Sometimes these moments come in the darkest hours–and this one certainly did. I was coming off of a year of heartbreak, trying to deal empathetically and lovingly with some challenges that people I care for very much were undergoing. But I was finished. I was empty. There was nothing left in my heart, and secretly I feared that my ability to love had been extinguished, or maybe wasn’t even there in the first place. I was on the way home from a dreadful whirlwind business trip to Jamaica–yeah I know, but trust me, it was awful–and I was sick, jetlagged from a previous trip, and underdressed for a cold dark plane ride. I was huddled into an inadequate cardigan and trying not to cry. It was just one of those “this is too much” times. And I heard a distinct and strong voice in my head: “You need to get a dog.”
What the what???
I’ve only had two experiences in my life where I felt like God was speaking to me. And in both cases, it was an injunction to do something that I probably wouldn’t have done otherwise. The first one was not only to go to law school, but to go to the best one I could get into. That was not the message that this Mormon girl expected, but it started a crazy adventure of moving far from home, cracking my brain wide open, failing, and finally finding a career that brings me more fulfillment, joy, and adventure than I thought possible. The second one was to get a dog.
Okay God. You win.
Here’s the thing. I don’t really like dogs. I mean, I kind of do. I think they’re cute. From a distance. But when I was a kid, I once got chased by a doberman/german shepherd mix owned by our sketchy neighbor who turned out to be dealing drugs. It was a mean dog, and I have some vivid and physical memories of terror. Our family had an outside dog, a collie–and I liked him. He was sweet, and kind of balanced out the dog scales of justice in my mind. But I’ve never been the cooing, baby talking, let any animals at all into my house kind of lady. That was all about to change.
I knew I couldn’t handle a puppy, so I contacted a local collie rescue organization, and after talking with them, thought that I wanted a well-behaved 4-5 year old male collie. A few weeks later, they called and said they had an exceptional dog who matched my needs perfectly, she was the sweetest dog they’d ever seen. The catch–she was a senior. Maybe 9-10 years old. “Just go meet her.” Those cagey, cagey rescue people…..
She wasn’t much to look at. She’s got visible, obvious scars. They shaved off her collie coat because she was covered in ticks, and it was so matted with feces and dirt that they couldn’t save it. And then she took one look at me with those big brown eyes and the tail started wagging. And, well, I was a goner. Full on, can’t stop it, fill up my heart to bursting in love with this funny looking dog.
She has filled my life up with the love that I knew I needed, but didn’t know how to get. Every morning she is so excited to see me wake up that her entire hindquarters wag…despite the arthritis in her back hip. When I come home from work, she’s right at the door, letting out these little doggie moans of love, pressing into my legs, tail flapping madly. She doesn’t want anything but my attention and (frequent) belly rubs. She’s gentle, she snuggles, she melts me. Somehow God knew that maybe this tough old broad of a dog could crack me open with her resilient and unwavering heart.
Score one for the Almighty. Thanks for yelling loud enough that sometimes I hear.