Mark 9:35-37 (NIV) Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all." He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me."
The Lord is still teaching me patience through the helpless and innocent. I find so many similarities in animal husbandry and being a father. “Husband” is an interesting term to use for veterinarians. In many ways dogs and young children have a lot of the same challenges as they can be: ignorant, naive, needy, demanding, stinky, and often times just completely helpless. I continue to learn several life-lessons from both child and creature.
We have a Peek-a-poo (Pekinese/Poodle mix) named Phoebe. You’re about to learn a whole new meaning to the name of the breed. She is a Diva Dog to the max. She was the runt of her litter and has been pampered from the moment we got her. She’s normally well-behaved and has been house-broke since she was a very young puppy. Today she is 12 going on 84. Her one flaw (and there is always at least one) is she has a very fragile temperament. Like me, she’s not a big fan of “change.”
Last week we had invited a couple of families over to our house for a small birthday celebration for my wife Ally. Both families are blessed with some spirited young lads. When you add my son to the mix, we had six young boys ages 2 to 14 doing what boys do best – being boys. Let’s just say the activity and noise level in the house rose to a dull roar at times. Phoebe does not do well with that sort of shift of the tectonic plates in her otherwise tranquil world; she becomes a b!tch in every sense of the word. She gets snappy toward kids trying to pet her and becomes an emotional train wreck from the encroachment on her schedule of serenity. The consequence of her delicate demeanor manifested the next day.
I arrived home from church and lunch about 2:30 in the afternoon. My oldest daughter Whitney was at work, and Ally and the other two kiddos were at a youth function, so I had the couch, carrot cake, and remote all to myself. Can life be any better? I called out to Phoebe and she came running downstairs – clue #1 something was amiss. She is typically too lazy to go up stairs and usually opts for the couch herself. I let her outside to do her thing and she gave up a half-hearted trickle and sprinted back in, but straight to her doggie bed. Clue #2 something was amiss.
For the next 4 hours I vegged in front of the TV traveling in and out of slumber whilst the food network offered up subconscious suggestions of scrumptious sleep patterns. Whitney arrived home from work a little before 8 to witness my comatose state of mind and full-blown self-indulgent day of rest. We chatted a while and watched the last part of God’s favorite TV show Extreme Home Makeover. She asked what was up with Phoebe who was laying in her bed with her back to us staring at the wall. Come to think of it, she hadn’t moved from that spot since her bathroom break. Clue #3 yet I am still “clueless.”
It wasn’t long before everyone else arrived home. Within minutes my other daughter Katie stumbled on the big surprise with the loud proclamation, pausing between each word for dramatic effect…“OH…MY…GOSH! Phoebe crapped everywhere!” To which I responded “Shoot!” sort of. Yep, there were “tootsie rolls” and “butt fudge” all over the front living room. “You STUPID DOG! What is the MATTER WITH YOU?!!!” I screamed in exasperation. Day of rest is now a distant memory. Like a Mitsubishi sports car my BP rocketed from zero to 210/120 in 4 seconds as I went from tranquility to tumultuous testing in nothing flat. How could I have not figured out what she had done?!!! In my defense, there was no odor de toilet to bring it home for me.
Here’s the rub, pardon the pun; apparently she didn’t get the, well there’s just no delicate way to put it, “clean break,” so she did the (Oh NO SHE DIDN’T?!! OH YES SHE DID!) “butt-scoot” all the way across the room - cream carpet with stripes of brown thrown down. Here’s the other rub; 70% of our downstairs floor space is concrete. So I picked her up, took her back to the scene of the crime, put her face close to (but not in) the pooh, and screamed “NO!” I took her back to her doggie bed, put her in it and yelled, “If you’re gonna BLEEP in the house, at least have the decency to BLEEP on the concrete!!!” It was another one of those Clark Griswold Jelly-of-the-month-club moments. Cesar Millan I am not. Saint subject to display my sin I am.
She responded to my oh-so-effective shepherding skills by stealthily repeating her efforts the very next morning on the very same carpet that Katie and I had spent the previous evening cleaning. Straight to jail she went. This time the “butt-scoot” was ineffective as I noticed she was still sporting an “anus adornment.” I confined her to her kennel for the day and announced to all that I would not be cleaning her or her crap up anymore, and she would remain confined until such time as someone rose to the challenge. I was done with dung and if it’s solitude she wanted solitary she’d get! As I stuffed her in her kennel, she could only offer back that “forgive me Father for I have sinned” look. Well too bad for her, grace had already left the building.
Except for short excursions outside for food and potty breaks, she stayed in her kennel all day Monday. Every time someone moved she whimpered. I left her in there when we went to bed and she whined loudly through the night until about 2:00 a.m. when I just couldn’t take it anymore. Indeed, my mercy manifested and I moved her kennel outside to the back porch and made her stay out there. My last thought before sweet slumber finally arrived was of someone’s escaped pet boa constrictor serendipitously slithering across my back patio for a midnight snack.
The next morning during my prayer time the Lord took me to this passage - John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. That scripture stuck with me and haunted me all day while I was at work, yet I was determined to teach my kids the discipline of caring for their pet (and CARpet). I remember the Lord asking “How’s that working out for you?” (He speaks to me using my lingo) It was about this time when I discovered my worship Pastor Barry had posted a song on our worship team website - “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”. It also had the trailer from The Passion of the Christ which included the scene of Jesus washing the disciple’s feet. Thanks Bro. http://www.restorationdfw.org/trans/worshipteam/blogger.html
Still battling the God gnaw that evening, I sat restlessly through American Idol. When it was over I asked our little healthcare professional Whitney if she had any rubber gloves. Not three days prior she had a mound of them, but somehow she’s now fresh out. How does THAT happen?! I’ll tell you how – my friend Jesus the Pastoral Poopie Prankster – that’s how!!!! He walks around with His “Holier-than-Thou-I’m-going-to-teach-you-a-lesson-from-the-Son-of-the-Living-God” agenda. Wait a minute, He does walk on water. I guess until I can surf the seas without skis I’ll listen to whatever “message” He’s trying to convey. It’s almost entertaining what methods of influence He’s willing to use.
So with no gloves and a pair of old scissors, and with my trusted assistant (see “observer”) Whitney at the ready, I stepped out to the back porch ready to dine at the buffet of humility, and humble myself under the mighty hiney of Phoebe the Peek-a-POOH-Pooh dog. As I steady myself to extract the nugget of nuisance still dangling from the poop path as an ornament precariously strung on a Christmas tree, I somehow sense this won’t be my last “holiday.”
With a firm grip on her tail and a swift snip or two, all vestiges of canine compost were eliminated. A sweeping broom stroke of the porch and the doggie dooh was broadcast to the dormant southern bermuda sod as fertilizer soon decaying into the nutrients of an organic symphony of sage-like wisdom. The shepherd had tended his sheep as he should have from the start. Doing the right thing in the “end” was a lot less difficult than the refusal to submit and serve.
The frustration of caring for a pet reminds me that we will be frustrated with each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. Instead of cursing the one who drops a deuce on the floor, maybe we just give them some grace and help them clean up their mess. That might even include changing a diaper or two. I’m grateful to all of those who have changed mine. I think I understand why Jesus loved Jacob (the trickster) so much. It also may explain why my hip hurts.