“Hey Lorene…do you want to stop at the animal shelter?” I asked as my car approached the sign for it along the road into Beulah. Lorene and I were on our way to lunch. It is a cold grey, March day in 2012, in northern lower Michigan.
She replied emphatically with a long drawn out “Nooooo, why would I want to do that? You know I don’t like animals .You can do that another time when you are by yourself!”
“I pass the sign all the time, look over at the building, and wonder what it’s like.” I explained.
“Patsi, it’s a building with dogs and cats that smell. I don’t want to spend time on my day off at the Benzie County Animal Shelter.”
“Okay,” I replied. So I packed up the thought and put it away for another day. I couldn’t put my finger on why I would even be curious, after all I am definitely not in the market for a pet, I don’t even want live plants!
Several weeks passed and I had not even thought of stopping at the animal shelter. Then one day in early May, I saw the sign, turned off the road and parked in the lot. I mused at my action and excused my behavior as simply inquisitive.
Kitties were all around the large entry room. Swinging from suspended rope and beds, climbing on the condos, and in and out of ‘houses’. It doesn’t smell too bad, mostly little disinfectant mixed with cat.
“Hello, can I help you?” A man in a green uniform asks.
“I just want to look around,” I answered.
“Well, the dogs are through the door back over there, cats are all up front.”
I open the heavy steel door and am smacked with ‘dog smell’. Yikes, mouth breathe, mouth breathe, I tell myself. Cautiously I walk down the cement aisle between cages on each side. Fifteen dogs are focused on me and barking vigorously for my attention! Quickly my fingers go into my ears. Why can’t these kennels be more sound proof? The echo is deafening!
Hmmm, that one looks old; and this one is so big. There is one here kind of small…but ugly. Well, I’ve seen enough, I’ve got this out of my system now.
Exiting the kennel I walk toward the front entrance. The man in the green suit calls to me, “Did you see one you liked?”
Oh no, thought, what do I say, I was just curious and not in the market for a pet. I responded, “No…I really like little dogs.” Seeing there were no little dogs I thought that would satisfy him.
“Oh, we have a little Yorkie out getting fixed today. You can see him tomorrow morning.”
“Okay,” I said a bit reluctantly as I kept walking. “I may be back tomorrow.”
Getting back in my car and heading home I thought- A Yorkie, those are little dogs. Maybe I will come back tomorrow. What AM I thinking? I don’t want a dog. I have not had a dog in years. In fact I regard people who treat their dogs like family members, catering to their needs, taking them wherever they go and downright ‘in love’ with their pets, as a wee bit off kilter, shaking my head and mutter to myself, these people and their dogs, I just don’t understand, it is so annoying!
My earliest memories as a child included Shorty, my first doggie, we were both the same age. My mom would never have a dog in the house so he lived outside in his own house. He was a fixture in my childhood, it was a comfort to have him around after my Dad died when I was seven.
Early one school day, when I was eleven I opened the kitchen door leading into the garage and Shorty lay in front of the step motionless. I was very sad that day. Concentrating on my fifth grade school work was hard.
Other dogs have come (at the pleas of my children), and gone in my life. The fondness I had toward the pets was minimal. Perhaps it was because I was busy raising children, working as a nurse and my life seemed to be in chaos much of the time.
I could go back into Beulah tomorrow morning; I need to go to the hardware. I will kill two birds with one stone and see that ‘little Yorkie’.
The next morning I drove the picturesque seven miles back into Beulah with my first stop being the animal shelter. I had a feeling of alarm when I could not find that little dog anywhere in the kennel. I visually searched every pen over twice.
“I cannot find that ‘little Yorkie’ you told me about yesterday.” I said anxiously to the Animal Officer. “Oh, he is in a small cage, in a room behind my desk.”
He was so small and a bit funny looking. He was curled up on a worn doggie bed. When I approached his cage he came to the front of the wire cage and stared up at me.
“You can take him out and see him.” Mr. Green Suit said.
I felt a bit awkward as I tried to pick him up. “He is so skittish and afraid.”
“Yep, he is just a little guy and he came from a home with sixteen dogs.”
“Wow, sixteen dogs! How did you happen to get him?” I asked.
“He was surrendered. Yeah, they were hoarders and well known by our department. Too many dogs, and to avoid trouble they surrendered him.” He answered.
I picked him up, he sniffed my neck then calmly put his head on my chest. I stroked his back, and ugh! He licked my cheek. His hair is coarse, matted, and stiff, and his ears are huge! He seems like a nice dog. I put him on the floor and he anxiously ventured off only a few feet then quickly scampered back to me and jumped on my legs as if he was afraid of the world and I was his security.
“Well, I need to have my husband take a peek at him. I’ll be back later this afternoon.”
I can’t believe I said that. I went home, hung a load of clothes on the line, then called my daughters confessing what I had done and seeking their advice. They reached a consensus of madness but thought it might be a good idea!
My husband, a retired veterinarian, accompanied me back to the shelter. After careful examination including his teeth, he was pronounced in good health, and approximately five months old.
Now, I was really nervous-I don’t know what to do.
“Well, would you like to adopt him?” asked Mr. Green Suit.
I suck in a long deep breath, “Can I think about it?” I asked to buy some time.
“Can you let me know by noon Friday? We have another lady interested in him, but I will wait on you first for an answer.”
“Sure, I will let you know by noon Friday. And by the way, how much is it to adopt?”
Hmm, that’s certainly cheap enough… and today is Wednesday, I will think and pray about it, this is a big step, I thought. I must be nuts! I am unencumbered now- retired, kids are grown, and grandkids visit, and I have a troubled marriage.
For two days the ‘what ifs’ drive me crazy. I make more phone calls to both daughters, who by the way each have a dog.
“What if he is mean, or barks too much, never gets housebroken, and just plain doesn’t work out? I asked.
“Mom, you can always sell him or give him away.” My wise oldest daughter replied.
Friday morning, 11:30 a.m. I walk into the shelter with some apprehension and begin to write a check and fill out the forms. The moment of decision has come, I nervously pick up this little dog and carry him to my car. I wonder if he’ll even sit still as I drive. I put him down in the passenger seat on a little blanket I brought and I began to drive. He is calm, and just looks at me. The sun is shining, all the hills are a beautiful collage of various shades of green. He is doing so good, innocently just sitting and starring at me. I think I will stop at my friend Jan’s house to show her my new purchase.
Jan is excited to see me and the puppy. We sit on her lawn with the soft delicate spring grass as our blanket, the earth beneath us is warm. My puppy potty’s (all on his own) then lays down and curls up next to me. A gentle west breeze is laden with the promise of lilacs and daffodils dot the yard with splashes of yellow, orange and white.
“What are you going to name him?” Asks Jan, then ads” I think you should name him Radar, he has such big ears!”
I pause and ponder the enormous contrast of this radiant spring day with the past several weeks and months of cold and darkness. My heart is hurting. A year earlier I entered into a marriage covenant with a man who professed he loved and needed me. I believed all he promised. My first year as a bride was filled with rejection, betrayal, and deceit, and the emotional abuse of withholding of love and affection. My hopes and dreams are shattered and my soul bruised under continued assault by the husband that became a stranger almost overnight. I desperately tried to regain the man I loved during our courtship only to realize, as the confusion cleared, that this is who he really is.
Suddenly the locked and barricaded doors of my heart open, I sniff and blink back the tears behind my sunglasses as I stroke this small helpless little dog-who needs me… as much as I need him.
At that moment I began understood what happened. I am in covenant with One who loves me beyond measure; the Lord God of Israel. Through the emotional pain and turmoil when I did not know what I needed, He did. I recalled what David said in Psalm 38:9:
O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.
The Lord heard the silent speaking of my heart, as He speaks through the prophet Isaiah, chapter 65:24
“It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.”
Simple as it seems, this devoted little puppy reopened the avenue of love and significance to this wounded heart.
“His name is Shmu’el.” I told Jan. “It is Hebrew for ‘God listens’”.