Monday, February 27, 2017

Dog | Savior

We found Sadie in the forest at the same time she found us. She found everyone in the forest, including some thirty-odd ticks. At our campsite, I was steady in my "no, we cannot keep her."
I had just started school after my crappy divorce and getting a dog was a someday sort of proposition. Overwhelmed, reeling from broken promises and flirtations with poverty, a dog was the last thing on my mind. We unpacked our tent, set up, and I was somewhat relieved the kids had a "project" for our short time there and a dog friend they could play with.
Fire made, this dog kept poking her friendly face around our campsite. We cooked, and ate, and the kids played with her. She seemed guileless enough, but you know, strange must be smart and careful. We gathered more information: she'd been there a couple of weeks. The camp store clerk had been feeding her. The park ranger explained that people left their dogs at this campground quite frequently. He had five dogs as a result and he said he could not keep any more.
I watched my children with this tick-y, flea-infested, and lord knows what else dog. They wrapped their arms around her and surrounded her with pure love and consoling voices and surrounded me with plenty of begging pleas. I kept hesitating and watching. I remembered how it is to be ten and the only one who understands you is your dog. I remember what it felt like when your moronic parents couldn't keep their shit together enough to keep your family a good and whole one, a loving one. I remember how much my own heart ached to leave all my animals on the farm. My heart clenched at knowing my children would bear all the same mixed messages, disillusionment, hard situations, sacrifices of needs and desires, longings for wholeness, and wounds of divorce that I did. I had lost control of so much of my life and had been working so hard just to keep from losing my shit and struggling to wriggle out from a very big thumb and create some stability that I'd forgotten they were just along for the ride. They didn't ask for this. Their life was forever changed, too. They wanted a whole family, too. They wanted more of the love part of life, too, and not the reminders of how incredibly hurtful and destructive humans can be to each other, and how a family can be torn apart.
And right here, in front of us, was more of the love part of life. I had no idea how I was going to afford her, care for her, or if she was even a safe dog for us. But she kept nosing her snout into our hands, kept bowing her head to say, "pet me", kept following us in the woods, and kept tugging me -us- forward.
It was obvious-my kids needed her.
The campers next to us had been there for awhile. They were RV campers, not tent campers. They surprised us with a goody bag after a trip to Wal-Mart. They had gathered I was a single mom, even though I have always camped alone with my kids, even when I was married. They had assembled a Dog Starter Kit, complete with food, leash, toys, bowls, and a brush. Of course, I had no ability to say no. My kids had fallen in love with this dog and had already decided she was ours and had already resolved to teach her that her new name was "Sadie."
Now, something you must also know is that our house is a kind of pet repository. It's my weakness and it's also my older daughters' weakness. They live in apartments, and pets are a sketchy undertaking in apartments. So, we started out with two cats of our own, but we ended up with cast-off apartment cat number 3, then apartment cat number 4, then apartment parakeets. "Mom, they need a new home. Just for a little while." "Mom, I'm giving a surprise to my little sister." My best pet word now is "NO."
So despite my initial overwhelm, Sadie came home with us, already well loved. But we learned she had not been so well-loved in her previous life. We checked her out: no chip, she was spayed, and she had Lyme disease from all the ticks. Her teeth were worn down from maybe being in a cage. She peed anxiously when someone would go to pet her. She didn't know how to play or be a family dog. We set her up in her own room, my studio, and started to get to know her.
We've had Sadie for three years now. She is in every way part of our family. I suspect she is older than we thought. She hates car rides, loves chasing squirrels, loves taking us for walks, is jealous of hamsters and cats, and will take all the loving you can give her. She is the pickiest eater of any dog I've ever met. She loves rolling in bones and shit: deer shit, mole bones, squirrel skin. She won't clean the floor after meals-with-kids-crumb-explosions but she will come every single time you call her, faithful and true. She is so subtle and considerate in her requests for food and she barks an appropriate warning every time there is a noise or stranger. She grins from ear to ear when she sees my daughter and they have a very close bond. Sadie is a graceful, smart dog. She won't sleep with you, which is fine with me, and there are only two other dogs in this world she gets along with: Claire, my oldest daughter's Chihuahua mix, and Buddy, the Jack Russell mix of a neighbor's.
She is an awesome dog and I can't believe anyone would leave her in the woods like that. Cruel, just cruel.
We all need someone who saves us, a bringer of grace and salvation, someone who shows us to our worth. Dogs and people do this for each other, without question. And my sweet children taught me something about the practice of's ok, mom, to let go. It's ok to do the hard work of redeeming a situation. In fact, it's necessary if we are to keep combating the shame and brokenness that so permeates our relationships and culture. We're all being taken care of despite ourselves. We all take care of each other. Look at how we keep getting graced and blessed.
Thank you, Sadie, for being our faithful good dog.

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