Cutest puppy in the pet store - that’s what he was! I smiled down at him and stroked his silky head.
“Go ahead, take him out, let him run around,” the pet store owner encouraged. (What a marketing great maneuver!)
I immediately did as he suggested. The puppy licked my hands as I reached for him. He licked my face as I lifted him toward me. (Yes, I probably shouldn’t have let him do that, but oh, what a cutie!) His long body, covered in soft puppy fur, wriggled in my arms and nuzzled up close to me.
Thus began our love story. That puppy loved me even more than I loved him, but that’s not to say I didn’t love him. He was my puppy-boy, my sweetie, my understanding companion. We played. We walked. We ran. We were together as often as possible. I poured out my heart to him and he’d nuzzle in real close and he’d listen. It wasn’t that he could offer any kind of solution, it’s just that he would never leave me.
And he grew. And we continued to do everything we did when he was a puppy. One of his favorite games was to grab one of his toys. (He had somehow managed to get hold of a blue jay beanie baby and once that bird was in his mouth its owner decided he could keep it - go figure!) So that became his favorite toy. He would pick it up and run with it. He would leap onto my bed and wait for me to get there. Then he’d make breathy growly sounds while holding that blue jay in his teeth. He loved for me to get it from him and toss it down the hard-wood-floored hallway. Racing past me he’d slide to a stop, pick it up again, race back to the bedroom and leap back onto the bed. Over and over we’d do this until he needed water. Funny, he never ripped or even got a single hole in that blue jay. That was his and he took care of it.
Then there was the game where I’d quietly approach him wherever he was and I’d put my face close to his face, our noses about three inches apart. He’d stay very still, I’d stay very still and then all of a sudden he’d lurch forward and lick my face. He always got me, I never would see it coming! How he made me laugh. How he made me feel good!
And he grew old. He’s closer to fifteen now than fourteen. In dog years that makes him somewhere between ninety-eight and one hundred five. He sleeps a lot. His eyes are clouded over with cataracts and he doesn’t hear like he used to. Never a barking dog, we had a regular schedule for taking him outside for his business. Lately, that schedule doesn’t work like it used to.
Yesterday he had an accident. A quarter of our hardwood-floored living room went under water. (He sure can hold an awful lot in his system, but when it’s time to go, it’s time to go!)
I was perturbed. I was impatient. I was forgetful of all that that sweet animal has done for me. “Oh, Puppy-boy, what did you do?!!!! I did not need this extra work today! Outside, outside now!” I yelled.
He complied easily. He always has. (He was probably thinking, “Where were you five minutes ago when I could have used some help?”)
But I was just thinking about the extra work he'd caused.
Did I remember the extra love, the extra warmth and softness, the extra patience, the extra fun, the extra exercise, the extra laughs, the extra photo-moments, the extra loyalty and admiration he’s given me even when I didn’t deserve it?
Did I remember that in some ways a dog loves us like Jesus loves us?
With a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes I’m remembering those things today. He doesn’t see well enough to play the blue jay game anymore, but I bet he would really like some serious belly-rubbing right about now.
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