Grace as taught by a Dog and a Hawk

There’s just no other way to put it.  We’ve had a sucky week.  Yes, we’ve had worse, and yes, people are currently suffering through much harder things;  we know this.  However, this has also been a week we will always remember as one that hurt a lot.  So, it counts.

lily pinkSee this girl? She was our baby for eight wonderful, difficult, precious, trying, happy years.  Taken too early from her Jack Russell momma, she needed our stay-at-home family as much as we needed her.  She came a little broken with issues like needing to be constantly on a lap and thinking she was a human as well as sucking on a piece of blankie when she felt stressed (which was often) like she was nursing.

She was also a severe allergy dog.  We never forked over the $600 for allergy testing;  we instead assumed she was allergic to everything and spent that money x infinity on everything we could do to help her from coconut oil to steroids to daily allergy meds (I swore I’d never be one of those people).  She had miserably itchy everything — her ears got infected if even snowflakes got them wet inside.  Her bottom was constantly swollen and awful.  Her skin itched if touched, and probably if not.  If left alone for 1.5 seconds she could scratch herself bloody.  She mostly lived in a cone of shame her last year and always had a sweatshirt of some sort on to prevent her scratching.  She found ways to thwart every effort we put forth, and find ways to scratch.

She also knew if one of my kids was coming down with something and planted herself next to them for the duration to make them feel better.   She was happy to see every single family member every single morning.  She loved to sing and play the piano — her favorite song was Route 66 learned on our cross-country RV trip.  She hiked mountains and cliffs and scenic paths all over this country.  She loved the beach and most of all babies.  She was present when Josie was born and took it upon herself to protect that little girl from day one.  Not one mean bone in that adorable little body.

And I’m speaking in past tense.

Our little girl quit suffering a few days ago, and a bit of suffering began for us.  Yes, she was *just a dog,* but she was a very real part of our family.  Everyone who knew her, couldn’t help but love her.  She forced it on them.  She would wait until you were least expecting it and kiss you until you laughed.

Since she’s been gone, our house has been wet with tears, has fewer kleenexes in boxes, and has expanded with gobs of grace.  With everyone sad beyond words and constantly reminded of our huge little loss, there is kindness abounding in places we didn’t even notice was missing before.  Tenderness, hugs, little acts of generosity, fewer unnecessary snaps of words — grace abounds.  After we said our goodbyes, my sweet man told me what he had learned from our littlest canine girl.  He said that she had taught him what love looked like even when he didn’t deserve it.  Even when he yelled at her for scootching her little hiney across the floor, she still loved him.  Even when everyone was irritated with the most high-maintenance dog on the planet, she couldn’t get enough of us.

She was the essence of grace as we were taught the definition in Sunday school.  Unmerited favor.

The following day, we had another weasel move in and build a shelter under our chicken coop.  The bane of the chicken farmer’s existence, this little guy took over the last guy’s territory.  Last time, we lost two birds.  Too weary for more loss, we began hunting.  We set a live trap with raw beef liver.  We set up day long vigils waiting with rifles.  We studied his tracks and waited for a shot.  For 2.5 days he eluded us.  He even stole the liver right from the trap and spent some time cavorting INSIDE the chicken run while my birds were inside their coop.  We joked and then prayed that maybe our bald eagle would do the job for us.

Day three, my son stood watch while he worked.  Out of the sky a red-tailed hawk dove toward the ground behind the coop and came up with a small white animal in its talons and swooped off with its breakfast.  Just like that, our little nemesis was gone.

God just extended us some grace and sent a big bird to do the work for this weary bunch.

I’m feeling kinder.  Though I really hate how I got here, I’m feeling like if we could approach the world with a little more of this tender-heartedness, perhaps understanding that life is fragile and moments are worth appreciating, this place would be a little more like it should be.  If maybe we realized that we had the power to make someone’s day a little easier, to kiss them ’til they laugh (you know what I mean), to reduce the need to correct and need things our way…

To learn from a little dog and extend some grace…

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A sad day, indeed

We said “Good-bye” today to our kitty. Seventeen and a half years ago we took in our very first pet–a precious gray and white kitten. In that much time (almost half of my life!), we enjoyed a legend and his many lives–far more than nine!

This was our cat who was declawed as a kitten and then decided he wanted to live outside as well as in. Our cat who terrorized neighborhood dogs ten times his size.
He climbed trees and ladders and played on rooftops. He hunted daily and brought us those yucky, dead animal treasures–all with no claws.

(This picture was taken just a few months ago as, at age 17, he waited for hours to catch some little creature. Eventually, he fell asleep on duty.)

When we moved across town, he moved with us and then came up missing. After about three days we found him on the front porch of our old house, surely wondering where his family had gone. How a cat found his way several miles back “home” is a bit of a mystery. We retrieved him and then it seemed he understood and stayed put to learn his new neighborhood.

He took naps in the middle of the road.
He got into fights with raccoons, opossums, squirrels, dogs, and other cats. From his battle wounds we got to see his insides several times–science class, right? We pulled at least a dozen ticks of our little feline.

He survived the acquisition of three more cats and two dogs to our family, and upon every new pet’s arrival, he would just look at us like, “Really? We’re doing this again?!”
He chased my kids when they were toddlers, and bit their little bottoms, and then snuggled with them on the couch.
He learned how to open round, metal doorknobs out of sheer determination, and even unlock doors when desperate enough.

He was truly the stuff kitty legends are made of, and we loved him dearly.

Loving a pet brings an awful lot of joy. And it brings tough days like today. Days that make you wonder about the worth of inviting love and the inevitable pain it brings in.
Life is like that, isn’t it? The deeper we love, the greater the risk, reward, and then unfortunately, sometimes the pain. Makes you wonder about the guy who stated that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
And then you don’t.

At the end of the day, Rajah’s Christmas ornament got hung at the top of the tree, and after some reminiscing and some tears, a couple of parents are wondering when we got old enough to handle the tough stuff like this.
And life goes on.
And we keep it all in perspective because, though this wasn’t our favorite day, we are healthy and have more pets to love, and a whole family as well.

And, as strange as it sounds, it reminds me of a certain rhythm that life has. And that God is in control and knows and sees and cares–even about the little things that matter more than a little to our hearts.

And what a beautiful thing it is when hurting hearts are drawn together.