Beware: broken sidewalk

If you’re on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed the proliferation of cat and dog photos.  That’s okay, since it’s a subject obviously near and dear to the owner’s heart.  I even wrote a children’s book about my dog—ready for this??—in Swedish, for my Swedish granddaughter. 

(Sidebar—Yes, I’m trying to learn Swedish, such a beautiful language.  I use my vocabulary words, plus a few others to fill in the blanks, to write primary-style stories along the lines of “See Jane.  See Jane run.”  Because that’s about the level of my Swedish.  So why not write about my dog, along with photos?) 

One of the wonderful things about dogs, we are told, is that they live in the now.  There’s no worrying about tomorrow or fretting over yesterday.  For them, it’s a total embracing of present tense, in every encounter, every situation.  Continue reading “Beware: broken sidewalk”

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The Mighty Wonder Buck rides again! And again! And…

picmonkey dogThe Mighty Wonder Buck (A.K.A. The MWB, or Buckley) loves it when I have the car keys in my hand and head out the door; hopes springs eternal in that big black hairy chest of my dog-pound mutt.  A car ride could mean a number of things: to our small town community compost (with all kinds of smells to explore!), to the local farm and home store, or even splashing and swimming at the nearby lake (him, not me, but invariably yours truly gets wet.)

No matter what I’m doing, he’s just good company, and depending on the activity, sometimes he comes home exhausted but tongue-hanging-out-the-mouth happy.  If you’re a dog-lover like Bob and I both are, you know the look.

 

And you would also know that there is nothing unusual about talking to your canine buddy.  Even singing to him.  I mean, he doesn’t know or care if you can sing or not.  So when I came out of Walmart one day to pack my groceries into the car, there was the MWB, cute as ever with his big black head looking at me.

I had parked in isolation in the back lot with all the windows down so Buck had plenty of air and shade, which also meant the car was right up next to the outdoor garden center, enclosed only by a big fence. 

A fact which had slipped my mind.

And as I merrily talked and sang to my furry friend (an original composition, mind you, just for the dog,), I happened to turn and catch a glimpse of a man looking at me as he perused the various and sundry greenery. 

There are times it is unfortunate that so many people know me in this town…

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light…”

Okay, I know that’s not the kind of “peculiar” God is talking about here.  Unfortunately, I have plenty of unholy peculiarities for Him to work on, (that have nothing to do with singing to my dog in public.)

I am convinced, however, that part of this “so great a salvation” that we are given is powerfully intended to make us nonetheless strange in the eyes of our contemporaries, for the very reason of getting their attention and putting that focus on God.  There are so many practical examples of this, in the way we interact, entertain, spend money and time, even (most of all)—how we think.

boneHere’s one bone to chew one:

WordPress has all these great tips and courses on improving your blog site and increasing your readership—that is terrific and and who doesn’t want to do that, right?! I know I do.  Logically, it makes sense that the more people read your stuff, the more people can be helped by what you write. 

But here’s the real meat.  As a Christian, my goal isn’t just to reach a whole bunch of people, but to reach the people God wants me to reach.  That doesn’t preclude my due diligence, but it also doesn’t mean I mark my success by my stats either.  (I mean, Hitler also reached lots of people, just sayin’.)

Which is a “peculiar” way to regard success in our culture, even in our church culture.  Big flashy sound stages with matching budgets; not that those are bad at all, but they aren’t the goal, nor are they a sign of success…at all.  In God’s culture, where the peculiar people “live and move and have their being”, success is measured by obedience, not outcomes.

gentleman-148407_1280And that will definitely turn heads, more than singing to your dog!

I Peter 2:9 King James Version (KJV)  Public Domain

Or you could just peddle faster…(ha!)

picmonkey dogI really like dogs, man’s best friend and all.  But there are a few I could do without, admittedly.  Just a few.  I’m not even talking about the yappy fur balls that are a perverse progeny of wolverine descent; they have a purpose in that they make some people happy.  No, I’m simply referring to the dangerous ones out on the country roads that don’t like cyclists.

Granted, most big back-road hounds will just bark and run, and when I stop and give them treats (which I carry), we make friends with each other.  I actually used to go out to see a Great Dane—fell in LOVE with her, and she tried to get in my lap, hilarious!

However…

One winter day, as I was riding without Bob, I was accosted by a particular nasty that decided his property included the road.  So I did what my husband had taught me, getting off my bike to put it between me and my enemy. As I began to back up, the dog followed, snarling and barking, indicating he had one thing on his mind—a piece of me.  (Unfortunately, another big one had joined him on the other side of the street, so now I had tandem trouble.) Continue reading “Or you could just peddle faster…(ha!)”

Doggy rehab

picmonkey dogThe first dogs we adopted for our young family were two “rescued” Pembroke corgis that our vet had received from someone else.  We brought home Peanut, and within a few days we also acquired her sister, Popcorn.  (Okay, so we didn’t name them.)

Peanut settled in quite well to family life; Popcorn was a different matter.  She made it quite clear, in her unique doggy way, that she was not pleased with humans, period.  Her defiant demeanor was manifested in several ways, not the least of which was a little brown pile on top of our bed (and that was a LONG way for a corgi to jump!)  She would slink away to hide by herself, and even seemed to adversely influence our otherwise congenial Peanut. 

She was angry, untrusting, and had clearly been hurt in the past.  Even though she was now in a loving home, she just could not conceive the Continue reading “Doggy rehab”

Wipe your paws, please

picmonkey dogThe Mighty Wonder Buck has a morning routine.  Actually, it’s based on my routine, which has to do with being very much a morning person.  Generally, I’m up at around daybreak or shortly thereafter, and that’s when I’m OFF work.  During the work week, it’s dark, and sometimes the birds aren’t even singing yet, unless it’s an owl, which is pretty cool in itself.

I’ll head outside for pot of tea on the patio, while Buckley noses around and sniffs and, well, does other things dogs need to do first thing in the morning. 

Except when it’s raining.  Then he’s on his own for a quick in-and-outer to do his business, which can be fairly substantial for a 60-pound pup. Because of his long hair and his feathered feet, he tends to track in LOTS of mud.   The mud doesn’t seem to bother him much; it’s just not within his canine Continue reading “Wipe your paws, please”

The Fringe Counts!

picmonkey dogMy dog, Buckley (otherwise nicknamed the Mighty Wonder Buck—my husband is into superheroes and such things) loves to play tug-o-war….with anything.  Sticks, his flying disc, that colorful rope thing tied in big knots, shoes (if I let him, which I don’t). 

The challenge is that this particular game of his tends to wear out the playthings, because as affable and loving and gentle in nature as Buck is, his teeth are impressive. Thankfully, it doesn’t occur to him that he could rip my hand off.

So after a while, playing tug-o-war with his rope becomes tug-o-fringe.  This, however, does not deter him in the least.  In fact, the ratty old rope—or what’s left of it—is generally the first toy he pulls out of his box to entice me to join him in some all-out contest of strength. (Just for the record, the one with the opposable thumbs generally wins.)

The Buck is not intimidated by his worn-out things—to him they are still functional without a second thought.  It occurs to me that God is not intimidated Continue reading “The Fringe Counts!”

Paradogs

 

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Buckley and his human

I have a smart dog.  Sometimes too smart for his own good.  That is, he thinks he knows what he wants even when he knows it is the opposite of what I want even though he doesn’t understand why I want it, so he decides to go after his want, after which he may realize that wanting it was, well, not worth the want.  

Nevertheless, he’s still a pretty smart dog.  Right now he is not-so-contentedly lying at my feet despite the fact that he would rather be chasing the frisbee outside.  I, however, would Continue reading “Paradogs”

Xoloitzcuintli…and don’t mess with him.

picmonkey dogSo far, I have been blessed to share different portions of my life with several different dogs: a dachshund (Wiggles), two English setters (Marnie and Mickie), three Pembroke Welsh corgis (Peanut, Popcorn, and Indiana Jones), and now the one and only Mighty Wonder Buck, our rescue mutt.  Have you ever stopped to consider how many types of dogs there are?  I did a brief (very brief) survey online just to check the number, and couldn’t pin it down.  One site identifies five “breeds” based on function: there are companion dogs, guard dogs, hunting dogs, herding dogs, and working dogs.  Checking out the American Kennel Association website, however, the term “breed” is a bit more inclusive. I have never heard of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, or a Leonberger.  My personal favorite is the Xoloitzcuintli (pronounced “show-low-eats-queen-tlee”)  Really?  Who comes up with these?  Far from being the cute little glamour queen the name sounds like, it’s actually a pretty cool canine of the guard dog variety, which means despite the fancy moniker, his nickname should be “He-da-boss”, so don’t mess with him or his family.

There are probably those who would argue the point, but most dog-lovers and owners of multiple dogs would tend to agree that, regardless of their intended function, dogs have different personalities, likes and dislikes, and temperaments, some based on breed and some not.  As such, there is  probably a “nature/nurture” argument that can be made within the functional breeds themselves, that is, certain breeds tend to like certain things or behave in certain ways, because they were designed that way.  Nature puts it in, and nurture can capitalize on it.  They are born with certain capacities, and disciplined training improves upon those capacities.

Case in point.  We didn’t know much at all about Pembrokes when we “rescued” our first two litter mates from the local veterinarian.  Peanut and Popcorn were about one year old when we adopted them into our lives.  Our vet told us that the breed tends to be high energy, happy, exuberant.  This was perfect for a family of three high energy school-age girls!  First, we brought home Peanut.  One evening, we decided to take her for a walk in the neighborhood, but found that she kept wanting to circle around the back of us and then come up the front to continue walking.  After a while, she would do it again.  Then again.  Finally, some of the group purposefully began to hang back to see what Peanut would do, and predictably, back she trotted to the back in her effort to pull us all in together—she was herding us!  Like she was bred to do!  It was fascinating to see.

Things were going well after we brought home Peanut.  What a sweetie.  But when I decided to retrieve sister Popcorn as well, it soon became evident that their first year of life had been less than perfect.  To begin with, they were both afraid of feet, or of the broom—the implications of this did not bode well.  And although they were “housebroken”, they apparently had also been broken in other ways.  We began to find doggie biologicals throughout the house, until one day we came home from church to find a small brown pile in the middle of our bed.  Now for a stumpy-legged Corgi to get way up there took effort and determination—someone was trying to make a statement!

Our seasoned vet told us that this was probably the dog’s way, who was yet unable to distinguish between “good human” and “bad human”, of showing anger to humans in general.  Based on her less-than-friendly demeanor and her un-Corgi-like elusive behavior, we assumed correctly that the perpetrator was Popcorn. This was going to take more than carpet cleaner and laundry soap.  This was going to take time and patience. Bonding takes relationship, and relationship requires communication.  How could we communicate with this dog that we were “good humans”?  Strategies, anyone??

Much as some of us would dispute, humans are not dogs.  But there are some interesting similarities that, I think, can be safely made between people and their beloved puppies:There are a variety of opinions within the psychological community concerning personality testing. As such, there are a variety of personality tests of different levels and depth and measurements. You can be a color (green, blue, orange, or gold) or an animal (lion, otter, beaver, or yes, our good old Golden Retriever), or a shape (square, circle, triangle, or squiggly lines), or even just a letter (I think it spells DISC?).  There are even more sophisticated tests that have been developed by people with lots of letters behind their names.  These tests can actually be quite helpful, since we can’t look at a person and tell by “breed” what innate personality traits they may have by nature, (regardless of what nurture has done for them…or to them.)

Valid personality testing can give us some indication of how best to communicate to this person, how to relate to them, since the important thing with people, as with our canine compadres, is relationship. And as posited earlier, relationship means communication. Some personalities tend to be more sensitive to what others are feeling, some may be literally oblivious.  While the latter may come across as unfeeling, it is a dangerous assumption to presume so.  Some personalities pick up on social cues pretty easily whiles others just have to be hit over the head with it.  It took me awhile to figure this out in our marriage, and if you’ve persevered in marriage for longer than, let’s say, six months, you may have figured this one out also… Communication strategies—one of the values of personality testing.

Another plausible usefulness of these tests is the indications of typical strengths and personal challenges that seem to be endemic to particular personality “breeds”. Our Corgi may have been pretty adept at herding us, and this would have been a great thing to nurture in her if we had been cattlemen or shepherds. But we weren’t, and since this innate quality was purposefully neglected, it passed as she matured.  I guess, even in dogs, if you don’t use it, you lose it.  Interesting to think about, especially when it comes to identifying the innate gifts and certain traits in our children, our employees or committee members, our church congregants,  and the list goes on.

Conversely, although Peanut probably would have been a good herding dog, she would most certainly not have been a quality hunting companion. She hated water—swimming was definitely not her strong suit and I could not fault her for it. We were at a lake one day, and I had her try to swim out to me.  She seemed to think I was in some kind of trouble out there in this wet stuff, and was trying to get out there to help me.  It was a very big heart in that very small dog!  We didn’t do much of the swimming thing again.  Similarly, with not only our children, but ourselves and others, it is important to try different activities to see what fits, while at the same time to have wisdom to know when to change over to something else.  I think I’m pretty glad Bill Gates didn’t go into professional football, or I might be typing this on a pica with lots of white correction fluid…

As worthwhile as recognizing the different types of people, it is critical to remember that we are, in fact, talking about people, the only order of being created in the image of God, and therefore we cannot be reduced to a test result. If dogs can be rehabilitated, how much more human beings? Again, we must be careful to utilize these tests as a strategy for communicative relationship and change, rather than merely a category to explain away and accept (and therefore enable) someone’s destructive behavioral choices and responses. By the same token, we did not allow Popcorn to continue defecating on our bed, nor would any other sane dog owner!

Popcorn and my husband, Bob, had a particular “come-to-Jesus” confrontation, if you will.  This was a breaking point, not of the heart, but of the head, not of the spirit, but of the will.  Someone needed to be in charge, and it was to Popcorn’s benefit that it not be her.  It was gentle, but firm, it was consistent and yet forgiving.  She and my other half became best buddies for the rest of her little life, and what a good life it was, once the proper communication had been establish and the relationship realigned.

Thank God that’s exactly what Jesus came to do for us: communication on our level to realign us with proper relationship with our Father.  He knows how we are created, and therefore how to connect with each of us within our unique personalities, and is willing to help us in connecting with each other, not in spite of, but within the context of that unique-ness.Photo on 12-31-15 at 8.48 AM

Viva la difference!

From God Loves Dogs, by Dawn Jones

Shaggy Dog Story

picmonkey dog

I did it.  I actually spent the money to have the Mighty Wonder Buck fully groomed.  I mean, the works, like pushing all the buttons at the automated car wash.  He had been shedding profusely, and a little black hair here and there kept turning into black dust bunnies the size of a Star Wars Wookie.

Okay, maybe not quite that Continue reading “Shaggy Dog Story”

Leave it!

picmonkey dog

At this writing, a dear young friend of mine just received her D.A.D.—for the uninformed like me, that stands for Diabetic Alert Dog.  Jay (name changed for privacy and all that, not that she would care) has had several years of being a “brittle” diabetic, indicating that her blood sugars are fairly unpredictable, and she can have a medical crisis with little or no warning in her symptomology. 

That’s scary.   And really dangerous. 

So she has worked hard to be able to purchase her own specially trained D.A.D. to help her in these situations.  It’s been quite a L-O-N-G process, and this month she was able to bring home her personal furry friend and guardian who will be able to smell (that’s right—pretty cool, huh??) when her blood sugar is out Continue reading “Leave it!”