He wakes me up the minute he hears a stir. I can hear him before I feel his paw reach up and scratch my hand. Sometimes I play dead just to frustrate him, but he always wins. Like a babies waking cry pulls a mother from her slumber so it goes with Buddy. No matter how much I want to sleep-in we both know he’s going to win this battle.
As soon as my feet hit the floor his happy dance starts complete with a soundtrack of squeals. Barely awake I can’t mix his food fast enough to please him. I do my best though to get the perfect mix of his homemade chow into the bowl and served quickly. He rewards me like a circus dog would his master with three perfect circles around my feet.
Friday morning when I was especially tired I wondered if all the effort with him was worth it. With one of kid out of the house there’s only one left to go and soon sleeping-in might actually be a possibility—if it weren’t for Buddy. What a novel concept I thought—getting up when you want to. I can’t remember what that’s like.
While I was imagining the possibilities of life without a dog I saw a Facebook message saying that a friend had just lost her dog Flower. That cute little Chihuahua face staring up at me snapped me back to reality. I instantly remembered how heartbroken I was three years ago when I had to put Buddy #1 down. I cried for weeks. To this day if I picture handing him to the vet for the last time I can’t stop the tears. I knew that I couldn’t stay in the room while he was put to sleep and yet I can sit at a hospital bedside perfectly composed to pray for people.
The paradox for me is striking and I know I’m not alone in this. A few weeks back another friend described the day he had to put his lab down as harder than his heart surgeries. This is a tough as nails man’s man kind of guy. Even my friend Charity who should be a professional poker player because you can’t read her, has been on her knees for her dog. When he went down for the count she pleaded for prayer and nobody thought this was odd coming from her. We prayed without giving her request a second thought.
So it seems I’m not the only “crazy” dog-lover. We’ve all unapologetically gone to the dogs which begs the question why. Why is man’s best friend truly his most beloved? With this on my mind I set off with Buddy for our prayer walk wondering what it is that endears him to me when he’s such a pain in the butt.
I walked, he pulled, and after all our starts and stops so he could sniff the best I could come up with was the standard “unconditional love” response. We love dogs because they love us without any pretense. They don’t care what we do for a living, who our friends are, or what our political affiliations are. A person can be fat, balding, and even downright disagreeable and still find a friend in a dog.
Love them by caring for them and they take care of you. There’s a reciprocity that is so pure and simple it’s refreshing. Even the best parents can’t love you like your dog because they’re human. Expectations in a relationship invariably creep in making it easy to elevate dogs to such an esteemed status, because they have so few. Still, there’s got to be more when people describe the loss of their dogs with such intensity. Acceptance is a gift in life but it’s not all that matters to us.
I wrestled with my question while Buddy and I walked until something stopped him and he became immovable. No matter how much I coached he wouldn’t budge and I couldn’t figure out what it was. Frustrated, I backtracked to pick him and up that’s when I saw it—a penny. Not one hidden and hard to see but staring me right in the face.
I was so lost in thought I’d walked right over it but not Buddy. He wasn’t going to let me miss it because after all these walks we’ve taken he’s figured something out—we stop for pennies no matter what! He doesn’t know why but he knows me, and if there’s one thing I can count on it’s that Buddy cares about what I care about. Loyalty is his best quality.
It’s inspiring because we live in a fickle world where relationships come and go like the seasons. Times change, people change, situations change and minus any serious commitment our focus is on what meets our needs or grabs our attention at the moment. But in a dog’s life, that’s not that the case. His master is his number one priority and the joy that brings is undeniable. Loyalty is one of the greatest expressions of love you can experience. It makes the trouble a relationship can bring worth it.
With penny in hand and Buddy back out in front I felt convicted. If only I were the same kind of friend to God who so lovingly takes care of me every day. I have never missed a meal in my lifetime but I don’t always remember to thank the hand that makes that possible. I don’t start each day with a smile on my face and say let’s go the sun is shining. I don’t answer when He calls my name. I don’t always care about what He cares about.
That’s not right. God deserves more. When they say it’s a dog’s life maybe as believer’s we need to take that a little more seriously and live like our furry friends—worshipping and adoring our Master who wants the same thing we do—love, acceptance, and loyalty to His cause which is nothing but good.