with them. I've now been running my business for twelve and a half years. Some children have gone from youngster to young adult over this time. And their dog along with them. Unfortunately, the dogs don't live nearly as long.

Our pets don't last a lifetime. What really does? But some things endure forever. God's great love is for us now and well into eternity.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Things

That's Foster (hi Foster)! He's playing with his absolute favorite toy, the Blue Bunny. Sure, there's Blue Bunny ice cream (which is one of my favorite things), but Foster has managed to not destroy this toy in the many years it's been around. And it is ONLY his. Tilly doesn't touch it (see her laying back there pretending she doesn't care?). That's right, Blue Bunny is durable and long lasting. What more could you want in a toy?

I have yet to figure out why Tilly has commandeered pretty much every other toy or bone in the house, but stays away from Foster's Blue Bunny. It probably has something to do with dog spit or something.

Foster's other favorite things include anything edible (or semi-edible), herding the cats (Dooley in particular), and playing ball outside. If it didn't sound so much like a singles ad, I'd include "he likes long walks on the beach."

This isn't going to be a spiritual post, but feel free to make it so. What are your favorite things? What are your favorite non-things?

My favorite things: ice cream, honing sarcasm skills with friends, overspiritualizing everything in the world, and exercising so I can eat more ice cream. Oh - and long walks on the beach.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Let the Little Dingo Come to Me...."

Perhaps it is wrong to paraphrase scripture.

See how Tilly blocks Foster. I know, it's all a blur. However, every time I call Foster to me, she pounces on him, trying to distract him from approaching me.

Tilly has "the jealousy" of Foster's relationship to me. She wants to interfere with our bond. She prefers to be the only one to have a bond with me. What Tilly doesn't understand is that I'm capable of loving them both.

Jesus' disciples tried to shoe away the "little children." Children were not valuable in those days, but Jesus set them straight.

Isn't that the way some people can be - jealous of others' relationship with God? Can't God love each one of us?

What interferes with your relationship with other people? With God? Do you have the jealousy of others' stuff or relationships?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Stealing Your Joy...I mean Toys

This is Tanner (hi Tanner!). During a recent stay at the kennel, another dog stole his toys. Actually, that dog stole all the other dogs toys (it's a long story). That meant I was the one who had to sort through which toys belonged to which dog. In other words, relying on my memory was needed, and that's always a dicey proposition.

I sent Tanner's toys home with another dog and the other owner can't find them. So, I need to reimburse Tanner (oh yeah, I need to write that on my to do list!) for his lost toys.

During the course of our lives, there are plenty of incidents in which we have our toys taken from us, leaving us less than joyful. It can leave us bitter. I've heard many Christ-followers proclaim no one can steal their joy. And I understand what they are saying - a deep sense of peace is indeed joy. However, don't we all get really bummed out now and then? Sad...depressed...sometimes we're even despondent. God gave us a lot of emotions and I personally don't think we should feel too guilty about feeling them. Perhaps we shouldn't stay with some of those emotions too long, but we can pass through them.

What do you do when someone "steals your joy?" What is your current favorite "toy?" What was your favorite toy when you were a kid?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

In Praise of the Senior Canine

A couple of days ago, I told you about Wilson, and the great sadness that he has passed on. Look at that face! That's dignity.

Some people go crazy for puppies. While they have their charm, I really prefer the face of the older dog. I think about how that dog has grown with its family, seeing them through tough times and good ones. When they leave us, it's like losing that part of our life as well.

My dog Foster is over 10 years old and losing his eyesight. He is one of the last pets I have who was around when my husband Darren was still alive. When Foster passes on, it will be with extra sadness for the memories made during the entire span that he lived with me.

Dogs are temporary and that's a heart breaker. But they point us to God, whose love is much greater, whose presence is much more steadfast, and whose understanding of us is profound. We lose our pets. Our jobs are difficult. Our families and friends disappoint us. But God never fails us. Love never fails.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Who's In Charge Here?

Here's a few dogs you may have met before- Foster, Ruger and Simon (hi guys!). Ruger and Simon live together in the same home. Their owners told me that neither dog seems to want to be the "dominant" dog in the household - letting their owners call all the shots.

Foster and my other dog, Tilly, are quite the opposite. They BOTH want to be in charge. Of everything. All the time. So while I'm calling the shots, they tend to either disagree with me or each other with nearly every decision. It's exhausting.

If I'm honest (and I guess I will be), I like to be in charge too. But, it can be exhausting. Other people have skills and talents - so I should let others lead now and then. In other circumstances, I need to lead.

It's not always easy to figure out when I should be doing what. Do you have this problem? There's certainly a time and place for both. It does me a lot of good to remember that God is in control, that I can trust his judgements and guidance, and follow his lead. But, there's still that part of me that thinks I might just know better. It can be exhausting. That's why it's not supposed to be like that - let God do the hard work, and I do what I should, but not all the time.

Are you the controller or the follower? Have you found balance?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

In Memory of Wilson

Just a few minutes ago, I received an email that Wilson passed away at the age of 13. That's a long time for a Labrador. That doesn't mean he won't be missed any less.

My friend Paula chose a fuzzy little brownish pup at the local humane society. On his way from the shelter and onto his forever home, he threw up.

Fortunately, that was probably only the bad moment Wilson ever experienced. Paula and her husband Dave took exceptional care of him. He basked in the large backyard of their home. He played with other dogs for hours. He ran with Dave. He stayed with me on occasion when Paula and Dave would vacation. During one stay, he became obsessed with horseflies. However, they were long forgotten as soon as his people came for him.

Most importantly, he was loyal by keeping watch over Paula through two bouts of breast cancer. Through the emotionally difficult and physically challenging years, Wilson took care of his people. This Spring, a long awaited baby joined the household. Wilson was there for all the sorrows and joys, providing comfort and adding bliss.

Now the sun has set on Wilson's life here on earth. Wilson's memory will continue to add comfort and bliss to all of us who were lucky enough to spend time with him. I truly believe that our beloved pets will be with us in eternity. They love us unconditionally, the way God does. Love doesn't die. Love endures forever.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Loving Your Neighbors

Say "hi" to Comet (the Golden), Simon (actually Simon's butt), Simon again(oh, that's better!), Ruger (Boxer), and Comet (Border Collie). Hi guys!

The dogs here at the kennel go outside four times a day. As you can see, the dogs have a bit of contact with each other (Simon and Ruger are of the same owner, and I'm probably spelling Ruger's name wrong). Most of the time, the dogs find sniffing their neighboring dogs through the fence an interesting and fun experience. Sort of like being at a party (probably the kind I would avoid).

Every now and then, however, some dogs can be a bit...grumpy (sort of like me). These dogs can be fearful or aggressive towards other dogs around them. This requires some strategic planning for me in terms of which dogs go out when, where they'll go, and who is by whom.

"Can't we all just get along?"


Sadly, this is just as true of people as it is of dogs. A wise friend once told me that "having peace with another person sometimes means being apart." This was hard for me to hear in the situation before me, but I knew the truth of it.

While each of us needs to strive to be patient and kind with everyone we encounter, the fact remains that not everyone will return patience and kindness. Sometimes, hopefully not often, peace comes from absence. Discernment to know when to accept this is a long time coming.

There is great sadness that no peace is enduring on earth. Jesus didn't talk about that kind of peace. The peace he offers us is like a deep anchor in our soul - the hope that true peace, true hope and true love exist. We can despair of our broken relationships and our own weaknesses during our lives. Yet we can live above this pain in knowledge that it is fleeting in the face of the eternal.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Nathan Alan Willoughby Experiences True Love - Fiction

A cat can experience a lot of life in a very short period of time. This was certainly the case for Nathan Alan Willoughby. Last year, just before the weather turned miserable, two men picked up a pizza and a stray cat from the local Italian restaurant. While the cat didn't mind the dumpster, the rescue organization provided much more reliable food as well as a cushier and safer place to sleep.

He'd spent most of his winter in that old Victorian home, until Edie adopted him in late Spring. He spent his first day exploring the small apartment. The first night, he slept right next to Edie. While he wasn't sure, he probably purred through the whole night.

When Nathan Alan Willoughby looked out the window of the rescue, he was content, but felt within himself the capacity to experience a deeper emotion. He suspected there was more to life. Now he knew what it was. Edie scratched him under the chin, patted him on the head, and massaged his ears.

She measured his dinner out carefully with the admonition that he eat slowly and savor his food. She said the word "diet." He didn't know what it meant, but he knew she intended it for his benefit. So far, she'd not led him wrong, so he'd trust her now too.

The deep rest of that first night was more satisfying than any other. When he lived on the streets, he never fully rested. There was always the danger of stray dogs, overenthusiastic children, and the very loud four wheeled machines that zipped by with their horns blaring. The Victorian house was a refuge, but there were many other cats around, and sometimes they jumped on him. Other times, others would be fighting and wake him from his sleep.

Sleeping next to Edie was different. There was more than safety and warmth. There was trust.

The next morning, the young woman ran around the apartment at a hurried pace. Nathan Alan Willoughby tried to follow her, but he couldn't keep up with her path. First, the bathroom, then the kitchen, then the bathroom, then her bedroom. It was a whirlwind. Of course, he was a very large cat who operated at a relaxed pace.

The air was filled with different fragrances - everything smelled clean. Edie poured more food out for him. "I'll be back after work, Nathan Alan Willoughby. Don't worry. Eat your breakfast and look out the window." With that she was gone.

Nathan Alan Willoughby stared at the door, listening to her steps fade down the staircase. He was still purring. This is what he knew existed but couldn't name before he experienced it. Before he thought only of security, but now he knew there was this deeper feeling - true love.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Border Patrol

Many of you have seen Cricket before (welcome back, Cricket!). She's a brilliant border collie who was here this summer. Border collies must patrol the grounds. As you may notice, Cricket has discovered a security breach. Red Alert!

That little hole you see there was made by a rollicking group of dogs who happened to all be here together this summer and were very playful. One of them decided to start ripping at the wall. This has never happened before. It's further proof that just when I thought I'd seen it all, dogs will always surprise me with the destruction they can do.

Which brings me to me. Yes, here I am, thinking that I'm pretty safe, that no further damage can rock my world. However, that is not true. Something unexpected can happen, not just externally, but internally. There are times when I see...let's call it "bad behavior"...and think to myself, "Well, that's awful - I'd NEVER do that." It turns out, that my self-righteousness will quickly prove me wrong. Maybe I don't have that issue, but I've got another issue just as bad.

Or, maybe I'm just watching too much "Jersey Shore." I don't get the show and even more I don't get why I keep watching. But that's another story.

Do you ever think you're safe house has suddenly been attacked? What happens when you start to feel too secure in your own righteousness? Will "The Situation" ever grow up?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Dubious Gift (a slight re-run)

Dooley is my 7 year old cat whose teeth are extremely unhealthy. As a result, he gets a little canned food every morning. As you might expect, he LOVES it. Lately, he's taken to bringing me gifts in return. Sadly, he brings them after I've already had breakfast (sorry, Dooley).

Dooley brings me gifts because I've done something for him. Despite the mice, moles, grasshoppers, snakes, and birds he's brought me (ewww), he can't repay me with an appropriate gift.

He doesn't need to bring me a gift (in fact, I wish he wouldn't). I love Dooley - just because of who he is, even with his weird cat-ness. He didn't and can't earn my love. It just is.

That's God's Grace. It is an unearned gift. A gift you can not earn. A gift you can not repay.

What do you call a gift that is never received? What's the best gift you've ever given? What about the best gift you ever received (and you don't have to be all spiritual about it!)?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tuesday Training Tip - "Drop It!"

As usual, my untrained dog, Tilly, is here to demonstrate a training tip (hi Tilly!). In this picture, Tilly has dropped her new favorite toy, Kooky Chicken of the Kooky Chicken Swim Party collection, into my lap. This poses a dilemma for me because I don't particularly enjoy a slimy plastic toy dumped on my lap. At the same time, it's a slight improvement over her romping through the house SQUEEKING Kooky Chicken. The sound is just soul-splitting.

Anyway, "drop it" is a very helpful command for your dog to learn and it's one of the easier ones as well. As usual, start with a tired dog, because they are more apt to listen. And a hungry dog (you'll see why in a minute).

Let's say your dog has something that she wants, but you don't want her to have. Offer the dog a treat and say in a firm voice (not the asking a question voice because a dog's answer to your question is always "no!"), say "Drop it!" and promptly offer an enticing treat like a piece of hot dog or cheese. Chances are good (unless your dog is carrying around hot dogs and/or cheese, in which case you must be at a picnic) that your dog will drop the item.

Give the dog the treat - instant reward for the behavior! This is why dogs learn this command so quickly - they open their mouth to let go only to find something even better.

This command can save your laundry, children's toys, remote control, or even your dog's life if she grabs something dangerous. So start your training today! If you set your dog up for three quick sessions per day, by the end of the week, your dog will probably know this command well.

What toy does your dog like best? What in your life do you need to "drop?" Does anyone else have a Kooky Chicken?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Longing for Home

This wonderful Dalmatian is Buddy (hi Buddy!).

Why can't you see Buddy's face? Because he's looking for his owners. Buddy is an older dog, and he's been coming here for a number of years. He's always been good-natured and happy (his owners are pretty great too!).

This Spring, Buddy suffered a major trauma. While peacefully hanging out in his own backyard, he was attacked by three stray dogs. (For some reason, this makes me think of West Side Story, but I'm probably off base with that because Buddy would never belong to any gang of any kind.)

Since that time, Buddy has not liked coming to the kennel as much. No matter how much attention I pay him and keep him away from the other dogs, I swear he is having flashbacks of 'Nam. He's anxious much of the time he's here.

When I take him out for walks, he sniffs a little, maybe politely pees on a busy. But mainly he is looking for his ride home. Even when I sit and just scratch behind his ears, I know he's wishing he was elsewhere. Buddy loves his owners and wants to be with them. He knows not only will they love him no matter what, they will caref for him if he is hurt.

There are times when I long for that Perfect Home as well. It's good to know someone has your back and will be your Defender and Protector, as well as assure you of their Perfect Love.

When do you experience homesickness? What do you long for most?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Nathan Alan Willoughby - First Night in a New Home - Fiction

Nathan Alan Willoughby spent the first three hours of his arrival at Edie's apartment exploring. His soft paws traipsed through each room. Five times. This wasn't especially difficult, given that Edie's apartment had one largish room with a couch and raggedy puffy chair, one small bathroom, one small bedroom, and a tiny kitchen.

Every scent was carefully cataloged in his cat brain. He knew where Edie spent most of her time - on the couch. Evidently she was not in the kitchen much, but the smells in that room were fascinating.

Staring at a crevice in the kitchen is where Edie found him. "What is so interesting, my large kitty friend?" She got down on her hands and knees and stroked his back. Nathan Alan Willoughby began to purr. He thought about taking his eyes off the crevice, but the odor compelled his attentions. Finally, Edie laid flat and fixed her eyes in the same direction as his.

"What is that?" She poked at the crevice. "Eww!" she yelped, hopping up and grabbing a broom. As she scraped up the mouse droppings, she said, "I got you for company, but you are welcome to be the resident exterminator as well."

Later, Edie plopped down on the couch and turned on the television. Nathan Alan Willoughby settled into the chair by her and began to groom. Edie watched him. "I read that when a cat begins to groom, that means he's comfortable and ready to settle in. Is that what you're doing? Are you settling in?" He stopped grooming and looked at her. He didn't know what she said, but her voice went up at the end in an interesting way.

"Do you like it better here than the Westwood Rescue for Good Cats?" she asked. "Maybe my apartment is small, but it's at least a step up for you." She got off the couch and scratched his ears. "Welcome home, Friend."

Nathan Alan Willoughby purred under Edie's attention. His last thought before he drifted off into a deep sleep was he had found what he sensed always existed. At the rescue house, he knew something was missing. This is what it was - love.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Dog Guests

That's Renny (hi Renny!). Renny is a little blurry (sorry), but Renny was rarely still when I met him. He is currently visiting at "Grandma and Grampa's" from out of state.

He's a Havanese, and a busy one at that. He met several new people, coming into a strange home, yet he loved every person who walked in the door. Even though he was new to the place, he seemed very much at home, bringing toys to strangers.

Sometimes I wish I was more like Renny, feeling comfortable away from my true home. Instead, I fumble around, feel disoriented because I don't know where the coffee maker is, and hide if anyone knocks at the door (I'm very mature).

We're away from God, away from our True Home, during the numbered days of our lives. Yet, we still have God's love sustaining us, despite the strange environment in which we currently find ourselves. Perhaps if I remembered that Love and Presence, then I too could relax, greet visitors with confidence, and enjoy my time in a different home.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Princess Goes Home

Six weeks to the day. Princess stayed here at Good Shepherd Boarding Kennel for that long because her owner had serious surgery. She couldn't go home. She had to be away from the owner to whom she was so clearly loyal.

Princess learned to trust me. She went from backing away when I tried to put a leash on her for a walk to jumping up for dog hugs. She even learned to be friendly with my two dogs while we walked. I was pleased with how well she handled the separation.

Yet this morning when her owner was finally taking her home, she only had eyes for him! All the hard days, the challenging situations, the cautiousness, disappeared when she saw her owner. That hardship is now a distant memory. Now she is home, curled up, no doubt, at her owner's feet, having the most relaxing rest of her life.

It's heaven.