New Lessons from an Old Dog

Almost two years ago, we adopted a Golden Retriever from a rescue organization.  As far as we know, Rudy was not abused or mistreated.  He was found as a stray, thought to be around 8 years old.  Apparently his previous owner didn’t walk him because it took us six months, an obedience class and sessions with two different trainers before we could walk him past the end of the driveway.  His front bottom teeth are ground down to the gum, leading one trainer to think he may have been kept confined for long periods of time and tried to gnaw his way out. 

We looked for a Golden because our first dog used to get up and walk away when my daughter sat down to pet her.  The dog liked to lie where she could see us but preferred to be on the edge of things, watching, as opposed to being part of the group.  The only time she showed any real emotion was when we’d been gone for a long period of time.  She’d wiggle and yip and jump and lick for five or ten minutes.  Once she got it out of her system, she’d retreat back to the edge and avoid any big displays of affection.  She was the perfect dog for me—ready for a walk when I wanted to go but otherwise, content just to be in the room with me. 

She was fourteen when we put her down.  Her health had been deteriorating for several months so when the time came, I actually felt relieved.  It took a couple weeks before I started missing her face in the window when we came home.  And it took a few months before I was willing to consider another dog.  The kids put the pressure on.  My daughter threatened not to come home for spring break if we didn’t have a dog.  I’d been looking at a couple of rescue websites, watching the dogs available. I wanted another dog, too, and to make the kids happy, I wanted a dog that would thrive on attention.  A Golden seemed the perfect fit.

Rudy craves attention.  We jokingly say he suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder, not because he can’t pay attention but he can’t get enough.  He’ll lurk under the table and suddenly you have a large dog snout creeping up your lap and appearing from beneath the table.  Or he’ll bump your elbow, sending your pen skipping across the page, your drink splashing across the table.  If you make the mistake of sitting on the floor, all 80 lbs. of him will collapse onto your lap.  He’d have been the perfect dog when the kids were young.  Unfortunately, two are now out of the nest and the third is busy with high school. 

That leaves me.  And Rudy, the dog that can’t get enough attention.  It irritates me when I can’t sit down without having him pestering me.  I was getting used to the empty nest feeling, even kind of liking it.  Now it feels like I have a toddler again.  Resentment percolated until a spiritual perspective changed my attitude. 

Rudy not only wants to be with me, he wants to be touching me.  Whether he’s leaning against my leg, lying across my feet, warming my lap, or laying his paw on my knee, it’s important to him to be close enough to touch me.  One day, as I stewed about having this dog shadowing my every move, it occurred to me that maybe God wants me to be like Rudy.  Too often, I’m content to just sit on the edge and watch.  What if I insisted on staying close to Him, close enough to touch?  What if every time life threw me a stick, I eagerly carried it to Him?  What if I spent my days watching for a chance to sit at His feet, to relax in His lap, to reach out my hand to Him?  I suspect my life would change—subtly in some ways, drastically in others.

“He just wants to be close to you,” a friend said of Rudy.  May the same be said of me and my Lord.  I just want to be close to Him.   I think this old dog can teach me a few things if I’m paying attention.

About marylhamilton

I'm a free-lance writer, currently working on a middle-grade novel. Originally from WI, I've been in TX for about 30 years.
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