Thursday, February 13, 2014

Just By Being You

A dog adopted us. Last week during one of the nights of bitter cold, she came to the back door and looked in longingly, and whined. We thought she had somehow gotten into the back yard and could not exit, so we opened the back gate, called her out, closed the gate, and then went to bed.

I awoke early the next morning to find her there again, sitting in the snowdrift against the door, shivering. We could tell she had been well cared for and hoped her true owner would drive by any minute and find her; I tried to ignore her throughout the morning.

By late morning I could not take it anymore and opened the back door and asked her in. She wagged her tail and gratefully laid down on the warm cushion I had prepared for her. Later in the day I went to the store and bought some dog food. The following Saturday I posted a "Found: Shepherd/Heeler Mix" ad on Craigslist with my phone number.

She is a great dog! She can sit, down, and stay, sort of. It's as if she's been to puppy school and obeys about seventy percent of the time. She does not like potato chips or salted nuts (what?!) and will mostly just eat meat or cheese. She's more attached to me than to Pancho, and likes to sleep near my side of the bed. Only once have we heard her bark, a deep, strong, confident bark, when one day he came home from work and she must have thought he was an intruder.

The granddaughters love her. She is animated when they're here and races around them in wide circles, then narrows in, trying to herd their excited affection into a little grouping.

She does not know how to play fetch, and does not know how to heel in a walk. She is used to being inside and is calm in the house, but she likes to jump up on the beds or furniture to sleep. The house appears to be in disarray as we try to hinder this inclination of hers. All the beds are barricaded by closed doors, all the chairs and sofa covered by hard objects like books or picture frames.

I have called her Sunny, because she brought sunny happiness to those cold, glum, snow-bound days we kept having. Like our other dogs, she approaches me for a morning greeting, head to head, and even if she is comfortable on her mat, wags her tail and comes to me if she sees I am gazing at her.

This morning I awoke to a text message from someone who saw my ad on Craigslist. They sent me their own picture of her, claiming her. So today, likely, our fostering situation will end and her true owner will come pick her up.

Opening your arms in welcome to some living thing opens your heart and love flows out. But the outflow does not empty you. It nourishes and replenishes, and grows stronger. It is like Elijah's magic on the cruse of oil and jar of flour belonging to the Widow of Zarephath: it is poured out and used, but never diminished.

Opening your arms in release of some living thing opens your heart, too, and love still pours out, but is mingled with grief. Perhaps in some cases the grief is so acute and enormous it appears to overcome the love, to scar over a wound or staunch the pain. But love is stronger, stronger than separation, stronger than grief, than scars, and will find a new way to flow from a heart freely and jubilantly, welcoming and releasing yet again, but still never diminished.

Sunny, I opened my door one day and asked you in. I open again today to release you. There is indeed grief in separation, but right now, I hallow the moments I enjoy with you: the little, short life that is thoroughly delightful, the brief days with which we are gifted. And until your true owner arrives to take you home, I take every opportunity to honor the living thing you are, and gratefully accept the joy you bring me just by being you.

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