When San Fernando joined our family (his name is considerably longer, but that’s a family secret, and while he does answer to his full name like any of our children, we call him Sando), I didn’t have any idea how he would change our lives. I could not know that he would become my ongoing object lesson in Faith. He has taught me in numerous ways that God is everywhere, particularly in the deep brown eyes of a puppy way too big to be a lap dog but still and forever adorably my baby.
Circles of Faith Co-founder and Executive Editor Elise is one of God’s best gifts to me recently. We were drawn together as part of an international book launch team only to realize that we were neighbors who have become pals, co-conspirators, and, most importantly, sisters in Christ. Starbucks is our sacred space, and she is as important to my writing and my life as anyone I’ve ever met. The last time we were together, as I prattled on about my dog, she said, “There’s a story there.” She says that a lot. What came out of that conversation is this, The Dog Series.
According to an estimate by the American Pet Products Association, in 2013 alone, Americans will spend $55.53 billion dollars on pets in the United States. The Animal Legal Defense Fund (yes) gathered the following statistics regarding Americans and their pets.
According to their research:
• 124 million companion animals live in American homes – nearly one for every two Americans.
• 70% of those surveyed, who have dogs or cats, say that their companion animals are definitely family members.
• 45% of dog guardians take their pets on vacation.
• More than half of companion animal guardians would prefer a dog or a cat to a human if they were stranded on a deserted island.
• 50% of companion animal guardians would be “very likely” to risk their lives to save their animals.
• Another 33% percent indicated they would be “somewhat likely” to put their own lives in danger to save their animals.
• 9% of dog guardians throw birthday parties for their canines, and 25% of all dog caretakers buy birthday gifts for their dogs.
These are my sermons from the dog. Every single day I hear his plaintive, playful, pleading cries requesting his morning walk. I wish I could say I pray that way. His faith (in my husband and in me) is unassailable, like mine should be in God. Sando has no quavering uncertainty about whether he will be leashed, walked, watered, fed, played with, or adored. His reality is incontrovertible...you will meet my needs, you will love me forever, you will take me for a walk.
He relies upon us as we should rely absolutely upon Almighty God. His faith reinforces his place in the pack, his position in the family, his relationship with each of us. Just as our faith should reinforce our standing with God.
Finally, have you ever noticed that dog is God spelled backwards? I’m just saying…
When God had made the earth and sky, The flowers and the trees. He then made all the animals, The fish, the birds and bees. And when at last He'd finished, Not one was quite the same. He said, "I'll walk this world of mine, And give each one a name." And so He traveled far and wide And everywhere He went, A little creature followed Him Until its strength was spent. When all were named upon the earth And in the sky and sea, The little creature said, "Dear Lord, There's not one left for me." Kindly the Father said to him, "I've left you to the end. I've turned my own name back to front And called you dog, my friend." Author Unknown
Time to do a new thing (some more) or Lessons from my downward facing dog…
Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. - Isaiah 43:19 (KJ21)
Apparently, I have a firm grasp of the obvious. I noticed that every morning, my big ol’ boxer puppy stretches upon rising into downward facing dog (hence the name, genius). Well, and it’s been a while, I finally made myself workout this morning realizing how much better I feel when I do. Almost dreading it because my dog gets in the way, I decided to do an hour of yoga. Generally, when I try to work out and the dog is not asleep in the crate or playing outside, he gets in the way. Today, fresh on the heels of my commitment to do a new thing, I decided to do my yoga with, around, or in spite of Godzilla-dog (hey, that’s an endearment).
I laid out my mat, apparently an invitation for him to come and lay down. I took a deep breath, worked around him, or moved him, gingerly, as necessary, and completed a full workout. I feel better. I feel accomplished. More importantly, I let him be a mischievous and resting puppy on the floor while doing what I needed to do. He, independent of any input from me, found and played with several toys, doing nothing more than wanting to be close to me. I’m doing a new thing.
Clearly, I could’ve thrown a tantrum at the dog. I could’ve put him in the crate and listened to him howl and cry while I desperately sought my peace. I worked around him, actually worked with him, and found enjoyment at his weight on my leg or my back, appreciated the resistance of him as I gently pushed him left or right, and smiled deeply when at the end of my workout as I lay in Savasana (or the corpse…a pose of total relaxation) and he nestled in beside me, as relaxed as I. I had to offer a moment of thanksgiving at the ability to let go, not fight, and be rewarded. I’m doing a new thing.
My dog preached the sermon this morning. He issued a challenge, which I accepted, or rather, didn’t fight. There is such a thing as yoga with the dog, and for me, it was another reminder from the Universe that it’s all alright. You don’t need to move the dog to get your calm on. If you are calm, the dog will be calm, and you will complete your assignment (or your workout). Stop fighting, because it’s simply not necessary. So, after only one day, I guess I really can do a new thing, and I am thankful for confirmation, even as it comes as a sermon preached by my dog.
Rochelle Wilson blogs at Treat Me to a Feast about her life lived forward, reviewed backward, through the lens of faith. She’s a PK (Pastor’s Kid), who’s been a Baptist church musician since she was five. Always a dancer and athlete, as an adult she turned to liturgical dance to deepen her personal worship. It worked. Rochelle laughs a lot, is married to her first love and prom date nearly 20 years ago. Together God gave them two children and a boxer who is the other love of her life, confidante, therapist, and physical trainer.