By Curtis K. Shelburne
My dog has me well-trained.(Well, to be strictly accurate, she’s my son’s dog, but . . .) I’m pretty sure she’s done a far better job training me than I have training her.
As I write, it’s getting late. I had a church newsletter to write and then this column. Maddie, the aforementioned canine, had been peacefully snoozing at the end of the couch when some internal canine clock went off. She shook out her fur coat, peered over the couch at me (as I was perched writing at the bar), and told me she was ready for bed.
Well, no, she didn’t actually speak. I’m sure she could, but why should she? She gets everything she wants anyway.
So, well-trained dog’s best friend that I am, I dutifully opened the front door for her, waited a few moments enjoying the night air and a glimpse of the stars, opened it again, followed her to her “house” (“cage” would imply she is a mere animal), and tucked her in.
Now, having done everything Maddie has trained me to do, I’m back at work.
Maddie showed up at our house as a little pup back in August 2004. I have no head for dates, but I remember that one because when No. 4 son Josh brought the cute little furball home and shamelessly campaigned to keep her, things got a tad tearful and emotional. You see, it was just as No. 1 son Chris and No. 3 son Stephan were about to fly across the pond to Uganda. We were fritzed.
Half of our offspring were leaving for Africa. We’d been more than busy helping them get ready to go and, to be sure that life was totally topsy turvy, had begun a major renovation at the house with the kitchen and living room gutted and any semblance of order in our lives as demolished as the kitchen.
That’s when Maddie showed up. Josh thought we needed her. Mom didn’t. I’m a sucker for a warm puppy, but I was just trying to keep sort of quiet and out of the line of fire.
She stayed. Mom, too.
We didn’t really think we needed that dog, but we did. We needed an occasional reason to sit down in a lawn chair in the gutted living room, stop cutting boards or gluing pipes, and hold something warm and soft and furry — and just “be” — for a quiet minute.
In one of Jan Karon’s lovely “Mitford” books, she quotes from a gentleman who said, “Dogs are our link to Paradise. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden where doing nothing was not boring; it was peace.”
We needed some peace. We needed God’s peace. And one way he gave it to us was through a little warm puppy with a ridiculously high opinion of her human family.
When you get right down to it, the “little blessings” that God gives us in life are some of the best. Taken together, they’re not little at all. And they point us to our Father’s joy, his peace, his unconditional love.
In my experience, most of God’s blessings don’t have fur.
But one does.
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe.