I was just getting ready to heat leftovers for dinner last week when LilBit pranced into the living room, tail wagging, eyes smiling, a bright yellow tennis ball in his mouth, and Danny and I looked at each other and exclaimed in unison, "He's a dog!"
We frequently wondered through these long months if he would ever be just "a dog" again. When we first brought him home from the shelter, he was supposed to be just passing through, on his way to Denver to keep Buck company after Danny's mom died. Frequent readers already know that wasn't meant to be, and LilBit came home with us, to stay. As the days progressed we realized that this little guy had no idea how to be what he was meant to be. He didn't know how to play. He didn't know where to potty or where not to, and he was so traumatized by his previous encounters with human beings that he found a hidey hole under the sofa and, if allowed, would remain there for hours on end. Before too many of those early days had passed, we barricaded the underneath of the sofa, forcing him to spend time with us, teaching him to trust once again.
It wasn't an easy transition, for LilBit or for us. First of all, we needed to change his mind about procreation. Trauma. Then he went off to the groomer and although the physical transformation was nothing short of tremendous, it was still a traumatic event. It turns out he's even bittier than we realized when we named him.
Nighttime insecurities brought him into the bedroom, and for weeks he slept with his leash on, the other end around my wrist. It was the only way I could think of to make sure I would waken when his need, whatever form it took, also was awakened.
The grands, both Harley and Brayden here in McCook along with our Colorado kids, Haili, Maddy and Nate, when they surprised us a few weeks back for an overnighter, helped to socialize him, an ongoing process. Toys were introduced and were left to lay. He had no idea what to do with them. When he finally figured the toys out, he was delighted, his tail high and curled, wagging frantically while he chased the tennis ball or grabbed his rag doll, running back and forth with it, flinging it to the right and to the left, a mock-growl accompanying his increasing joy.
Yep, he's a dog. And a delight. The first night he jumped into bed and I left the leash unattached, he looked at me quizzically, turned around twice, curled up and laid down, done for the night. Although he still sometimes whimpers in the middle of the night, settling as soon as I pet him, the leash hangs on the hook in the kitchen, now used only for our daily jaunts through the neighborhood. The temporary door Danny put in place between the carpeted living room and the kitchen with easy clean linoleum, came down, and only BooBoo Kitty missed it, because it came equipped with a dangle toy, (better known to us as a bungee cord).
Yep, he's a dog. And he's an absolute delight. He loves supper, our supper that is, and his disappointment when our fare is unsuitable is evident, but only momentarily as he soon finds something else to delight. Routine has become his calendar, and he knows when the weekend arrives simply by the change in our routine. He doesn't like traveling, associating it with too many traumas, but he will go anywhere if it means he can be with us. And when we return from the grocery store, his welcome is exuberant, his excitement at our appearance would undoubtedly register on the Richter scale if we had one.
Yep, he's a dog. Pure in spirit, his soulful eyes no longer speak of apprehension, fear or terror, but of love and of gratitude. He's still shy around strangers, but he walks with tail curled high, sniffing out the neighborhood, on high alert, eager to discover whatever comes next.
LilBit. A little bit of joy. A little bit of laughter. But most of all, a tiny testimony to the transforming power of love. Because that's really all we did. We loved him. We loved him through the ordeal of housebreaking. We loved him through the ordeal of frequent baths. We loved him through his fears, bringing him safely through to the other side, where he could love us back, as much as a dog can love.
And today, when I look into those soulful brown eyes, I see a reflection of myself as I was before I knew love, hiding under a couch, tail tucked between my legs, fearful of harm, fearful of pain, fearful of life, now transformed by the power of love.
LilBit brought joy. LilBit brought laughter. LilBit brought love. And LilBit brought about the realization that when you believe in love, when you believe in God's love, only then can you love with abandon, because only those who are truly loved, can truly love.
"God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them." 1 John 4:16b (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.