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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

New Kid on the Block

After fifteen years of kenneling dogs for people (and more years as a multiple pet owner), having more than one dog is not uncommon. Probably close to half of my regular kennel clients have more than one dog, with some having more than two (don't worry, I won't name names). Some people adopt litter mates or two dogs at the same time. Those transitions go well, for the most part. Then there are those situations when a puppy is introduced to the "more established" dog in the home. Those transitions can be challenging at best. Meet Brutus (the established dog) and Annabelle (the pup). While sometimes Brutus enjoys Annabelle and her I-want-to-play-24-hours-a-day nature, there are many times he wants to be left alone. Whenever I introduced a new cat to our household, Foster would NOT be happy. In fact, when my other dog Guinness passed away, it didn't seem like Foster missed him one bit. It's like he always looked at every toy and piece of food was his all along, and now he didn't have to share. Then there's Frank, who may hiss at the beginning of an introduction, has pretty much befriended every new pet brought here. When we were in school, we had to endure the cliques that naturally (and unnaturally) formed. Some definitely viewed themselves as the cool kids, and no one new was ever welcome. This is definitely not the way God wants us to be. He told us to welcome the stranger, even to love the unloveable. I mean, it would seem God doesn't really care if we're popular or not, if we're caught rubbing elbows with the uncool kids, jeopardizing our fragile social status. In fact, it would seem God doesn't care about our social status at all. Isn't that annoying? Yet shouldn't we be thankful that God welcomes us? Maybe we make fun of or are somewhat terrified of the stereotypical Wal-mart shoppers. But in God's eyes, all of our fine clothes, nice job, and cool friends mean absolutely nothing. He looks at our hearts. Sometimes our hearts only care about clothes, jobs, and status of friends. Our hearts may resemble the ugliest of stereotypes. When we run to God, admitting we aren't "all that", He welcomes us, the stranger, the smelly ugly unloveable one. Through Jesus, our ugly, sinful nature is made acceptable to God. Only Jesus' atoning sacrifice can put us right again. Then not only can we revel in the love of the Lord, we can welcome the stranger, that new kid on the block, regardless of who that person may be.

Monday, February 25, 2013

What a Brute!

Meet Brute (hi Brute). Isn't he a beaut (harhar)? This nine month old Labrador recently visited the kennel. At this young age, he's been with his current owner about three months, and as you can tell from his expression, he adores his new owner. And well he should. Not only does Brute have a new home, he has a new life. You see his previous home wasn't able to provide him with much in the way of exercise, play, or even companionship. Now he has all three, including obedience training (and he's spot on!). Maybe Brute didn't know his last home wasn't providing him all he needed. Maybe he thought that's just what life was - tedious and frustrating. Life for us humans can often become tedious and frustrating. Is there a place to go with all of our negative feelings? Is there a better home? Yes! Realizing there is a perfect "home" waiting for us, if only we turn to God. God sent Jesus to die for our transgressions. Jesus said he'd take our burdens - including our feelings of frustration and boredeom - and give us something better. It's not just a better way and hope for a future, but a better life. Run to your new Master today!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Oliver Twist the Kitten - an Update

Do you remember last Fall the baby kitten abandoned on my property? He's been in his new home about three months now. It seems "Ollie" dotes on his new owner and she on him. However, one of his habits is less than charming. He enjoys pouncing onto his owner's shoulder (or, if he misses, her back). Since he has his nails, this is both startling and painful. Bad Ollie! When we are uncertain and can not trust those around us, we are hesitant and reserved. However, when we are loved in a genuine, safe way, we blossom. Sometimes we're down right exhuberant. We may even get carried away in our glee and accidentally over do it. "Love believes all things, endureth all things...." Isn't it good that even our misbehavior, when rooted in love, can also be seen in this lens?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Biding Our Time

This is Shayla (hi Shayla). Isn't she cute? Shayla is a Shiba Inu, a dog known for not barking. Shayla is a quiet dog, and true to her breed, a bit stand-offish. While she was no trouble while she was here, she looked at me as if her plight of being in the kennel was her fault. About half the dogs that stay in the kennel seem to genuinely enjoy their time doing something different. They like seeing and even playing with other dogs, along with their special treats. The break in the routine is welcome. Then there are the other half, who begrudge every moment of their time away from home. This silly little plastic flower makes me happy. It sways back and forth when the light hits it, despite the cold and gray of winter. Often I'm tempted to begrudge the horrible wind and cold of winter. Maybe I should welcome the break in the routine of being inside more often. Maybe I should receive my chang in circumstances as a gift from God - something to enjoy and observe and learn from the differences. What do you like about winter?

Monday, February 18, 2013

"Don't Interrupt Me!"

When you have an expectation on how your day (or life) will go and it’s suddenly thrown off course, it can be very jarring. Recently I was on vacation with a friend. Both of us were physically and mentally exhausted from the different things going on in our separate lives. We “planned to do nothing” but relax and read. We arrived late one night and early the next morning – yes than twelve hours – plans suddenly looked very different. Kobe fell in the water and cut his paws severely on the oyster beds/barnacles (the vet and others kept calling them different things) and he had to have surgery. Twice. Fortunately, he handled it very well. In fact, my friend did too, citing that it happened in Florida, so it was okay. I, on the other hand, found it very upsetting. One reason was that it happened while I was out with the dogs and the other was that it was an unexpected interruption in our vacation. Yesterday at church there was much discussion on interruptions. Some can be good, but usually we think of interruptions as bad, particularly for “big ticket items” like cancer, job loss, and teenagers. While we are in the muckity-muck of these situations, it’s hard to see the reason for the trial. In fact, we may feel like we are being divinely picked on by God. When it happens, nearly everyone will ask, “Where is God?” Some people conclude that either there is no God or that if there is, He’s pretty awful and they walk away. However, for those who persist, who strive to understand, who may get angry but persevere, comfort comes. Perhaps there is never any visible reason why something happens. Yet, often the result is a closer relationship with God, who walked the dark valley with us. When your routine is interrupted today, look for the good. At the minimum, look for God. He is always there.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Scared Straight

Once, Captain was a brave, dragon slayer kind of cat. This past Fall, he developed "certain undesirable male feline habits." When it was time for me to go on vacation, Captain had to stay in the kennel. There, he first freaked out when he saw the caretaker, then hid whenever she returned. When I returned I expected to find a feral beast. Instead, he ran to me and purred in my arms. Since then, he has been the model of feline good citizenry. So what happened? I don't know, but I'm glad! There have been times in my life when I've sauntered through life thinking I was invincible. It didn't take too many years before circumstances proved I was not truly Captain of my ship. God's interruptions to our plans are often kindnesses in disguise. Sometimes we have to quit fighting and realize that this present pain may be for our future good.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

How A Coat Keeps You Warm

Remember how coat drives were pushed around Christmas? Finally, after about ten years, I gave away a coat that was my husband's dress coat. Each time I came across it, I had great memories of him since he wore it when he was working his professional job and usually wore his nice colored dress shirt and tie. Yes, these were the years when he was walking and our life together was relatively normal. There weren't many years like that, so I treasured the coat. Yet it was serving no purpose and it bothered me that it could be giving someone else warmth as well as looking good, perhaps helping them land a job. Since I'm not very sentimental, this should have been easy but it wasn't. I agonized over giving it away, not wanting someone to receive it then not treasure it the way I did. In other words, I wanted to control the fate of the coat. When I finally "let go" of the coat, I had to let go of my control too. I had to pray that God would see this coat would go to whomever and for whatever purpose. That only made it a little bit easier. The purpose of a coat is to provide warmth. Sometimes the best way to share warmth and the love of God is to set aside our own plans. Maybe it takes a decade, but eventually sharing can be both for another's benefit as well as liberating for the giver.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Can a Gift Be a Burden?

Have you ever received a gift and wondered, "What am I going to do with this thing?" Or were you initially excited about it, then realized it was more trouble than it was worth? To keep Tilly occupied while I had guests, I gave her a bone. Since then, she has been extremely dedicated to it. The first night I had to take it away from her because she wouldn't stop chewing on it, even though I knew she was tired. Yesterday she got it back and there is not much left for her to chew on it. If a cat walks in the same room as her and her bone, she growls. She even snapped at Frankie when he was more interested in bumping against her with no interest in her prize. Tilly even carries it outside so no one will take it. For my last "big" birthday, I bought a new car. I've never done that before and it was a big deal. Since I didn't want to keep it pristine, I let my dogs ride in it right away. However, I worried about dents, etc. Imagine what it's like when you have even more 'stuff' to protect. Is that a good way to live? Can a person really enjoy a prized possession if it's a major source of worry. Some people even do this with their children. A friend of mine lost an adult child in a tragic accident. She told me that amid the grief, she remembered that she and her husband had committed that child to God's ultimate care and protection, while they were the earthly tenders of the child's life. To me, this inspires how I should look at every bit of my life. If it's all God's, He is responsible. While I need to tend my time and cultivate good habits, if I dedicate my decisions to God's ultimate care, then I look at every occurence - whether good or bad - as from God's hand for my benefit for His Kingdom. There is no burden there.

Friday, February 8, 2013

A Kindness for Pets Only?

It's a common thought, and not one that doesn't resonate with me. Still, when I mentioned agonizing over my decision of when to put Foster to sleep, some of the comments surprised me, not in content but intensity. "It's too bad we can't do that for people." Sure, I understand that watching anyone suffer is horrendous. But, does that mean there is no value in suffering? Maybe it's not for the person suffering. Maybe it's not for a family member. What if there is value for someone else? If the person suffering was asked to suffer a little longer because there would be a benefit for their child, would they say yes? My pets are wonderful and they add a lot to my life. However, I don't put them in the same category as people. Before my husband was diagnosed with ALS, he saw another person with a serious illness and he whispered to me that if that ever happened to him, he'd kill himself. The irony is that it did happen to him. He never considered suicide. I understand that people suffer terrible, unrelenting pain. The temptation to end it must be immense. But what if there's more to it? Our lives are our lives, but we're connected too, aren't we? God understands our pain, emotional and physical. Yet His plan for each life has us intertwined with others, no matter how much we may not like that notion. Only God has numbered our days, with an intention for value of each moment. He has dominion over us, as we have dominion over our pets. God must agonize over our pain, yet with the full knowledge as to the reasoning behind it - a reasoning we struggle and often rail against - a test of our faith. Yet Jesus, undeserving of the punishment and suffering he endured, willingly laid down his life in order that the doors to Heaven would be thrown open to us. Understanding God's full plan, he suffered for each one of us. Our culture fosters an "all about us" mentality. It's not an easy thing to admit that maybe we don't get to make every decision of our lives. Yet, if we consider it carefully, perhaps that is in fact a truly liberating concept. Almost like God has a plan...

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"How Do You Know When It's Time to....You Know?"

Fifteen years of kenneling dogs in this area has brought me into contact with families who brought me a puppy when I first opened the doors to watching it mature and age. I've dealt with dozens of calls from owners asking me "When do you know it's time to....you know....?" "Time to go to the vet?" "Um, yes." There's the "Fifty Percent Rule." That is, if the pet's quality of life is still good over 50% of the time, then maybe it's not time. Once it dips under 50%, it's never a bad decision. Easier said than done, right? Most of the time, a pet's body breaks down with bladder or hip issues. With Foster, it was not the case. His body was okay, but his senses were shot. It was either going to be a life on the leash, even in the house, or him constantly bumping into things. Only after I agonized and finally prayed for clarity did I see what was necessary. I saw Foster absolutely pushing himself to his limit to walk outside, find the steps, and stumble into the house. His drive, like his Cattle Dog nature dictates, would never end. But when I saw he was tired, just worn with his efforts to continue his devotion, that's when I knew it was time. Jesus gives rest to the tired and weary. This is a promise not just for the "afterlife" but one for our every day living. If you are worn out, seek His strength.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Remembering a Great Dog - Foster 2000-2013

When a kennel client brought me her new puppy to watch, I reacted to "Bear" with uncharacteristic cooing and fawning over the pup. I even made my husband come out and look at how cute he was. He was only 8 weeks old and the owner bought him from a pet store three days prior. Not a fan of pet stores, I suspected the dog as doomed to some unknown health issues due to its likely beginning at a puppy mill. Still, I was charmed by the happy, confident demeanor. He was housebroken quickly, followed me around as much as I'd let him, and took crazy risks that most dogs would never try. For instance, he was walking around on my back porch and went to the edge. It was like his little brain was trying to calculate if a 6 foot drop was really that risky. Before I knew it, he leaped. No problem. I watched the little guy often as the owner travelled a lot. I fell hard for him. When the owner had to move and told me she couldn't take him with her, I tried to say no for a whole month before finally saying yes when the owner was literally on her way to the humane society to drop him off. With the new name of Foster, the now seventh month old officially took over dominion of his new home and property, just like he seemed born to do. He saw me through a lot of difficulty and he brought a lot of joy to myself and others. Foster had swagger. Sometimes, it was a bit too much. He was a bit of the playground bully with other dogs. He wanted to be in charge of all space and time. For the most part, he was. The first time another dog he snarled at fought him back, he was put out for over a week. It's hard to realize one is not invincible and it was hard for him too. The first time the vet told me Foster was getting old, I was surprised. I mean, I shouldn't have been, but I was. After a year of being completely blind and losing most of his hearing, life was getting very challenging for Foster (and it was no picnic for me either). I realized that he was never going to give up, that he'd push himself well beyond what he could comfortably do. While his body wasn't breaking down in ways that other old dogs often due, I had to face some hard truths. Sometimes you don't know you've done the right thing until after you've done it. The decision about Foster was one that plagued me for literally months, intensifying and stressing me in his final weeks. After many prayers asking for guidance were answered clearly, I knew it was time. Still, I waited until I had to make the decision. And once it was all over, it was clearly the right thing. It was good of a bad decision as I could make. Somehow, I think he was as relieved as I was. Some avoid having a pet simply because the pain of losing them is too great. While I understand that, I believe that the enjoyment and love that characterize the majority of our time with our pets far outweighs the heartbreak. After all, choosing to love is a risky proposition. However, it is a good one.