Lessons my dog taught me

Was it just me? Or did the 40 days of Lent during a pandemic seem especially long, penitential, and grueling? How thankful I am that the Easter season of celebration continues for 50 days! Our dog couldn’t handle any more Lent.

In the past, I’ve given up sugar or social media, or I’ve added prayer, study, or service to my schedule for Lent. This year, I tried something different: I gave up complaining. I’d like the record to state that I’m not a huge complainer. However, I know my faults, and God knows my heart. He can use even the smallest sacrifice or denial of self for good. For growing in charity. For love.

Ever since we moved to the farm, it’s been obvious that the cavapoo, Perry Boy, wasn’t adequately equipped. He’s built for cuddles, not mud, sticker bushes, or even chasing butterflies. When Perry absolutely must be outdoors, he much prefers the leash and delineated sidewalk paths to wildflower adorned fields of freedom. He’s terrified of the wind and kittens. And yellow chicks? They’ve got to be a squeaker toy, right? 

Wrong.

As the coyote howls echo through the budding trees and hawks circle the coop, it’s become obvious that we need a dog. A real dog. One with mud caked on his nose, a wagging tail for children, and a fierce bark for chicken predators. Bless his fuzzy heart, Perry Boy ain’t that.

Before I became Mom, I was admittedly more of a dog person. My patience with puppies far outlasted that for people. I remember talking to my mother about God’s love, how He hadn’t given up on us, and she said something to the effect that maybe we’re all like silly puppies. Some of us proverbially chew the legs off the sofa or mess on the rug, but who doesn’t love a puppy? Thank goodness it’s a limited metaphor, because as our adorable, perfect, little puppy has matured into a 3-year-old lump, my love has become more conditional. And full of complaints.

More than once, we’ve had Perry Boy checked for a heart condition because we thought his lack of energy may be a sign of a serious illness. It turns out the dog is just shockingly lazy… unless food is involved. During the first week of Lent, he sniffed out the gum in my purse, painstakingly unwrapped each piece, and consumed a package of Trident. The following week, an entire loaf of bread was missing when I went to make sandwiches. Only the empty bag was ever recovered. We’re still stepping on remnants of beans in every room of the house after he shredded and scattered a three-pound bag of dried pintos, my original intention for a meatless Friday meal. 

When we returned from church on Easter morning to a floor covered in cracked plastic eggs, Reese’s wrappers, empty cartons of malted eggs, busted chocolate bunny boxes, and zero jelly beans, I must say, I wasn’t surprised. I do question the Bunny’s insistence on so much sugar.

Perry moaned a guilty greeting as the boys begged, “Why, Perry Boy? Why? Why do you do this?!” 

The poor dog has been in a sugared-sort of coma or state of bliss ever since Sunday, and I’m sure an Easter basket or Christmas stocking will eventually be the death of him. But not this time. He’s back to his otherwise befuddled, sleepy-self and out of his forty-day frenzy. The Lord was right, of course, this Lent and that dog taught me something.

God’s love is not conditional. During a time of so much uncertainty and panic of what man has wrought on earth in hate and wreckage, Christ waits patiently for us to repent. To turn our hearts to gratitude and be filled with His peace. To experience the beauty of spring and new life, the fresh green of trees, birds singing, and even the roly-poly dog snoozing in the sunshine.

It’s easy to look at the world through the lenses of fatigue, bitterness, or apathy, or be deceived by specious arguments. I think it’s obvious after an election year during Covid, that the maladies of hardened hearts are highly contagious and have lingering effects, but the good news is The Good News. Jesus Christ knew all of this would happen—that people would be prone to stray far from His grace and God’s plan for love—and Jesus still chose the cross. He still chose to immerse us in His Divine Mercy.

With 50 days to the Easter season, you won’t hear me complain. Like ole Perry Boy, the Lord knows I’m weak and inclined to falling short. But we can celebrate God’s patient, unconditional, free, and perfect love, His goodness, and His grace. 

We are the Easter people, and Hallelujah is our song! 

Author: Neena

Neena is a Kentucky wife, mother, and beekeeper. Her first novel, THE BIRD AND THE BEES, is a Christian contemporary romance available now. Visit her at wordslikehoney.com.

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