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Monday, December 20, 2010

What I Get in the Mail

Years ago when I started the kennel, the mailman commented, "all your mail has to do with God or dogs." Why yes, yes it does. Christmas is no exception. Among the Christmas cards I receive, many are pictures of dog owners who bring their dog to Good Shepherd Boarding Kennel. Of course the dogs are in the pictures too.

My dogs find Christmas awkward. Maybe it's the apparel.

I don't send out cards, not just because my dogs won't pose. However, I do love to receive them. It's fun to look at the pictures and be remembered (I won't go into the Christmas letters, because I always think of David Sedaris).

I've thought of sending out cards just because I have the perfect picture for them:

That's me on the right.

Do you like getting Christmas cards? What about pictures? Letters? Will your dog wear a Santa hat?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Nathan Alan Willoughby's Bad Dream-Fiction

With all the commotion around the apartment with Edie's packing, Nathan Alan Willoughby was not enjoying as much rest as he liked. Normally, he could stretch out on his back, feeling safe and secure, with his legs and arms askew. It was an indication that all was right with the world. Edie provided him security that he didn't know when he was a stray living in a dumpster. Even the Westwood Rescue for Good Cats wasn't the most relaxing place. With Edie, he was experiencing the true sense of "home.

The boxes were upsetting. Personal items, things that never moved, were now out of place. It unsettled the large cat.

His sleep was less than peaceful. His dreams were plagued with disturbing images.

Sleeping brought twitching and mews. Edie noticed. She woke him up and stroke his fur. Nathan Alan Willoughby woke, and again realized that Edie was safe and loved him. Even when all else failed to make him feel that the world was normal, Edie was with him.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Finding Our Home

This is my cat Carbon (hi Carbon! get off my puzzle Carbon!).

Carbon was dropped off at my house about five years ago. It was a cold morning and I heard the high pitched mew and went outside to investigate. Responding to the internationally known call of "here kitty-kitty-kitty," a gray puffball bounded across the yard to me. Apparently, she knew I was a sucker for strays.

I scooped up the kitten and noticed it was covered with fleas and filth. She also had ringworm, which I later contracted as well as Foster. Shivering and cold, I gave her a quick warm bath at the sink. She was so tiny, she fit in the palm of my hand. Despite the reputation of cats and running water, she didn't fight it at all. In fact, she began to purr as she looked up at me. She relaxed when I held her in a warm towel. It was like she knew she was safe, and that the bath was getting rid of all the bad stuff that made her life miserable and uncomfortable.

Isn't it great that our Lord is also a sucker for strays? We fit the description - lost, away from home, and covered in filth. Running to God is the best decision we could make. While coming clean with our shortcomings and sinful behavior isn't pleasant, it's a tremendous relief.

Once Carbon's flea and ringworm condition cleared up, she moved from the kennel into my house. When she isn't busy hunting for frogs around the pond, she sleeps on the couch. She was such an unattractive mass of grayness when she arrived here. Now, she's a beautiful cat with a coat like sable.

She's found a home.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Longing for Home

This is Buddy the Dalmation (hi Buddy!). Yes, he's blurry, but this is the side of Buddy I see more and more when he visits the kennel.

Buddy wants to go home.

While it's fairly normal for dogs to go to the door a couple times when they are away from home, Buddy's persistence is new. He's been coming here for years and always done quite well at the kennel.

Then this Summer, Buddy got beat up by some mean dogs in his neighborhood. Buddy is completely docile and nice, so when I heard he was seriously injured by some strays who ambushed him in his own yard, it was extremely distressing. As a result, Buddy is afraid of other dogs and is uncomfortable when he's at the kennel. He wants to be home, with his people, away from the unfamiliar dogs who he is no longer interested in getting to know.

Being away from home is hard. "Home" might look different for every person, but the bottom line is home is where you feel safe and are loved. If we get "beat up" by coworkers, friends, neighbors, the check out woman with the bad attitude, we get worn out. We don't really want to get to know other people to see if they are trustworthy or not. We just want to be home.

The heart of God is the ultimate safe place for us. There, we are fully and perfectly loved. But we aren't home yet. We need to be away from that true comfort and spend time with "other dogs" as we live our lives.

The last two days, I enjoyed being snowed in and not going anywhere. This morning, however, I realized that when I don't go anywhere or interact with other people, I miss something very important - I miss how God is working in and through other people. That's a glimpse of Home. And I don't want to miss that.

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's All Your Fault!

Today is a snow day in Northwest Ohio. Schools are closed, there's little traffic on the roads, and the windchill is below zero. And it's all my fault.

Just ask Dooley.

No matter what door the cats go out, they realize it's too cold for them. I've spent a lot of time opening and closing the doors while cats wrestle with indecision and weather conditions. Finally, I made an executive decision that they were in for the day, no exceptions. This has been a controversial stance. They meow insistently, look at me plaintively, then growl and stomp off (really).

Since I'm human and understand (sort of) weather patterns and the dangers of exposure to wind chill (first hand), I'm risking being unpopular for their safety and best interests. In other words, I know better than these silly little cats.

Yet how many times do I insist to God that I be allowed to do something? I'll pray plaintively for what I want. I've even been known to stomp off in a huff when I don't get my way. Could it be that God understands the workings of the universe better than I do? Do I believe God has my best interest at heart?

I don't know about you, but I sure don't act like God's ways are better than mine. I believe it. I just don't act like it. Instead, I act like a silly cat, running from door to door, tapping the knob and looking over my shoulder for that door to be opened. When it doesn't, I growl and grumble.

What about you? Are you staring at an unopened door with a bit of an attitude problem (your attitude, not the door's)? What will you do today to stop acting like a three year old?

(Happy Birthday Julie! Who is more than three years old - and generally acts like it).

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Nathan Alan Willoughby Searches for Answers

"We're moving," Edie said to her large cat. Nathan Alan Willoughby was getting used to hearing the phrase, but didn't understand what it meant. Perhaps it had something to do with the large cardboard boxes Edie brought home from work several times a week.

Nathan Alan Willoughby's association with cardboard boxes prior to this was boxes in a dumpster which contained cold, half eaten pizza and the box he'd been stuffed in at the Westwood Rescue for Good Cats upon his adoption. Boxes, at best, were a mixed bag (so to speak). What did these boxes mean?

Most of the time, the cat inspected each box carefully by jumping in it. Sometimes, a piece of paper or a few packing peanuts would be at the bottom. Those were the best boxes because they were fun. Other boxes were perfect for napping.

One day when Edie came home from work, Nathan Alan Willoughby was nowhere to be found. She called for him by name, as well as the universal, "here kitty-kitty-kitty" but received no answer. She dashed from box to box, looking for him. Nothing. She checked in the bathroom, since he liked to nap in there on cold days, but he wasn't to be found there either. She called him again.

"Mow-wow-wow-wow," a panicked meow finally answered her. "Where are you?" Edie cried. "Mow-wow-wow-wow." This was not his normal meow. Edie followed the pleas through her echoing apartment, finally looking under the couch.

"Mow-wow-wow-wow," Nathan Alan Willoughby's eyes were as big as moons. They faced each other, but still the cat would not come out. Finally, Edie grabbed him by the nape and pulled him out from under the couch. Then, she began giggling at the frightened cat. Static electricity still bristled from his fur, which was completely covered in packing peanuts. Obviously, one of the boxes held an unpleasant surprise for the large cat.

Edie picked the styrofoam off this fur, putting in a plastic bag where it couldn't scare him further. "Don't worry, we'll be done with these evil boxes before you know it." Nathan Alan Willoughby's breathing finally calmed, and after the last peanut was removed, he purred and bumped Edie's hand with his head.

Moving was not a concept easily understood by a cat. Sometimes the need to move isn't easily understood by people. However, Nathan Alan Willoughby had learned that Edie was someone he could trust. No matter what the boxes meant, it seemed like it was going to be okay. Eventually.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Finding a Home

Meet Dooley (hi Dooley!). This week, Dooley went from the local dog pound (where he spent a month) to a very good home. He looks happy, doesn't he?

Dooley had been with a family before he was given up to the pound. Dooley probably knew what he was missing when he suddenly went from warm couch to cold cement floors. In just a day at his new home, he's becoming reacquainted with a couch (and even sneaking up on the bed).

When you've grown up with some good things in your life - whether it was a solid family or good study habits - they can be taken for granted. If you lose any of those people or things, you feel the loss keenly. If you never had those positive experiences or relationships, you don't know what you're missing.

Or do you?

Most people live with longing for something. Sometimes we long for a relationship, a job, or sitting with the cool kids at the lunch table. I'm addicted to shows about addictions. It's true. But I've learned a lot from them and how each of us has the need for something greater than ourselves. That can get turned around to constantly looking inside instead of outside for those needs to be met. And often it turns into addictions to very unhealthy substances or relationships.

In our efforts to be reasonable and self-sufficient, we don't want to admit how much God can be that greater relationship. It is surely a feat of the supernatural that an invisible yet almighty God fills the gaps. That happens when we admit it, then seek it out (while some theology may say it's the other way around, I'm not going to argue that here). God is just there, waiting for us to make our "home" with him.

Dooley is relaxing and getting more comfortable in his new digs and hanging with his new people. He even chased a dog across the street out of "his" yard and back into that dog's own yard. I think he likes his new home.

Have you ever adopted a dog from a pound? Do you ever settle for "lesser gods" that are more convenient and visible than seeking what is more difficult but ultimately more satisfying?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Living Outside Your Comfort Zone

Here's our St. Bernard friends, Sandy and Brandy (hi girls!). These dogs love the snow and even the cold weather.

As usual in Ohio, we went from a day of sixty degree temperatures to six degrees wind chill within about twenty-four hours. It's been cold and snowy. Obviously, this is perfect weather if you're a hearty dog.

There's much to be said for enjoying your surroundings. Sometimes, though, that is not possible. Our circumstances might be too much for us to take or we just hate the cold weather.

What are the choices? Run away? Move? Is it possible that our tough situation might shape us for the better? If we put our faces toward the wind and let the horizontal snow hit our faces, could this strengthen us?

No matter what you might be facing right now, look for how it can gird you up instead of how it is tearing you down.

One thing that amazes me about Ohio is the tulip and crocus that emerge from the ground each spring, after the thaw. When it's so frozen, it doesn't seem possible. This can be true for your circumstances right now too.

How will you cope with winter? Are you heading south? Can you look to the Creator of winter and recognize spring will indeed return? What's your favorite warm weather destination?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Prone to Wander

This is Kody (hi Kody!). Kody has a very bad habit - darting out the door and wandering the neighborhood.

One day I was driving in town and noticed Kody out exploring. What struck me was he was obviously on a mission. I pulled into a driveway, rolled down the window, and called him. He looked at me, surprised I knew his name. However, he avoided me and kept going on his path. Since he was headed in the direction of his home, I decided to let him go.

The next time I talked to his owners, I learned this is what Kody does at every opportunity. He loves to be on his own.

Can you relate to Kody's independence? I sure can. However, if I'm not careful, I easily find myself wandering aimlessly and unwisely.

I worried Kody would get hit by a car or someone would try to take him. There are many hazards to us if we leave the One who loves and protects us as well.

What tempts you to leave the safety of your home or the one who loves you the most? Is it ever worth the risks? What steps can you take to stay true to God's word?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Nathan Alan Willoughby Dreams a Better Dream - Fiction

Before Edie adopted Nathan Alan Willoughby from the Westwood Rescue Home for Good Cats, he was an outside cat. While relying on the pizza dumpster for food was a better situation than some stray cats experienced, it wasn't as good as eating with Edie every night and every morning. Cats enjoy predictable, repetitive routine, and Nathan Alan Willoughby was no exception.

While Edie's little episode and break down seemed to be a one time incident, there was still an unsettled feeling in the apartment. Nathan Alan Willoughby did not like that. Edie returned from work, but there was no zip in her step. She patted his head absently before slumping before her computer. It made him sad.

He took up his post at the window and watched the activity on the street below. There was one thing he certainly missed and that was being outside. Fresh air, even the air of a busy street and neighborhood, was invigorating. There was always something new to explore. Sometimes Nathan Alan Willoughby watched other cats scurry on the street below, having some adventure. One day, a man through a rock at a cat, and then Nathan Alan Willoughby remembered that maybe being outside wasn't so great.

Edie kept her routine of sitting on the couch with her large black and white cat next to her. The cat purred, and she watched television. He sat next to her, kneading the side of her leg with his paws. Edie sighed, "This isn't how it's supposed to be, you know." She scratched behind his ears, "There's supposed to be something more challenging, more interesting, less stressful..." she trailed off and stopped petting the cat.

Nathan Alan Willoughby stood up and stretched. He stared straight into Edie's eyes. She stared back, "You're right. Maybe it's time to think about moving." For the first time in several weeks, Edie smiled. This made Nathan Alan Willoughby purr louder. An adventure was on the horizon.

Friday, December 3, 2010

It's Fun Friday!

And what better way to celebrate than with a picture of a dog in its Cone of Shame?

That's Lucy (hi Lucy! over here Lucy...no, over HERE!). From this picture, it seems that the Cone of Shame not only keeps her from messing with her eye ailment but also from putting her paw in an electrical outlet.

What's Fun Friday? Well, it's a state of mind - an attitude of being carefree, whether with friends or at work (though it works much better when one is not at work).

So go celebrate today by doing something fun. Or doing nothing at all, which I happen to think is even more fun.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Dog I Always Wanted

Every morning, Foster brings me the paper. (hi Foster! Good boy!)

When I was growing up, I always wanted a dog who would retrieve the paper. I read the comics page a lot, so I probably got the idea from Snoopy or Marmaduke. Of course growing up, the newspaper was delivered to our front step, so our dog didn't have to retrieve it (not that he would have if given the opportunity).

Foster taught himself how to get the paper when he first mistook it for a toy and brought it to me. Every morning, even in snow, when I say "paper," he runs to get it for me. Even with his diminishing eyesight, Foster finds the paper and brings it to me.

It has been difficult to watch Foster age. However, within Foster remains that same spunky puppy who has too much sass and attitude for his own good. He still is perpetually happy (although we both are grumpy with Tilly now and then). I never get tired of Foster bringing me the paper. Every day I marvel over it.

Good things don't last forever. We need to appreciate each incredible feat of nature, endearing quality, and thoughtful gesture. Instead of being sad that such things are fleeting, we need to remember that they only hint at a greater love to follow.

What daily treasure do you value? What's your dream dog?