By Jim Segaar
I’m in awe of 9 pounds of fur and attitude, all wrapped up in the little bundle of energy we’ve named Lucy.
Lucy is a Chihuahua mix that we adopted from the Wenatchee Valley Humane Society two weeks ago. We’d decided it was finally time to get our senior citizen Otto a little sister. WVHS is conveniently located halfway between our city house and country house, and they had lots of dogs available for adoption listed on their website.
I’ve adopted (aka rescued) dogs in the past, but I was a bit apprehensive about doing so again. It can be a hard process to make a traumatized creature feel like part of the family. I still remember what it was like with my beloved Rommy who I rescued more than 30 years ago. He ran away three times in the first months and it took two years for him to really feel at home with me. But Jim G and I agreed that it was time to give rescuing another try.
WVHS made the process so easy. When we arrived, we gave them our rather loose criteria for a new dog: a female who will not grow to more than 40 pounds – the size limit of our doggy doors. We took Otto with us so we could make sure any new additions to the family would get along with him.
Jim G had seen a little dog named Maggie online, so a friendly volunteer I’ll call Val put us in a meeting area and brought over Maggie. She was tiny, quivering, and frozen in place behind bugged out eyes. She looked like I expected for a rescued dog – in major shock. She was afraid of us, of Otto, and it seemed even of the air around her. “She may warm up to you,” Val said. “It just might take some time. But if you want a dog who is already friendly, I can show you one of those.” Maggie just seemed miserable being out with the three of us, so we agreed to meet someone else.
Next Val brought Shirley to our pen and let her off leash. She immediately owned the place. She ran up to each of us for pets, sniffed out Otto, and within a few seconds won all of our hearts. Well maybe not Otto’s, but he didn’t seem to hate her.
The shelter had limited information about Shirley’s past. She was brought in as a stray, and was very pregnant. She was put in a foster home until she gave birth to five pups. When we met her the pups were 10 weeks old, and all but one of them had been adopted already. We had to leave Shirley overnight so she could be neutered, and by the time we picked her up the last puppy had also found a home.
Our new little girl didn’t seem too attached to the name Shirley, so we changed it to Lucy, after another fiery redhead. And she is amazing. She loves playing, eating, and especially sleeping in one of our laps. She doesn’t bug “Uncle Otto,” who is too old to be her brother. And she seems to be housetrained. We couldn’t ask for a more perfect pup. I am in awe of her.
My awe increases when I consider her background. Consider her recent past. Imagine a 9-pound Chihuahua mix, about three years old, on her own somewhere in Eastern Washington. She survived, as did the pups growing inside her, all alone until she was picked up by Animal Control. Then she was put in temporary housing until she gave birth, then hauled back to a shelter where her pups disappeared one at a time. And finally, on her own again, she headed out the door with three guys she’d just met.
She made herself at home with us as soon as we got to the car. It was hard to get her to eat at first, until we realized that she wanted Uncle Otto’s canned food instead of the kibble that the shelter had fed her. Now she eats with relish, plays fetch and chase, loves to go for walks – on a leash – and spreads joy everywhere she scampers. She is living her life with gusto and love, and bringing both into our lives in the process.
All that just months after being abandoned. Homeless. Pregnant. Not sure where her next meal was coming from.
Matthew Fox writes about the relationship between awe and gratitude. It is difficult to feel gratitude if one is not awed, according to him.
Well, I am in awe of our resilient pup Lucy. And I am grateful that such an amazing creature has wiggled her way into our hearts. And that Uncle Otto puts up with it all.
Oh for a world that loves, and recovers, like our dogs.
By Pastor Anita Peebles
When I was a child, I decided I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I wrote fantastical stories about princesses and make-believe lands and talking animals. I wrote stories imagining what my elementary-school friends and I might do when we were in college and real grown-ups. When I was seven years old, I even drafted a children’s book about my first pet, a one-eyed cat named Midnight. My dad agreed to do the illustrations in his scrawling pen-and-ink style.
When I was about nine, I accompanied my parents to an art opening at Michigan State University’s Kresge Museum. There were lots of fancy graduate students and faculty and alumni and community members present, drinking wine and eating cheese with tiny forks and doing impossibly grown-up things. I often went to this art museum since it was in the same building where my dad worked, but this was a whole new world of adults doing important and intellectual things.
But one person, my dad’s friend Bianca, took the time to notice me. She began talking to me about my writing. I was working on a collection of stories that imagined me and my best friends Claire and Lizzie all grown up and living together in a peach-colored Victorian house on Michigan’s Mackinac Island. We traveled around the island by horse and buggy (no cars allowed, there, you know) and cooked magnificent foods and explored the famous butterfly conservatory and hosted musicians and dances on our wide front porch overlooking the Straits of Mackinac. This out of a nine year old imagination. I was nervous sharing my precious ideas with Bianca, afraid she’d laugh or say ”that’s cute” condescendingly or walk away to get on with the real party. But she sat next to me throughout the evening and listened to me. She asked questions. ”What color are the horses that pull the carriage around the island?” “Do you ever visit the Grand Hotel in your story?” “Are the winters cold in the Straits of Mackinac?” ”Does your family come to visit you on the island?”
Bianca behaved with nine year old Anita the way I hope and pray that all adults can interact with children. With curiosity, openness, imagination, and validation. Children are so often written off by adults, dismissed to play with someone their own age, ignored and condescended to. This had happened to me, a young child who felt mature beyond years, made to feel silly or embarrassed about my writing activities. And Bianca, a caring and interested adult, validated me and my creativity. Her questions were thoughtful and meaningful, her comments became valued feedback to a budding author. She took the time to get to know me on my level. She showed me that she thought I was important.
This is my hope for all children. That all of the adults in their lives, not just the ones in their family, will take the same interest in the person inside the young body. That all children will have that experience of having an adult get to know them as an equal through conversations filled with curiosity, care and kindness. That all children will have their emotions and ideas and questions and experiences validated by people four- and five- and six-times their age, tapping into that soul of humanity that transcends differences in life stage.
Nine-year-old Anita sure appreciated having multiple caring and inquisitive adults in her life. I know the children in your life, and in our church, will appreciate that as well.
This blog includes thoughts from various contributors at Seattle First Baptist