Last Tuesday was a big day at our house. In fact, January 10th is kind of a major day in world and church history. 2066 years ago, Caesar crossed the Rubicon. And sometime during the 300’s, Gregory of Nyssa was born and died in what is now Turkey (but used to be called Cappadocia). And this year, on this auspicious day, a little brown and white dog showed up to greet me after I got home from work.
January 10 is a day that changes things. And it is a day that is also pretty much the same—most of the time when it has rolled over on the calendar, it has been a very ordinary day.
God’s love is a force that changes things. And it is a force that is constant and unchanging.
My husband and I have been talking about a second dog for a year or so. We had decided that we would wait until our current dog—Hattie—crossed the Rainbow Bridge to find a new dog. God must have had a good chuckle over our plans. Tuesday of last week was gross weather—rainy, unseasonably humid and warm—one of those days where everything feels just a little wonky and off. As I pulled up to our house and exited my car, all I was thinking about was how happy I was to be home. I love coming home.
And then, all of a sudden, there was this tail-wagging little critter at my feet. She seemed so timid, but so eager—like she’d been waiting to see me all day and was a little nervous about our meeting. She never jumped up or barked or whined, just sat and wiggled and waited to see how I would treat her.
We walked up to the house together, and I tried to figure out how I was going to let our dog Hattie out too without potentially starting a fight between them… and did she have tags? Did she have scars or marks or scabs or fleas or some weird dog disease that might kill us all? I had so many questions, but every time I looked at this strange little animal, all I could see was something that needed love and a warm place to be.
She stayed on the porch all Tuesday night. I kept going out to check on her. I called our neighbors up the road to see if they knew of anyone in our neighborhood missing a dog matching this one’s description. The last time I checked on her, I sat on the porch with her for a little bit, just so she wouldn’t think we were trying to run her off. She hopped up into my husband’s usual chair, passed a little gas, and looked up at me with her brown eyes. And I was hopelessly, irretrievably, bottomed out, in love.
Last Wednesday, I came home from work early to take her to the shelter in town, to see if she had a microchip or if anyone had reported her missing. I had convinced myself that she would be gone by the time I got home—her owners would have found her, or she’d have traveled on down the holler to another farm, or been scared off by other neighborhood pets.
Against all odds, the little girl dog was still on the porch. She was afraid to follow me on the leash, so I had to carry her to the car… and afraid to get in the car, so I had to lift her into the back seat. And when we arrived at the shelter, she was afraid to get out of the car or walk on the leash, so she hung out in my arms. The ladies at the shelter and I agreed that she had probably been dumped off at the end of our road—we live way out, and while she had a new-looking collar, it looked like someone had clipped the tags off of it.
She’s about a year old, and probably an American bulldog. I thanked the shelter ladies for their kind words, wisdom, and hard work. The little dog wouldn’t walk out to the car. She wouldn’t get in the car. She didn’t want to stay in the car. But I carried her to it and safely planted her in the backseat.
As I navigated the hairpin turns that make up the road between town and our farmhouse, the little dog migrated up to the front seat, and deposited her head in my lap. I had been dying to pet those ears, stroke that sweet little face, and say sweet things to this shaking little creature, and until the shelter ladies told me that she didn’t have a chip and no had come to look for her, I refused to let myself be soft and gooey over this dog. But she snuggled up safe under my palm the whole ride home.
Love comes to us in the strangest of ways on both the painfully ordinary and rightfully important days, and it is always on time. Offering warmth, kindness, shelter, and comfort costs us nothing and can very often lead to riches beyond our wildest imaginings. This is why Jesus tells us so many stories about the abundance of God’s kingdom—about plenty of bread, plenty of room, plenty of love.
I have known this for a long, long time. But last week, one of God’s own furry friends shined her very own little light into the middle of this dark winter, and taught me all over again the wonderful changelessness of God’s love for all of us, between all of us, all day every day. And thanks be to God for that precious lesson, and for my darling Clementine.
Has God’s love found you through an animal’s companionship?