“PUPPY IS BLIND. PROSPECTIVE OWNER MUST AGREE NOT TO REARRANGE FURNITURE.”
“DOG SNAPS AT SMALL CHILDREN NEAR FOOD BOWL. NEEDS RETRAINING.”
I sighed, rubbed my eyes wearily, and turned away from the pet adoption database that was glaring discouragement from my laptop screen. I’d been at this for weeks.
We’d thought it would be easy. On Christmas Day, when our twelve-year-old twins tore excitedly through bright wrapping and gold ribbons to reveal a soft new dog bed, they abandoned preteen male indifference and squealed. “MOM! DAD! A puppy! We have a puppy!”
“In a few days,” we laughed. “We couldn’t box a pup, so .... we’ll start looking tomorrow. By next week, you’ll have your dog!”
Or so we thought -- until we actually tried to adopt one. We ruled out pet stores (has anyone else noticed that $1500 for a 4-pound puppy is $375 a pound, or is it just me?) and newspaper advertisements:
“SEND ADVANCE CHECK TO PO BOX TO RESERVE PUPPY. WE WILL CONTACT YOU WHEN DOGS ARE BORN.”
“DOGS ARE PART PIT BULL. RING BELL AND WAIT FOR HOMEOWNER BEFORE ENTERING YARD!”
But we didn’t expect pet adoption to reach the complexity level of, say, neurosurgery, or entering Europe without a passport. First, we encountered special needs that a household with active boys and a rambunctious German Shorthair Pointer could not possibly meet:
“TESTICLES SEVERELY ENLARGED DUE TO ILLNESS. GENTLE PLAY ONLY!”
“HAS INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASE. FREQUENT CLEAN-UPS REQUIRED.”
Then there were adoptive agencies that seemed a little ... well, picky:
“PROSPECTIVE OWNER MUST AGREE TO UNANNOUNCED HOME INSPECTIONS FOR ONE YEAR.”
“ADOPTIVE OWNER MUST AGREE TO FEED ONLY HEALTH FOOD FROM SPECIALTY STORES.”
Health food? Specialty stores? “Do you realize,” I asked my husband, emptying an envelope of onion soup mix into a crockpot full of sale-priced chuck roast, “that if we agree to this, the dog will actually eat better than the kids do?”
We laughed at these misadventures, but by March, we’d reached a crisis point. Still no puppy -- and since Christmas, our family had experienced troubles that included theft, life-threatening illnesses diagnosed in close family members, and the death of a friend in an accident. “These children,” I observed tearfully to my husband, “need something positive – soon. And actually ... so do I.”
I surveyed our situation. I'd spent hours on the telephone. I’d driven countless miles. I’d asked friends for help and registered with every imaginable search engine. I’d done everything I could possibly do.
Except one. What I hadn’t done, I realized, was pray.
Not that I don’t usually pray. I pray a lot. But praying for a puppy had somehow seemed self-centered, like the mantra that an atheist friend once jokingly proposed to me as the ideal petition to the divine: “More. Sooner.”
Still, I know when I’m licked. So I prayed. “Lord,” I said, “I think these children need a puppy. If you think so too, please help.”
Our puppy appeared the next day. Driving through our neighborhood, I spotted a “Pet Adoptions” sign, followed it to a private residence, and found a Corgi mix with a scruffy beard and ears the approximate size of Rhode Island. The boys, avid Star Wars fans, took one look and named her “Yoda.”
We have lived in our neighborhood for 15 years, and I’ve never, before or since that day, seen that sign on that home. The employee who hung the sign doesn’t know why she did, she told me later. As my car approached, she was walking outside to take it down.
It was as if God had been waiting for me to ask.
“Guess WHAT!” I called cheerfully as I crossed our threshold carrying Yoda. “God gave us a PUPPY!”
Yoda took to the household instantly. She naps on my stomach, especially enjoys startling the German Shorthair when he is resting, and heralds the arrival of favored guests by rolling over and peeing on herself. The boys happily take turns with feedings, trips to “Poo Corner” (our new name for the front yard), and sleeping next to her kennel.
Typical images of Christianity’s “abundant life” are grander than this one, I suppose. Most are surely more theologically significant. But the abundance that means the most to me today involves a small dog helping a family through a tough time ... and a God who cared enough to send her.
“All creatures, great and small ...
The Lord God made them all.”
(Cecil Frances Alexander)
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