My Therapist Has Fleas

My therapist has fleas!

Well…she doesn’t now, but she did for awhile. I think there’s a lesson in there somewhere. Don’t we all feel like that sometimes? Like something small and pesky is nibbling at us. At least…that’s how I felt…like tiny, little, barely-seen pests were nipping and biting and annoying me. Not physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Have you ever tried to get rid of pesky little fleas? img_2066It takes dedicated work…an investment of time, energy, and multiple resources. I suppose it’s just a complication of living in a flea-ridden world.

Although I know it’s just a season…it has been a long, difficult season. I saw a funny quote recently:

This too will pass. It may pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass.

That’s pretty funny…unless it’s your kidney stone!

I’ve walked through an unusually trying season with friends, family, patients, and even personally. Several months of of struggle, frustration, loss, sickness, heavy burdens, and life-change made me feel like I needed assistance outside myself and my own thought and prayer life.

I didn’t actually go see a real therapist but I did find a pretty accurate definition of therapist: ¬†a licensed mental health professional who helps clients improveimg_2080 their lives, develop better cognitive and emotional skills, reduce symptoms of mental illness and cope with various challenges. Hmmm…my new therapist isn’t actually licensed but she has had all her shots. ūüôā

I didn’t really get a puppy as a form of therapy. She just sort of fell into that role: friend, support, encourager, motivator, snuggler, and confidante. So what actually makes a good therapist? Well…

My therapist always meets me at the door. I guess that means she is happy to see me! Don’t we all need that warm welcoming smile and excitement? That pure, unbridled joy of someone running to meet you, embrace you, and love you unconditionally.¬† It has definitely improved my outlook,¬† life, and emotions!

img_2060My therapist has big ears. I guess that means she is a great listener. She never judges or minimizes anything I say. She holds everything in the strictest and most reassuring confidence. She doesn’t gossip, murmur, or complain. She has never said anything negative or demeaning to me but I still sense truth in her eyes and attitudes.

My therapist sometimes pees on the floor.¬†Well…nobody’s perfect. And when ya gotta go… She is teaching me patience, awareness, and how to really watch where I’m stepping.

She sometimes chews my shoes.¬†Again…nobody’s perfect. More lessons on patience and accepting others’ flaws and imperfections. Other lessons: it’s only money and material possessions, live a little, take a big bite of what tastes good, find happiness in the small things, be humble, and stay near your Master’s feet.

My therapist sleeps with me.¬†Ha! I considered making that the title of this post but decided against trying to suggest or sensationalize the inappropriate. ūüėȬ† She calms me and exemplifies peace and rest in the quiet stillness of her closeness and comfort. Or sometimes she wakes me up to play at 3 a.m. She has taught me both the importance of rest and the flexibility of being available when needed. And snuggling in close to those you love. ūüôā

My therapist wears a Santa Claus Suit.¬†Really. She does.img_2059 Just to have fun and celebrate the season…and to remind me that life is a gift. Companionship is a gift. Beauty and fun are gifts. Other lessons: be bold, wear red, let your hair (or ears) down occasionally, and be confident because even lanky and awkward can be beautiful when they’re worn well.

img_2058She meets me where I am. No expectations, no pretense. Just unconditional love, acceptance, and forgiveness. Other lessons: scrunch in close, be attentive, maintain eye contact, be seen and heard.

She assures me that we all img_2088need a helping hand from time to time. Don’t be stubborn, prideful, and self-sufficient. Allow others the opportunity and blessing to support and care for you too.

She models being present for your friends.¬†It’s actually a ministry: the ministry of giving time and presence. She may img_2093not have the “right” words to say or the solution to the problem, but there is comfort in the warmth and closeness of someone who knows, cares, accepts, and loves. The old song was right on: “Lean on me, when you’re not strong; and I’ll be your friend. I’ll help you carry on.”

She lets me know that it’s img_2090okay to enjoy a drink with a friend. Live it up, loosen your inhibitions, get your face dirty, laugh, and indulge. Responsibly, of course.

img_2089She shows me that a hug is always a good choice. People don’t always need your knowledge, your advice, your money. But most people want and need your touch. Hand to hand, shoulder to shoulder, cheek to cheek, heart to heart.

In no way am I telling anyone to get a puppy or not to see a therapist. There is wisdom, support, and tremendous healing in time spent with a caring, wise, invested counselor. But for now, my therapist has blue eyes, knobby knees, four paws, a wagging tail, and puppy breath. And she is bringing comfort and healing to a world ridden with pesky little fleas.

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.  Prov 11:14

 

 

 

Dogs, Days, and Decisions…

I’m a terrible decision maker. Not that I make bad decisions, I just have a hard time deciding what to do. Something as simple as where to eat after church on Sunday, what color to paint a room, or where to go on vacation can send me into a dizzying tailspin of confusion and indecision. So for someone who has trouble deciding on tacos or pizza, beige or gray, the beach or Boston, what do you do when faced with a decision of life or death?

I made a very good decision about fifteen years ago.

img_7161Sitting at a computer screen perusing an animal rescue site, I saw her. Little bitty ears, bright eyes, and a playful face…I knew we had to have her. So we packed up the family van with a little clothes basket and blanket in the back and drove to the Franklin County Animal Shelter in Belvedere, Tennessee. There in the front office we met the little black and white pup we had seen on the screen. They had affectionately named her Bonnie and she was the unofficial office pup, scampering freely in the office with her other little furry partner in crime. Bonnie had had a rough start: abandoned, wormy, malnourished, found wandering on the side of a busy highway, narrowly avoiding traffic. Someone had rescued her and brought her to safety and nurture. She was 10-12 weeks old when we met her and she wasn’t wormy, malnourished, neglected, abandoned, unwanted, or unloved any longer. She was playful and thriving as she bounced around the office, back and forth between our excited children.

In the van and into the padded clothes basket she went. We had already named her before we even img_7213saw her in real life. No longer Bonnie…welcome home Molly Ann Foster!

We’ve always been dog-people. Molly joined big brother Zack, also a rescue, and the next several years consisted of dog toys, backyard chases, treats, and snuggles . There was the fishing-lure-up-the-nose-requiring-surgery incident, but mostly fun, furry times. It would take hours to list all the love, laughter, memories, and blessings that Molly brought to us all. Dogs are like that. “Man’s best friend.” Also, kids’ best friend…and mom’s best friend. ūüôā


Days turn into weeks and months and years. Even as I write this, I feel the weight of¬† a hard day, week, and year. Today I¬† made one of the hardest decision I’ve ever made: to let Molly go. It was a family decision along with discussions with the vet, numerous friends, img_7212and even Facebook advice. But I was the one who took her for that last dreadful drive. Honestly, it felt a little like betrayal. But also mercy, compassion, and love.

Actually, it didn’t really feel like love at the moment. It felt necessary, but it also felt like a hard, heavy, ultimate betrayal. Like I was giving up. I was supposed to protect her and make the best decisions for her.

I am thankful for a friend who called at just the right moment.

A friend who loved Molly as her own, who puppy-sat her on our first trip away, who created so much excitement in Molly that it made Molly pee a little every time she saw her. Maybe that’s a little too much information, but funny every time. A friend who had walked the same road and told me I did the right, loving, merciful thing. A friend who believes our pets are gifts from God and who believes we will see our pets again. Maybe some people don’t believe that; but I do. I believe she is free and whole and pain free, and running with her big brother, Zack.

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24

When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. Proverbs 31:26

What would I say to Molly? That I’m sorry. That I tried everything, every medicine, every prayer that I had. That she was so good, so loved, so wanted. That she was beautiful and smart. She was chosen and she was perfect. That I miss her already. That she had a good life and her life made our lives better. What could be a better tribute for anybody? Your life made someone else’s life better.

I don’t cry often but I’ve found myself weepy all day. At the vet, on the way home, in the middle of Sam’s, with every phone call, with every typed word. And that’s okay. It tells me that it matters, it hurts, it’s loss; but mostly it’s love and privilege. I’ll always be a dog lover. They bring out the best in us and model unconditional love and acceptance. I didn’t write the following passage, but I wish I had.

img_7211And on the 9th day God looked down on his wide eyed children and said, they need a companion.
So God made a Dog
.

…God said I need somebody willing to sit, then stay, then roll over, then with no ego or complaint dress in hats they do not need and costumes they do not understand…¬† Somebody who no matter what you didn‚Äôt do or couldn‚Äôt take or didn‚Äôt win or couldn‚Äôt make, will love you without judgement just the same.
So God made a Dog.

God said I need somebody strong enough to pull sleds and find bombs and yet gentle enough to love babies and lead the blind.  Somebody that will spend all day on a couch with a resting head and supportive eyes for the broken heart.
So God made a Dog. img_7158

It had to be somebody who would remain patient and loyal even through loneliness, somebody to care, cuddle, snuggle, and nuzzle and cheer and charm and snore and slobber and eat the trash and chase the squirrels. ¬†Somebody who would bring the family together with an open heart. Somebody to bark, and then pant and then reply with the rapid wag of a tail, when their best friend says, ‚Äúlet‚Äôs go for a ride in the car.‚ÄĚ
So God made a Dog.

img_7160God said I need somebody who would stand at your side when the world around you collapses.  Somebody to lie next to you during the long nights of pain and sorrow when it hurts to move, to talk, or think, or be.  Somebody to stand guard, play games, snore for hours and repeat as needed.  Somebody to give you strength when you have none of your own.  Somebody to fight when you have no fight left, to hold onto your soul as if it were their favorite toy, playing tug of war to keep you in this world. Somebody to be your companion and guide in this world and the next. Somebody to wait for you on the other side or stand guard in your absence until they can join you for eternity.
So God made a Dog

(From a popular Facebook video)

For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills.I know every bird on the mountains, and all the animals of the field are mine.     Psalm 50:10-11

 

Rescue

rescue

  • [res-kyoo] ¬† verb ¬†
  • to free or deliver from confinement, violence, danger, or evil.

“All I want for my birthday is a cat.” ¬†That’s how it all started. So simple, yet so complicated.

We spent the weeks leading up to his birthday visiting pet stores, animal shelters and various rescue sites. He wanted them all. He loved them all.IMG_6368 He explored aisle after aisle, inspecting cage after cage with mixed emotions: excitement to find the perfect companion, mixed with¬†the weighty sadness of looking into the eyes of caged, abandoned animals. Some knew no other life. They had been born into bondage. Others had been helpless victims of life situations they didn’t understand: health crisis, death, family move, divorce, new relationship, tiredness, or simply inconvenience and lack of commitment.

Then he saw her.

¬†She was a skinny, sad looking ball of uneven, not-sure-what-color fur. The hand-scribbled tag attached to her cage listed her color as¬†“diluted” but I thought she just looked tired and faded..worn and sad, maybe even hopeless; but he reached down and chose her, lifting her out of her caged despair, abandonment, and neglect and into a new world of light and love and life. She leaned into his chest and enfolded herself in his arms and held on. Very close. Very still. She could hear his heartbeat and he could hear the revving of her hope and contentment as she purred like the sound of a thousand well-tuned engines. That’s all it took: leaning in, hearing his heartbeat, trusting his hold and his love for her.

Why did he choose her? Nothing special, she did nothing to earn his love. There were more attractive, well-groomed cats. Cats who jumped, played, made noise, and vied for attention. She was sick, imperfect:¬†fleas, watery eyes, and a little off balance…not very pretty or desired by¬†most¬†standards, but he loved her. He reached in and pulled her close. He wiped her eyes, held her tight,¬†and took her home. She was perfect.

I won’t suggest¬†that animal neglect or abandonment¬†should be¬†weighed on the same scale as human suffering. ¬†There are greater, more urgent crises: orphans, slavery, addiction, oppression, starvation, victimization. ¬†I won’t offer suggestions or supposed remedies. I will just¬†simply reflect on how one small act can make a difference in a very small corner of a great big world. One choice, one rescue at a time.

IMG_6370 I will also remember what it means to be chosen: to be set free, to be held, nurtured, and loved. To be fed, provided for, trained. I will remember that regardless of the situation, the bondage, or the cage,  I can lean in, be still, and be rescued.   And for that, I am thankful.

Cats and Dogs and Fish, Oh My!

It’s thankful Thursday again! Check out http://www.marshasmusings.com for a good word, blessings, and encouragement. It’s a great place to link up and share thoughts on thankfulness. ūüôāthankful

Today I am thankful for the joy and the privilege of being a pet owner.

Dogs, cats, a rabbit, some hermit crabs, a hamster, several fish… My house has been home to many of God’s creatures as they scooted, splashed, hopped, climbed, padded, thundered, explored, and lived life.

Not always the smartest, the cutest, pedigreed, or of significant worldly value, they have loved us unconditionally, encouraged us with their presence, provided comfort and company during lonely times, offered entertainment and laughter during fun times, and have been a quiet, trusted presence during still times. They have softenedFullSizeRender (7) my heart and taught me the value of all life. More importantly, they have taught my children faithfulness, gentleness, responsibility, and duty. They have been cute, cuddly, messy, boisterous instruments that have helped them learn how to love and do and respect life and, sadly, how to lose.. to cry and hurt and mourn with depth and grace in the midst of losing that which they love and value.

Pets and children reveal unique parts of us:

I’ve found, adopted, rescued, been given, and bought pets. I’ve cleaned fish bowls, crab tanks, hamster cages, litter FullSizeRender (3)boxes, hallway rugs, and back yards. I’ve found myself unexpectedly cheering on hermit crabs in bathtub races..snapping photos of a dwarf hamster riding in a remote controlled car..training a rabbit to use a litter box..speaking eulogies over fish through tears and prayers..cradling beloved pets as they breathed their last breaths..making hard decisions at the end of their lives..

A time to love, a time to grieve.. Now we have a mini pet cemetery in the backyard as the final resting place of pets who have left their paw prints in our lives and on our hearts: a 19 year old beloved cat-baby, a 16 year old devoted dog-friend, a hamster, a kitten, multiple fish, several hermit crabs, and two Eastern bluebirds.. A reminder of the fleeting speed of life and of blessings loved and lost.

We’re down to the final five: two dogs, a cat, FullSizeRender (1)and two Betta fish..almost an empty nest.

Not everyone shares or understands our love and devotion to our pets. They may at times be expensive, messy, noisy, or inconvenient; but I’m thankful for the privilege of owning pets and making them little parts of our family…enlarging our home and enlarging our hearts. ‚̧


FullSizeRender (8)
IMG_3917“All things bright and beautiful,

All creatures great and small,

All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.”