Sunday, December 23, 2012

What a Dog Can Teach You

So, after a crazy and difficult semester that probably almost killed me, I finally have time to think clearly and post on my blog again!

This is simple, but rather interesting I suppose. Since I’ve been home, I’ve been spending a lot of time with my dog, Millie. Many of you have met her, and I’m sure all of you have heard me talk about her before. That’s because she’s the most hilarious dog on the planet. Every time I come home from college, she is always able to brighten my mood if I’m having a terrible day.

My mother would probably disagree though- she would call Millie the dog from hell, or even possibly a reincarnate of Satan. And honestly, I would agree with her. Millie has a pretty bold personality, and she gets very angry and defensive about many things. The two most specific things she gets angry about are being put in her cage, and food.

Whenever you put Millie to bed, never say the word cage, because if you do and then try to pick her up with two hands, you might end up missing a finger. And never, ever leave food unattended around her, especially chocolate and meat. Just the other night, my sister Katie was putting together goodie bags in light of the holiday season for her friends at school. She had candy canes and miniature Reese’s cups with her, and Millie was in the room. I was actually surprised because although it was clear that Millie wanted the candy, she sat patiently on the floor and watched my sister put the goodie bags together.

However, near the end of that time, her patience ran out, and Millie decided that she was going to get some candy herself if she was going to have to wait this long (we weren’t even going to give her any in the first place). So, by willpower and her sharp teeth, she was able to grab some chocolate. Katie and I tried to get the chocolate out of her mouth, but it was literally impossible because she was growling, biting, and being dangerously defensive. The debacle ended with Millie laying on her back and growling at us while she downed the entire miniature Reese’s cup, aluminum foil and all.

That was actually the most defensive I’d ever seen her. Never in my life have I been lunged at and charged at in that capacity. She packs a large and terrifying punch for such a small dog. However, sometimes I wonder if that kind of behavior isn’t her fault. I’m pretty sure some of it comes from her nature, because wiener dogs are just like that, but I’ve been thinking recently that some of her behavior has stemmed from how we’ve treated her and trained her since she was little.

When we first got Millie, I was a Sophomore in high school. All three of us (plus my dad) were really excited, but my mom had told us that we had to take care of and train the dog ourselves. And we agreed, because we wanted that dog so badly. She was so adorable! The only problem was that, although the four of us had agreed to that, we definitely did not hold up our end of the deal.

Millie as a puppy!

My mom had agreed to purchase the dog because she thought it might motivate my dad to get up in the mornings, as our other wiener dog, Villie, had done. We all knew he wasn’t feeling good, so this was my mom’s way of maybe trying to get him out of that. However, that didn’t end up working out so well. And my brother, sister and I? We were all teenagers, really too selfish and consumed in our own lives to take that much effort to care for her.

We never took her on enough walks, or trained her fully to go to the bathroom outside. By now, she knows that she’s supposed to do that, but the habit of going to the bathroom inside still has not been broken. I definitely know that now, she never goes on a walk and is only let outside in the backyard. The only problem is that she’s still a puppy; she’s only four years old, and she still needs that.

With everyone gone most of the time, she is usually alone, and I just realized, after being at home with her for this past week, that she just wants someone to spend time with. She just wants the attention and love that we should have been giving her the whole time she’s been with us. And that vicious behavior she sometimes exhibits? I can’t help but think that some of that stems from how we’ve treated her over the years- with neglect and selfishness.

I remember when she was little and we would play with her. She would bite at us, and we thought it was funny, so we encouraged it. Now, playing with her can be dangerous because her bite is much stronger. She doesn’t know that such behavior is not acceptable.

Millie being evil

And even though she is disobedient and vicious at times, she still needs to be loved. Taken on walks, played with, given more attention. For Christmas, I decided to make her a blanket because all of the towels she’s given are chewed up. My sister asked me why in the world I was going to make her a blanket if she was going to eventually destroy it.

And I’ve finally learned that even if she’s going to do that, I still need to make her the blanket and show her that I care about her. My brother and sister and I have conditioned her to behave that way, so we’re pretty much paying the price for it.

And this, in a strange but completely understandable way, reminded me of how Jesus loves us. Every day, He loves us, no matter what we do which is extremely difficult to understand for a lot of people, including me. So much is said about His steadfast love in the Psalms. Psalm 36:5 says, “Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.”

I can’t explain his love, and so much is written about it that your attention would veer if I put every verse I knew about the love of Christ in this post.  I don’t even understand it. And sometimes I can’t even see it or feel it, but I know it’s still there. His love works in ways that we can’t understand.

Isaiah 55:6-7 says, “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”

No matter what we do, he will always forgive us and love us unconditionally. And such was taught to me through my dog. In the middle of my dog peeing on the carpet or chewing up the blanket I just made her, I need to say, I still love you. For all the damage that’s been done to her emotionally in her short doggie life because of how she’s been treated and trained, I need to understand that her actions reflect that.

And I’m not saying that God has damaged us like that. I’m saying that over time, we’ve damaged each other like that. In our childhoods, through tragic events in our lives, in our relationships, we’ve all been damaged emotionally. And God will work with us and love us every day for the mess that is our lives to grow towards an understanding of who he really is in the midst of all the damage.

Isaiah 55:1-3- “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.”

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