I’m Not Looking for a Dog

This post first appeared at inspireafire.com

Crate Bars

So what am I doing here?

The first time my answer was simple. I carried in a nearly new bag of dog food. Some flea and tick prevention. A bag of dental chews with just two missing.

“Do you take donations?” I asked the girl behind the counter.

“Of course we do,” she replied. “Thanks so much for thinking of us.”

And since I was already there, I signed the waiver holding the animal shelter harmless, and wandered back through the kennels.

Crate

That was the first time.

Three days later, my answer is much more complicated. I’m still not looking for a dog, but I cannot stay away from this place. With its noise and smell and sense of desperation, it is an unlikely place to find what I am looking for. And yet I know, instinctively, that here I am looking for the same thing each of these dogs is looking for.

Hope.

It is a terrible place to look. Amidst fear. Amidst rejection and abandonment. And yet isn’t that the very place to look?

Who hopes for what he already has? Paul asked. Hope that is seen is no hope at all. But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8:24)

Hope is found in the most unexpected places. Because it is pain that begets hope.

I know this, as I look at the bars separating me from the inside. The spilled dog food, the soiled toys, the little touches that cannot hide the dismal nature of these holding pens.

Hope is not found in the sunshine; it is not needed there. Hope is found in the shadows.

The staff here know that I am just looking. Looking at cages. Looking at the lives inside of them. And looking at freedom.

Cartoon Dog & Hearts

Tags appear even as I wait: “On hold for someone special – adoption pending.” One staff member tells me he started just over a month ago, and already most of the dogs that were here when he started have been adopted.

This is both unbelievable and wonderful to me.

This place – this frightening and confusing and horrible place – can be the start of a beautiful new beginning.

If that is true for these cast-off canines, could it not also be true for me? And for you?

We have a Heavenly Father who is not only our supreme caretaker, but who can break off chains and knock down prison walls. When Israel was at one of the lowest points in their history and held captive in Babylon, God sent a word to them through the prophet Jeremiah: “I know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

While this particular proclamation was to Israel, the premise is true for us today. Our Heavenly Father has told us that he has good plans for us, and they are still unfolding. Because of His great love for us we are not consumed. He will teach us in the darkness how to hope. He will prod us in the present toward our future.

Hope can be found even in a cage. Do not forget this.

Blackberry Season

Once upon a time I made the mistake of giving my dog a blackberry.

In order to understand the seriousness of this mistake, you have to understand something about my dog.  You see, my dog Marly seems to think that God was talking exclusively to her when He said in Genesis 1:30: “To every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.”

Marly loves every kind of green (and other colored) plant.  I first discovered this when she was just a puppy.  She was begging in the kitchen while I was peeling an orange, and knowing that most dogs hate citrus, I decide this was a wonderful training opportunity.  I tossed her a piece of orange, expecting her to grimace and step away.  Instead, she snatched it up and begged for more.  Ever since then, anytime that first whiff of citrus is released from a peeling orange, her four feet come skidding into the kitchen.  That plan backfired.

In addition to oranges, Marly loves grapefruit, bananas, green beans, potatoes, squash, carrots, apples, blueberries and – you guessed it – blackberries.

 

Marly the dog looking eagerly at a blackberry bush.

She’s got that crazed blackberry picking look in her eyes!

I wish you could have seen the look on her face the day she suddenly realized that this amazing delicacy was growing all alongside one of our favorite hiking trails.  Her eyes sprung open in astonishment as she watched me pluck a berry from the bush and stick it in my mouth.  Next thing I knew, she had dived into the middle of the bushes and was stripping the berries directly into her mouth.

Marly the dog eating blackberries from a bush.

Marly stripping blackberries from a bush.

“Hey!” I shouted.  “Save some for me!”

The only response was the shaking of first one bush and then another as she progressed deeper into the berry patch.

Every summer now we have a ritual, walking along our favorite trail, both of us scoping out the slowly ripening berries.  It’s a race to see which one of us can find the first ripened berry.  I admit that sometimes I resort to diversion tactics.  “Look over there!” I say, pointing to a small bush.  Then while she goes bounding one way, I run in the opposite direction, picking berries as quickly as I can.  I feel I am justified in such tactics; she is a much faster picker than me, so I need all the help I can get.

In peak season, there is always enough for both of us.  We may even pick companionably from the same bush.  She burrows underneath and gets all the deep and low berries; I pick high, only occasionally having to yell at her to stop shaking the bush because she’s making it hard to pick.

The head of Marly the dog, obscured by bushes, as she picks berries.

Marly is not afraid to burrow under a bush to get at the berries I can’t reach.

Blackberry season never lasts very long, but it’s a season I embrace with two hands and four paws.  Like other good things in life, it is one of God’s good gifts to us.  He did, after all, give us every green plant for food, and what a wonderful variety he provided!

It is hard to believe that we are already staring down the slope toward the end of summer.  With its long days and outdoor activities, summer always seems to go by quickly.  But then, I often find myself saying that about every season.  Are you having a busy summer?  Take some time amidst all the action to simply enjoy the gift of sunshine and flowering plants that God has placed around us.  Then, walk with Him into the next season. 

A berry-stained hand and dog paw.

Partners in the berry patch.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1).