Friday, October 12, 2007

A New "Leash" on Life

Recently Joel and I have been receiving some "harassment" and "criticism" about our dog. Ironically, mostly from non-dog owners.

I can't say I'm a "dog-lover" myself. One of my friends from work picked up a stray dog on her way to work last year. It wasn't like a pit bull or anything, but it was a stray dog, on a very busy street. It did not have any tags, so she kept it until she could take it to the pound. She said to me "you'd do the same thing". I thought to myself "not in a million years". Stra(y)nge dogs do not make my heart strings begin to play. They don't really bring a tear to my eye, either.

When Joel & I were first married there were many a discussion about dogs--if we would get one. I said "if", Joel said "when". Semantics, right? I had not grown up with dogs and while I was never mean to animals, I just don't have that all out-animal-lover heart. I did grow to like some of our friends animals--the Hope's dogs, Glacier and Arya helped warm my heart a little towards dogs and the Smith's lab-mix Libby endeared my to black dogs and I will say, even the Stocker's two cats, Lucy and Lily, are pretty darn cute. I can't touch them because I'm allergic, but they do make me smile. Can't forget Haiku's boyfriend, Fozzy, either. The Eastman's have helped me out a lot, too. Call it dog-therapy.

I'm still not an "animal" person. I don't run up to dogs in the park and ask "Can I pet it?" I don't gush over dogs while waiting in line at Pet Smart. I still chuckle when people get dogs to replace their kids when they move out. And dogs that wear clothes (or better yet, their owners make clothes for them) make me all- out laugh. A bandanna is about all I can handle. Today, preferably a purple & black one. Go Rockies.

But, I do love my dog. For the full story on how we got her, you can read my article, Haiku Surprise (it's at the bottom of the page when you click on the link). She really was a surprise, both to me (I still can't believe I did it) and to Joel.

So, here comes the criticism (implied and stated).

1. You had a birthday party for your DOG? Yes. And I'm proud of it. When was the last time you had a bunch of friends and neighbors over? It just so happened we had ours over on Sunday, September 30. It just so happened it was our dog's birthday. And, we don't have kids so birthday parties for our dog make up for it for now.

2. They make a mess. Yes, she does. But who doesn't? I mean, the trees make a mess in our yard and you don't see us cutting down all of our trees. (Just a few from this summer). It just so happens our dog is smart enough and kind enough to remind me I need to vacuum by pulling out all the stuffing of her stuffed animals and leaving it all over the house. She also is so smart, she helps us know when the season changes by shedding all of her hair all over the house, including in all the nooks and crannies of the basement. I would have never noticed it was fall if she hadn't started shedding her summer coat.

3. Dogs get sick and cost money. Yes, they do. And it's gross. I can testify to this because Haiku has been seriously ill this week. So much so, I spent most of the day yesterday at the vet getting her taken care of. It did cost money and we did have pay for medication she will take every 12 hours for the next 7 days. I think it really is God's way of preparing us for kids. We were pretty used to spending our money on things we enjoyed. Now we know it's not all fun and games.

Also, anyone who knows me in the teaching world knows I don't do vomit. My rule of thumb is "run away as quickly as possible, ignoring the dignity of everyone involved". OK, so I'm not that bad, but pretty close. I'm known for saying "It's time for recess" immediately after someone vomits. I also had the janitor's number on speed dial. The beauty of dog vomit is it's never a lot of vomit and miraculously, it doesn't smell. Poop does smell, but I won't get started on that.

4. They need exercise. Yeah, but who doesn't these days? Walking around the block at 6:45am isn't necessarily my idea of fun, but it does get me off my bottom and walking. When was the last time you did that?

So my point is, we do give a lot of time and attention to our dog. But she brings us great joy and lower blood pressure. Studies show that owning an animal can add 7 years to your life. I don't know about that, but I do know she's changed ours. For the better. Some of our best conversations this summer were while walking Haiku through the park late in the evening. A couple of the times we smiled and enjoyed ourselves the most were with Haiku walking or swimming in a lake. One memory, caught on video, was when we returned home from a week long vacation to Alaska. You can't beat a happy dog to welcome you home. We have to manage our time better to get home from work earlier. And we all need help working less and enjoying our family more. She makes us work on our yard because we have to pick up the poop. A disgusting job, yes, but at least we get outside and enjoy the beautiful Colorado weather. She helps us remember that life is about serving others and not ourselves.

And in some small way, she reminds me of what Jesus did for us. This week I came home after a long day of work to find her in her crate (where we keep her when we're gone) covered in poop--both her and the crate. I know this will just confirm to some of you that you'll never own a dog. But, for me, it was a clear picture of what Jesus has done for us. He's cleaned us up and washed us off even though we were filthy dirty and disgusting. He gently loves us and forgives us and cares for us, because he knows we're sick. He heals us and gives us a crown in heaven. What more could you ask for?

So, I accept it, we spoil our dog. We love her. But, she loves us, too. And that's the real lesson. She loves us no matter when. When we've had a long day, when we're sad, when we're angry (even at her), when we take her to the vet, she still loves us. So, bring on the harassment and criticism. We can take it. And when you come to visit, maybe Haiku will soften your heart towards animals. We can only hope.


Audrey said...

Just found your blog, loved reading about your dog. I can totally relate, wasn't until I got my own two dogs that I found how much I loved dogs, so much that I became a certified dog trainer!! Who knew! Still though, one major pet peeve, I can't stand seeing people dress up their dogs either...that's putting an owner's wants before their dog in my eyes! :) And now, I am one of those people that has to pet another dog in Pet Smart :)
On a side note....from one Coloradoan to another....GO ROCKIES!!!

Ski said...

Well said Sarah. I can't believe some the things people said to you about owning a pet! I enjoyed your responses and kids do all of those things and more! I remember having a birthday party for our dogs when I was little, actually we didn't know their exact birthdays but it was a good excuse to have a get together. Some friends brought their dogs over and we had a big celebration for all of the dogs. They did wear silly hats that day but other than a dog show (and that was a T-shirt with her name on it) we didn't put clothes on our dogs.

Dogs are also the best deterant brakins. People don't want to break into a house with a barking dog.

By the way I loved the cake at Haiku's birthday. Did you make it with a mold or did you cut it out?

Sarah said...

I wish I had made Haiku's cake. Wasn't it cute? It was actually all cupcakes, just frosted together. Isn't that cute???