I thought I outgrew my impulsive nature years ago.
I was wrong.
In the days immediately following the death of my mother-in-law, as we processed our loss, we realized that the loss, keen as it is for us, is keener still for those for whom Mom was part of the fabric of their every day lives.
"Uncle Buck" was at the top of our worry list. He had been Mom's primary caregiver for the past few years, taking her and her little dog, Nikki, into his home.
Nikki, full of years, and therefore full of aches and pains, died several months ago and for a wonder, wasn't immediately replaced. Danny and I discussed it, and decided that now that Mom was gone and Buck was alone, he needed a companion, and another little dog would be ideal. Buck had doted on Nikki and we figured she was as much his as she was Mom's. We ran the idea by "the sisters" and they, too, thought a "condolence dog" was a great idea.
Part of my duties at the Gazette include the weekly "Pets of the Week" feature on the Whiskers page in the weekend edition. Lorie Prestes at the McCook Humane Society sends me photos and write-ups weekly on animals needing new "forever homes," and on Wednesday afternoon of that week she sent a photo of "Pete."
"Pete" had been picked up as a stray and when no one claimed him, he became eligible for adoption. In the picture, he looked like the perfect companion for Buck and that Friday afternoon, we went to the shelter to meet him in person.
It was love at first sight and we made quick work of the adoption process. We couldn't wait to get on the road to the city where we would gift Buck with his new pal. Pete, was quickly transforming into LilBit, though he had several aliases along the way, ie.; "Buckles," "LilBuck," etc. He traveled like a trooper, enjoying all of the stops along the way, diligently marking his territory in communities he would never visit again.
He was (almost) a perfect gentleman throughout the many introductions, displaying an excellent disposition toward humans of all sizes, shapes and ages, and patiently tolerant of other four-legged critters. Cute as button, freshened by his bath the night before, he was on his best behavior when he met Buck.
Drat and double drat.
We had forgotten the most important lesson in gift-giving, especially when the gift is a living creature. The experts all agree -- you have to ask the recipient if they even want such a gift. Buck, kind as ever, was adamant. "No dog."
Thankfully, Danny and I were already so in love with the little guy, we took Buck's firm yet gracious refusal with good humor and headed for home, our newest family member sleeping peacefully all the way.
Apparently, LilBit was supposed to be ours all along. He already knows that the sound of the truck pulling into the driveway means Mama's home. He gives BooBoo Kitty, who is more tolerant of his presence day-by-day, a wide berth and by the time this column hits the press, will have had a change of heart, shall we say, about the birds and the bees.
As he continues to settle in, nearly three weeks ours now, an eternity for a dog, LilBit has slowly revealed some of the secrets of his previous life. Although we have been gentle and patient, even in correcting bad behavior, LilBit still flinches if you reach for him. He has a tendency to hide, sometimes for hours at a time, and only recently ventured forth to his dinner dish while every other house member was present.
The most likely case is that someone in his previous life abused this little guy, although how they could is beyond me. Or perhaps, he is much, much younger than first thought and simply needs to learn these things. In either case he is vulnerable, in mind and spirit, and needful of gentle reassurance, a predictable routine, and most of all, love.
When we first married, I knew little about how to properly care for animals though I knew very well how they ought not to ever be treated. Danny on the other hand, learned how animals ought to be treated at his mother's knee. She provided the absolute best for her four-legged critters, almost to a fault.
I'm looking forward to the days to come. It's a blessing for me to have something to mother again. Certainly LilBit will teach me patience, endurance, compassion and wisdom. That's what LilBits do. And while LilBit teaches me these things, he'll be learning what it means to fully trust someone he barely understands.
What little I know about what it is like to be a dog is easily eclipsed by the miniscule understanding dogs have about what it is like to be human. LilBit's understanding of what it is like to be a human is easily eclipsed by my miniscule understanding of what it is like to be God, though God knows fully and well what it is like to be human, having come to us fully human, experiencing every pain and every pleasure afforded us in this experience during his short sojourn here.
Dogs don't reason as humans do. LilBit and I do not spend long evenings in deep, meaningful conversations about the days of our lives, what we've learned, who we've loved, and where our dreams have led us, even if they led to dark dangers. Because he is a dog, he will never understand that the rules of the house are for his good and ours. But this is precisely what I've learned from God as he has spent the days of my life teaching me to trust him in all things; faithfully providing daily bread, safe refuge from the storms of life, comfort when my heart is broken, and the strength needed to chase today's dream, whatever it may be, wherever it may lead, always providing whatever is needful, even discipline, for my own good. And that which is impossible for LilBit, is infinitely possible with God as he invites each of us to those long evenings of deep, meaningful conversation.
"'Come now, let us reason together,'" says the Lord. "'Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.'" Isaiah 1:18 (NIV)
I don't have all the answers, but I know, and love, the One who does. Let's walk in his love and discover him together.