Little Blue Dog........The Cry of a Shattered Heart

 

  About three weeks ago I took on the challenge of one little female pit-bull. Her rescue name is Appie but we call her Little Blue Dog.

  She came up from a shelter down south where a kind, soft spoken lady who is excellent with dogs had been unable to reach her. For some weird reason (I think it was meant to be this way) when she arrived at the rescue she came out of her kennel, wagged her tail and took a treat, ensuring her adoptability. That was the first and last time that she did so.

 After arriving she began to shut down. She would not leave the dog house and was terrified of everyone.  The rescue kennels are a very active place with a lot of dogs and a lot of noise. We assumed she was just having a hard time adjusting to it all and decided to move her to my house.

 I wrongly assumed that this would be just like all the other fearful dogs I have worked with, a little love, a little kindness and everything would be fine..... but it wasn’t. Nothing broke through her barriers. I was kind, I moved slow, I was patient. Chicken liver and black forest ham rained from the sky whenever I was around. I practiced appeasement and calming gestures that have worked well with fearful dogs in the past.  I would sit in her kennel and read just to get her used to me, never looking at her and always speaking soft yet confident. After three weeks although we had made some small progress it really wasn’t much.

 If she is loose she will run, she always runs at my approach, at anyone’s approach. If in her kennel or crate she hovers in the back and will only come out when the leash is attached to her collar. If inside she typically will hide inside her crate. Only one day, out of all the days did she come out and chew on a toy and just lay on the carpet. If you stand or move in any way she cringes and runs, if flight is not an option she goes down low, real low and awaits the displeasure that she is certain is coming.

   Once she is on a leash she will follow you, but she cringes at every move and seems to just be resigned to her fate and certain that you intend her harm.

 At certain points along the way she has been so shut down that she squints her eyes shut and just lays there as you touch her to put the leash on. Soft and gentle touch offers her no comfort and she just tenses up and allows it, certain that it is all a lie and harm is sure to follow.

 From time to time, and for only a fleeting moment, I see hope in her eyes, or something that I cannot quite put my finger on. If I sit down sometimes she will approach me, and if I walk about the yard sometimes she will follow and on occasion come up behind to sniff me, quickly fleeing if my head turns or I give any indication that I know she is there.

 She loves Patronus, my amazing Dog Whisperer dog. Through him I have been able to see a portion of her true self, as she greets him in the morning and dances in delight. For him her tail wags, for him she rains kisses, for him she bows and entices him to play. These moments are precious and beautiful to behold, for they show her as she was meant to be, as she was created to be, before some unknown sorrow broke her heart and spirit into fractured pieces.

 Working with her is heartbreaking. I have so much to offer her. Peace, rest, provision and a lot of love. I think of how it would be to have her in my lap and give her cuddles and rub her tummy….but to her this would be torturous. She simply cannot see all that I have to offer her for fear of some cruelty. I know not what she has endured in her short life, but whatever it was it has scarred her terribly.

 The lessons she teaches me are painful ones, not the normal happy and uplifting ones that other foster dogs have taught. She teaches me of sorrow, fears, hopelessness and brokenness, a tormented creature lost in the darkness. I see in her my own plight at certain times of my life, when God wooed me with His grace and mercy but I was so broken, so angry and fearful that I could not accept His wooing. Yet He never stopped pursuing me. I, like her ate crumbs from the ground when a feast beyond measure was there for the taking. I was just too broken to see it, and too disillusioned to believe it was real.

 Sometimes broken cannot be fixed, sometimes broken just will not come to the table offered. Yet God in His great mercy never stops asking, never stops pursuing, and never stops loving. I will do my very best to do the same, for the Little Blue Dog and in so doing, I will hope with all my heart that she will reach a place of trust where she will decide to eat from the bountiful table that is offered and know the peace of companionship with a caring human.

 Your prayers for her are greatly appreciated.

 

Little Blue Dog

I watch you huddled in the corner

Your eyes carefully watching my every move

Your body is tense, your tail tucked tightly

You are ready to flee…always ready to flee

Softness does not break through

Kindness and soft words do not penetrate

Tasty food has no appeal

You are convinced that nothing good comes from humans

Goodness and humans are a lie

I think you once believed that such things could be

I think your heart wanted it so very much

But someone trampled upon all that

And left you shattered and broken

Let me show you that beautiful is possible

Let me show you what grace can do.

Trust me little one…..trust me just a little bit

And we will behold the miracle of love.

 

 

 “Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life” (Psalm 23:6a, The Message)

 

 

“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8 NLT)


Glorious Unfolding.....

    I sit and watch the big Rottweiler as he leaps and twirls about the backyard in his dance of joy and I reflect on the experience of the last couple of months caring for him through his recovery, and of things I have been reading and of a song I just listened to on the radio.

   This joyful dog was born somewhere down south in New Mexico, a little over a year ago, and at the young age of 9 weeks he was attacked by another dog and severely injured, suffering damage to his head, crushing of one nasal cavity and giving him a misshapen face where his eyes don’t quite line up, and his jaw is off-center. We found out recently through a search of his medical records that he was bitten by a snake a little while after his first injury. This too in the face.

  So the dog grew up and as he grew his body overcompensated and created a huge bony growth on the left side of his head, a growth with bony fingers pressing down into his left eye and a growth that filled up with nasty infection and created a constant pressure, probably must like a severe sinus infection to us.

  Much of that story was told in a previous blog post. But today my thoughts are drawn to how things unfold in life, and how although bad times can seem unsurmountable and more than we can endure, the story is not over yet.

  The dog zooms about the yard, leaping like some kind of heavy weight sumo wrestler trying to do ballet. He is both graceful and clumsy. He is exuberant! He feels so darn good and life, in his opinion, just doesn’t get any better. But it wasn’t always so for him. There was a time when all he knew was the dull ache and pressure in his head, an ache that dulled life for him, prevented a good fast frolic from being enjoyable, and I cannot but marvel at the glorious unfolding that I have been able to witness as I have watched this dog go from the misshapen Quasimodo, to the exuberant and joyful QuasiBoBo.

  As I watch him frolic in the yard, I ponder the story that I read recently in the book of Ruth, a Bible book I have read frequently over the years and yet this time something else jumped out at me in the story. Naomi, the mother in law of Ruth, a woman who left the land of her birth and followed her husband into Moab. She bore him two fine sons, and watched them marry Moabite women and somewhere along the way everything went wrong. Her husband died, leaving her alone, and then both her sons died, leaving her bereft and broken.

  Naomi must have had some wonderful character traits, because both of her daughter in laws wept at the thought of losing her, as she informed them of her intention to return to the land of her birth. So much so that Ruth decides to follow her and declares those famous lines; “entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee, whether thou goest I will go, thy people will be my people and thy God my God.” There must be something that shined out of Naomi’s life to have created such a bond that the daughter in law is now willing to follow her into a land where Moabites are not too popular, and to do so as a young widow.

  I think of Naomi. Of how totally lost and broken she must have been. Dead husband. Dead sons. Nobody to provide for her and probably not much to live for. She tells her people to stop calling her Naomi and to call her Mara “for the Lord has dealt bitterly with me”. I can’t say I blame her for that, she for sure endured a terrible loss, and carried a heavy burden.

 Yet I imagine this woman as she took her final breath and then stepped into the presence of the God that she had always believed in, when she at last could see how everything turned out in her story, when she could behold from beginning to end the glorious unfolding of the most wonderful story ever told, and one that she had played a part in. The look on her face as she realized that from the line of her daughter in law Ruth, and her kinsman redeemer Boaz, had come the Savior of the world! When she realized that the hard life she had lived, and the witness she had made to her young daughter in law, the witness that drew that young woman to follow her home, and thus meet Boaz and marry him, and have a child, who had a child, who had a child and one day, in a stable in Bethlehem a babe was born to a young virgin……..what a glorious unfolding of grace that came straight out of the broken, heartrending trials of a woman named Naomi.

 And as I rise to get ready to leave for work my thoughts drift to my father, a man who suffered a lot of hardship and disappointment in life and I imagine his face, as he took that final breath and stepped into eternity, and as the Savior whom he had served most of his life unfolded the glorious story of all the lives impacted by his faithfulness. And I pause for a moment and look up, and imagine hearing my dad, from that great cloud of witnesses whisper “run, daughter”……”run your race…..the story is far from over….and what a glorious unfolding it will be!”.

 

 

 

 Glorious Unfolding by Steven Curtis Chapman

Lay your head down tonight
Take a rest from the fight
Don’t try to figure it out
Just listen to what I’m whispering to your heart
‘Cause I know this is not
Anything like you thought
The story of your life was gonna be
And it feels like the end has started closing in on you
But it’s just not true
There’s so much of the story that’s still yet to unfold

And this is going to be a glorious unfolding
Just you wait and see and you will be amazed
You’ve just got to believe the story is so far from over
So hold on to every promise God has made to us
And watch this glorious unfolding

God’s plan from the start
For this world and your heart
Has been to show His glory and His grace
Forever revealing the depth and the beauty of
His unfailing love
And the story has only begun

And this is going to be a glorious unfolding
Just you wait and see and you will be amazed
We’ve just got to believe the story is so far from over
So hold on to every promise god has made to us
And watch this glorious unfolding

We were made to run through fields of forever
singing songs to our Savior and King
So let us remember this life we’re living
Is just the beginning of the beginning

Of this glorious unfolding
We will watch and see and we will be amazed
If we just keep on believing the story is so far from over
And hold on to every promise god has made to us
We’ll see the glorious unfolding

Just watch and see (unfolding)
This is just the beginning of the beginning (unfolding)

 



New Life and Second Chances….Lessons I Have Learned From Dogs

    A couple of months ago I met a Rottweiler named Quasimodo. A rather quiet and gentle soul. Quasi was attacked by another dog when he was just a few weeks old, and his nasal cavity was crushed. As he grew and matured his body compensated for the injury and grew an enormous mass of bone on the left side of his head. So Quasi, now one year old, has this huge domed hump on the top of his head, a mass so large that is caused his left eye to be squeezed shut and thus giving him his name.

 Quasi has known no other life, all his days have been spent with the burden and the pressure of his injury. This is his life, this is as good as it gets for Quasi. Sure, he has had some good times, some tasty bones, naps in the sun and interactions with others, but all took place with the burden and the pressure of the old injury, squeezing shut his eye and causing pain, sort of like having a permanent sinus infection.

 I immediately fell in love with this dog, with his grossly misshapen head and his quiet and kind brown eye. You could just feel the “very special” radiating off this dog. On that first day that we met, I was only able to spend a few minutes with him, on a quick walk around the park, but he captivated me from the moment I first saw him.

 The next week Quasi went in for surgery, to remove all that extra skull from his dome. When they cut into him they found this hardened bony dome was filled with nasty pus and gore. The vet was brilliant in her work and worked diligently to remove all the infection and once the surgery was over, Quasi’s head was more normal shaped.

 He arrived back to the rescue that evening, and the dog that had been quiet and gentle was now dancing. He danced and he lept and he was so darn happy. Although he had a huge cone on his head, and gauze packed into his surgery wound, with a drain hanging out the top of his head, and he looked a frightful hot mess, but he didn’t care. All Quasi knew was that the burden, and the pressure were gone! And he felt wonderful! He felt alive! And he wanted nothing more than to dance and to run and to leap, not caring at all that he was slinging blood and gore all about him, plastering it upon the walls and the people. For the first time since his injury, Quasimodo was dancing!

 Sadly I did not get to see this wonderful sight, but I had it described to me, and it filled my heart with joy for this beautiful very special dog!

   A few weeks later I got to spend some time with Quasi. What a different dog from when we first met. His head was filled with stitches and somewhat misshapen, and he had a bit of a Frankenstein appearance now, he was wearing his huge cone, but he had such joy in his eyes. He was a new dog. The same and yet not the same. He was alive, he was joyful, and looking at him all I could see was beautiful hope and redemption.

 Quasimodo reminds me of myself. Of how I lived my life, up until my high twenties, with a burden and a pressure upon it that I could not describe, nor understand, nor get rid of. There were good times, and great experiences, but all were somewhat marred by that pressure and yearning that spoke to my soul saying “surely this is not everything?” “Surely there is something more?”

 And somewhere into all that mess that was me, and my life, God reached down and called my name, and something inside me awoke, and something I had always carried, not even realizing the full weight of it, fell away, and I was free and I was changed. Jesus, the one who touched lepers, had touched me and I would never again be the same. All that stuff mucking up my life, all that weight pressing down upon me, all that yearning for “something more”, was gone and I was new and different.

  I know how Quasimodo must feel, I know why he dances, he has been given a new life, totally and completely different from the life he once had. He didn’t even know that such a thing was possible. All of his days of memory had been filled with that pressure, that big ugly puss filled burden on the top of his head. It had marred everything. Even the good moments of life, the tasty bones, the time spent with the people he loved, all of that marred by that steady pressure of pain, that steady burden of infection. He is a new dog now.

    I have since been blessed to be able to foster Quasimodo for a bit and currently he is entertaining us with his antics and teaching me the lessons I need to learn from him, before he moves on into his special forever home.

    He has already shown me how there is always hope, even when you can't feel it, can't see it, can't even contemplate the possibility of it. He has found a new life, a second chance, and its like nothing he could ever dream. He will get to be all that he was created to be, he will dance, he will frolic and he will bring love and companionship to his special human. Quasi has joy now, an unbridled joy, he feels good, he feels so good that he can hardly contain himself.

   He has already shown me the art of dancing, even if you have ugly stitches and a huge cone on your head. And just watching him, seeing the joy in his face reminds me of redemption. Something that I too rejoice in and am greatly thankful for.

    Quasi has been redeemed. His redemption was bought for him by someone else, an act of total grace and one for which he cannot repay. And he is overjoyed by this new wonderful life he has been given. There is so much more to come for him, but right now its a lot of times in crates, and wearing a giant cone on his head but still he dances. He is the very picture of joy personified. It's as if he can now see the hope in front of him.

 He is a hoot to watch, and already I see that God has much to teach me through the antics of this very special dog.

     God bless you Quasimodo, and grant you long life, peace, people who adore you, tasty bones, naps in the sun, long walks by the river and all the other good things that every dog should have. Until then…………teach me His ways and His lessons as I watch you heal up.

   


 

You're shattered
Like you've never been before
The life you knew
In a thousand pieces on the floor
And words fall short in times like these
When this world drives you to your knees
You think you're never gonna get back
To the you that used to be

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday's a closing door
You don't live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you've been
And tell your heart to beat again

Beginning
Just let that word wash over you
It's alright now
Love's healing hands have pulled you through
So get back up, take step one
Leave the darkness, feel the sun
'Cause your story's far from over
And your journey's just begun

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday's a closing door
You don't live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you've been
And tell your heart to beat again

Let every heartbreak
And every scar
Be a picture that reminds you
Who has carried you this far
'Cause love sees farther than you ever could
In this moment heaven's working
Everything for your good

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday's a closing door
You don't live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you've been
And tell your heart to beat again
Your heart to beat again
Beat again

Oh, so tell your heart to beat again

 

 


Samson------The Dog I Did Not Choose

  Samson was selected sometime near Christmas of 2010, from a sink full of puppies in a crack house in northern Washington state. My eldest son braved the interior of that desolate house, walked in with his money and paid for a pup, and reached down into that sink and took out Sam. Sam was a gift for his wife Melanie, now deceased.

    The story of how Samson became mine is a long one, and it is filled to the brim with sorrow and loss, so we will just briefly say that he came to live with us for what was to be a short time, but due to the suicide of our daughter in law Melanie he became a permanent fixture in our home.

 I tried to arrange for him to be a service dog for my son, but the memories he invoked were too fresh and too painful. I tried to rehome him with people that I knew would love and care for him, but my son could not stand the thought of him living anywhere but with us. So Samson, the Australian Shepherd, Australian Cattle Dog mix became a permanent part of my pack.

  I am a bully dog person, a large giant dog person. My breeds of preference are the Dogo Argentino (of which I had two when Samson came), South African Boerboels, English Mastiffs, pit bulls, Cane Corsos and such.....you get the picture. Samson was not my kind of dog. He was a nuisance to end all nuisances. He had a zest for life and a heart the size of the bravest Dogo Argentino, but he had a scrawny body, his one defense was his speed, but even that was not sufficient because his heart told him he could take on anything and if that meant two giant Dogo Argentinos then so be it.

  When under duress from his larger pack members, Samson has the ability to blow his hair straight up all over, giving himself the appearance of a small and scrawny black bear. The seriousness of such situations are often dealt with by me while hysterically laughing at the sight. Wish I had a photo of that for you.

  Samson constantly herded the Dogos about the yard, nipping at their heels, barking like a lunatic and often getting attacked for his efforts. His quick evasions saved him several times, but if pinned with no escape he would go into full on scrap mode. Only my constant attentiveness saved him from almost certain death on several occasions. He did loose part of one ear, suffered the occasional puncture wound and a few bruisings from being thrown to the ground like a rag doll by exasperated Dogos.

 To be perfectly honest I didn't really care much for Samson. I kept him, and I cared for him, we allowed him the privilege of sleeping on our bed, I worked with him diligently to curb his desire to herd his fellow giant canines and slowly, over time he crept right into my heart and I just woke up one day, him creeping up to me in bed to be petted, and I realized "I love this little stinker".

  He has taught me a lot.

 Samson lives life fully and completely. There is no quit in him, there is no lounging about with him, if it is daylight and we are up then you can rest assured he is zipping about the house or yard with an energy that is boundless. He hunts ground squirrels, he digs holes to China, he collects every stick to be found, he chases the cat, he herds the dogs. He goes and goes and goes and it is a very rare thing to ever see him resting in the light of day. I purchased a herding ball for him and I have to take it away and lock it up, or he will herd it about the yard until he collapses, even in 100 degree heat. He is relentless.

  Toys must be carefully managed, because if left out Samson will grab them and parade them around before his larger pack members, taunting them with his prize. This too has came close to costing him dearly. But he delights in it. Therefore toys are always put away and only brought out when supervision is available to ensure safety for all.

 He is also brave and courageous. Foolish perhaps, but he does not back down from Dogo dominance. Even knowing the risks if I call the dogs from the kitchen patio door, Samson will bravely run out and assist them in quickly responding to my call (not that they need assistance), even if it means a sound tossing to the ground for his efforts.

 When night comes, and everyone has gone outside to do their business and had their nightly "bedtime bone" treat, Samson will walk straight into the bedroom, jump up on the bed, find his spot at the very bottom corner near my feet and he will barely even move until the clock goes off the next morning. Samson knows how to rest fully after having lived a day fully.

 He never gives up on me, he will bring sticks and twigs and bits of weeds he has ripped from the ground and present them to me with such a look of anticipation and delight upon his face, begging me with ever fiber of his being to toss the object that he might run after it. He is persistent. He will do this for hours if you sit outside for hours. He never gives up hope of getting through to me and perhaps enticing me to play.

  God uses Samson to teach me lessons.

Live life fully!

Work hard!

Play hard!

Be brave in the face of danger!

Do what you were created to do no matter the cost!

Be persistent in prayer, never give up on it.

Know when to rest.

When you sleep, sleep hard, sleep in peace.


  Thank You Lord for Samson, who has become so very dear to my heart. I did not ask for him, I did not really want him. I took him in out of love for my son and out of a desire to ease his pain. And yet what a blessing Samson is to me, what a delight he is. Thank You Lord for Samson.....the dog I did not choose, the dog who is dear to my heart.