|Meet Lily (lab mix) AND Sweetie (terrier mix), two rescue dogs that we welcomed to our family recently. What a test in loving unconditionally this will be for us… but what an opportunity for joy.|
Friday, March 14, 2014
Several weeks ago, Prisca, our beloved dog of nearly 18 years passed away. Prisca was my wife’s companion all through her ministry. We joke that, "she had the dog long before she had the husband," so losing Prisca has been especially hard on Laurie.
Both my wife are "dog people;" we each grew up with dogs in our home. However, we had been providing what amounted to hospice care for an old animal for quite a while and I have to admit I was enjoying being free of that responsibility for a while. Initially, we both agreed that we would wait a while before getting another animal, but then, about two weeks after Prisca died, my wife came to me and said she wanted a new dog—maybe even two. At first, I said, "No." I don't think it was because I didn't want canine companionship, it was more about not wanting to "pay the cost" to love another dog—and I mean more than financial cost.
If we want to love someone or something, it will cost us. We must intentionally choose to move beyond our current comfortable position and extend ourselves toward the object of our affection.
I tend to be someone who gets so focused on all the “costs” required to love (e.g., in this case: the adoption fee, the vet visits, the walks, the feeding, the cleaning up after) that I lose out on the opportunity to give and receive love. I’m not proud to admit it, but sometimes I think I just decide it's too much of a hassle to love.
After my initial resistance, my wife challenged me to look beyond the task and open my heart to the possibility of loving another dog. (This is why I like having her in my life. J) As the week wore on and we kept looking at pictures of dogs in need of a home at the local rescue shelter on the Internet, I felt my heart began to soften. The following Saturday morning, my daughter wasn’t feeling well, so I stayed home while my wife and son visited some dogs. (As it happened, Dogfest was taking place in our neighborhood this weekend!) By the time I visited later in the day, they had been adopted. We took it as a sign we weren’t supposed to adopt yet. But then came Saturday afternoon; there were a couple of other dogs we liked still available. So we loaded the family in the car, fought through traffic, and overcame navigational challenges to finally reach our destination: PetCo in Alexandria, VA. That's where I met Lily and my heart melted. The problem was the rest of the family felt a similar pull toward Sweetie.
A sentence from the Beloved on-line Lenten devotion on March 10 struck me in light of our canine conundrum: Opening our heart is always risky, for we cannot open it without being changed. In the face of this, we might well ask, Do I really want this? Opening our heart is never just about the opening. It is about being willing to have our heart become larger as we make room for people [and creatures] and stories and experiences we never imagined holding.
As we wrestled with our choice about whether or not to adopt a new dog, I think it came down to: Are we ready to open our heart to another dog—and all the responsibility that decision entails. We could say it as my devotion did—Do we really want this? We didn’t necessarily plan for any new animals so soon, and now here we were with two that we couldn’t (and maybe didn’t want to?) decide between.
So what did we decide? Well, they say a picture is worth 1000 words, so...