Monday, April 30, 2012

four-legged theology

I have loved animals my whole life. My great-grandfather and his daughter, my grandma, taught me that. Not my great-grandma- she tolerated the endless stray animals her husband brought in and fed but that was about it. The other two, though, they oozed affection and compassion for anything covered in fur and four-legged. To this day, you won't see my Gramma Charli without a yorkie underfoot.

My love for animals goes beyond that though. I still stop and save worms from the sidewalk. Even though my husband laughs at me and gets embarrassed when I stop every few feet to pick one up and toss back to the grass. He says I'm silly. "They're just worms." They are, but God made them and we should take care of them. It was this same rationale that helped me decide that while I want a potbellied pig so bad I can't stand it, I will never own one because Tevie says we will have to slaughter it eventually... and I just couldn't bear to take the baby I raised since he was a tiny tea cup pig to meet his demise.

It's all this obsession with animals that makes me debate weekly whether or not I should become a vegetarian and convicted me to stop buying pork and boycott Tyson and Purdue after watching Food, Inc. Unfortunately for them, this compassion does not extend to anything with eight legs or scales. I'm sorry, guys. I know God made you on purpose, but I have no purpose for you.

It took some convincing, but one summer after much begging discussion, Tevie agreed to let us foster dogs from a local rescue and through the local animal shelter. One summer we saw nearly 40 dogs and puppies come through our doors. One night- it was ten (10!) beagle puppies...who had just been wormed...which meant a lot of poop...shew. That was a long night. :) We snuggled sweet Pomeranians and four precious St. Bernard pups (again-all at once!). It was hard work, but it was so much fun...for me, Tevie went along for the ride. I'm kidding, he really was a good sport. And, as many foster parents can attest to, when you see that many sweet faces there is going to be at least one that gets to you. One that is different from all the rest. One who needs you. One who was meant for your family.
The first fluffball to waddle through our door was named Bingo. His momma died of cancer and with no family who would take them, he and his Doberman brother were sent to a rescue. Bingo's momma was good to him (or bad, depending on how you look at it) letting him snuggle with her in her hospice bed eating cheetos, fast food and heaven- knows-what else. He was (is) the fattest Bichon Frise I had (have) ever seen.
We got Bingo not long after his momma had died. Bichons love their people and since he had lost his, he attached to us almost immediately. Six months after he came to us, someone started the adoption process on him. When it fell through, I knew we had to be the ones to adopt him. I couldn't stand him going anywhere else.

We call him our velcro dog. He sticks tighter to you than superglue. Always underfoot, even in the bathroom, he whimpers if I leave him. We took to calling him Bings because we didn't really like Bingo, but having known only that name for his 8 years, it was too late to change it. A friend's little boy started calling him Binx-- and that stuck. Binx, B, Bingo Cardingo. He'd worked his way into our hearts.
a cross-country roadtrip (KY to AZ). Binx is a world-class traveler.

momma can't leave me if I'm in her suitcase.
All those cheetos and fast food have been hard on his little body. He's the fattest dog I have ever seen. We ration his food and walk him daily, but the weight won't budge. I tease that us fat ones are always last as Tevie and Elphie always outrun me and Binx. At nearly twelve years old, he's begun slowing down even more. He can't jump in or out of the bed, sometimes even the couch is too high. His hips ache, his breath stinks and his fur is starting to feel coarse and get matted so easily.

A few weeks ago I noticed two lumps on his hips. Those, coupled with the fact that he whimpers if you touch his hip too firmly, had me worried. He cried out while I was grooming him after his bath this weekend... and I continued brushing as tears streamed down my face. His big, cloudy brown eyes just look tired.

Today we went to the vet. Our vet is in the neighborhood so we walked the half mile distance. I prayed as I walked that I would be able to handle what I heard. If they were tumors, we would love him to pieces until it was his time. Forget food rationing, I make the poor guy steaks! I felt so bad for feeling frustrated by him lately. Barking when Dane is napping, whining for no reason, running off and coming home muddy.

The vet listened to his heart and lungs. He felt him all over and checked out his hips. "He is really overweight. These feel like pockets of fat that are collecting." WHAT? He's just fat?! He doesn't have cancer. He's just fat and old! I breathed a sigh of relief. He does need to lose some weight. I need to do a better job of making sure he doesn't eat his bowl of food AND his sister's. He is old, his joints are sore, his eyes are clouding and his time is drawing to a close-- but at least for now, he's just old and fat.

My dogs have taught me a lot. I've seen how fragile life is-- losing some unexpectedly. I've also had a glimpse into our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Sometimes I am a rotten pet owner. I leave them for too long in their crate, I yell at them for silly things and I don't always walk them enough... but they love me unconditionally. When I don't deserve love, they love me. When I don't deserve attention, they smother me. When I break their hearts, they extend grace and forgiveness. When I'm too mad to pursue them, they pursue me...and especially lately, I have never been more thankful to have a God who pursues me even when I'm too mad to pursue Him.

Sometimes Binx mirrors God's unconditional love, and sometimes he portrays me in my relationship with the Lord. Here's an example:

via google

The bottom photo is what a Bichon Frise should look like-- slimmer, trimmer and very well-manicured. Binx is a mess. Creek-swimming, cat-chasing, treat-eating, smelly breathed mess. When we go out, people ask what he is. They ask if he's supposed to be that fat. Some even call him ugly. :( Don't you know the Lord sticks up for us when satan says that about us?

"What is she?"
"Is she suppose to be doing that?"
"What is she doing, God?"
"Why do love her, Lord? Why do you claim her- give her grace and new mercies every morning? She is just going to fail you. She doesn't look anything like she's suppose to."

Because we are God's creation, made in His image and set free in Christ- He rebukes satan. He looks past the sand in our fur from wallowing in the creek bed and when we come home dirty, thirsty and tired from chasing something this world told us we needed, He brings us in, bathes us, brushes us and makes us a new creation.

Okay, so really I was just feeling overly sentimental and wanted to write about my dear, old dog. The theology was a stretch, but maybe you agree that we can all learn a thing or two from our favorite four-legged friends. :)

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