Saturday, March 5, 2016

What I learned from my dog

German Shepherd

My family and I have a German Shepherd named Luci.  I was not a self-proclaimed animal person until the day that I met Luci.  We wanted a German Shepherd because our home had recently been broken into, and I felt unsafe.  We had found an independent breeder, but on a Sunday evening in late September of 2012, we just so happened to stop in at a local corporate-owned pet store.  Chad told the kids and me that we were not buying a dog here, just looking.  I was fine with that.....until I saw Luci.  She was overpriced, scrawny, and her ears were bigger than her body; but I fell in love with her.  She was double the price of the puppies we had found from the breeder, so, obviously, Chad said "no".  We left the pet store, went to Wal-Mart, and when we got out to the parking lot, the kids and I all began to cry for the dog.  I might have thrown a tantrum....for a dog.  We walked back into the pet store ten minutes before they closed, and bought what looked like a miniature, scrawny donkey.

She nearly died the first week we had her and was diagnosed with kennel cough.  I sat up several nights in a row with her, and as I rocked her in my leather recliner, I realized I had become one of those "crazy dog people."  I was sure she would one day end up in our family pictures.....and she did.

Luci has an over-the-top obsession with tennis balls.  When I pop the top off of a new canister of them, she comes running, sniffing the air and the container.  Her love for tennis balls cannot be expressed in mere words.  We have to spell the word around her.  Where is Luci's B-A-L-L?  But, she has even learned how to spell ball.  She's a genius.  Maybe she will win the Spelling Bee at the kennel.

When Luci's ball rolls under a piece of furniture, she contorts her body, trying to crawl under and get it. At sixty-five pounds, she is often unsuccessful in her endeavors, and she prowls around the house, begging and pleading for someone to get on their hands and knees to retrieve her ball.  Luci has been to obedience school, and she knows commands for come, sit, lay, down, and stay, as well as the signs for those commands.  She 'heels' when on a leash, and she knows to go get in her bed when we lock up at night.  She knows what it means to go "bye-bye", and she knows that at 3:30 every afternoon, we pick the kids up from school.  She runs to the sliding van door and hops up into her seat.  She knows her groomer/boarder's name, and we have to spell it when speaking about her around Luci.  B-A-L-L and H-O-L-L-Y are words we do not speak in our home.  They invoke immediate canine mayhem.  She also gives high-fives and handshakes, knows the sound of the fruit drawer in our fridge opening from a mile away (A-P-P-L-E is also a word we only spell), and she refuses treats if we tell her they are from the dog catcher.  She knows not to get on the furniture, and when she has done something wrong, she readily and voluntarily confesses, hunkering down on the ground in the posture of guilt and shame. We are pretty sure she is a human disguised as a dog.  My dad jokes that we need to send our children to the same obedience school so that they will be as well-behaved as Luci.  Or maybe he's not joking......

She is the most obedient dog you will meet.....except when tennis balls are involved.  She loves to play fetch, but she simply will not release the ball.  She brings it and lays it in my lap, yet when I reach for it, she quickly snatches it up.  When I try to pull it out of her mouth, she clenches her teeth down and secures it in her jaws.  She takes it and lays down with it, and then brings it back.  We go through the whole routine.  She wants me to throw it, yet she won't give it to me.  Once in a blue moon, she will release it and let me throw it.  She runs across our hardwood floors, sliding into the wall as she goes for the neon yellow ball.  She excitedly grabs it, starts to bring it back to me, then decides she will keep the ball to herself again.  She comes back over to me, and I once again try to pry it out of her mouth.  I tell her to "drop" it, but her grip grows stronger.  As much as she wants me to have that ball so that I can throw it for her, she simply cannot and will not give me control.

German Shepherd

As I watched her do this one day, it reminded me of the way that I act with God.  My life is my tennis ball.  It is my prized possession.  I try to give it to God, to put it in His hands, but I instead strengthen my grip.  Sometimes I even lay it right in front of Him, but as He reaches for it, I pluck it right back from his grasp.  Occasionally, I am able to leave it in his lap and wait to see what he does with it.  Usually, it's pretty spectacular, and I find myself running ninety-miles an hour filled with excitement.  It is very clear that what He can do with it is much better than what I can do.  But, then I start losing my trust.  What if I give it to Him, and He doesn't do what I want Him to do?  Or even worse....what if He doesn't give it back to me?  So, I take it and run and hide.  I keep it in my possession, not really capable of doing much with it on my own.  It rolls under the couch, and I run back to Him, begging and pleading for His help.  No matter how untrusting, stubborn, and unyielding I am, He comes to my rescue.  Every. Single. Time.  You see, left to my own devices, I will eventually lose that ball.  It will roll under the bed and be covered and hidden in dust.  It will end up under the refrigerator, never to be seen again, or out in the yard, covered in a blanket of snow.  Left in my care, it is useless.  But, in my Master's hands, it is never useless.  He knows exactly what to do with it.  And, even though I don't know what that will be, one thing is for sure:  it will be spectacular, and I will be running, ecstatically chasing after it, anxious to see where it unexpectedly lands.

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