Our chocolate Lab cross Pointer puppy has grown into a big boy dog! At thirteen months, I guess he is no longer a puppy except that dog lovers and Lab owners are never backward in coming forward to tell us how long Labrador puppyhoods last. Their quotes vary from eighteen months to eight years! Well, regardless of who is right, we think he has just about stopped growing, at least size-wise! As a little puppy, he was easily bathed in the laundry trough. But as he grew, his ever lengthening legs and increasing weight made it impossible for his ageing puppy parents to lift him into that trough as well as to reach up to his head, neck and back for the bath process to happen.
So, we contented ourselves with the ‘sponge bath’ approach. A brisk wipe down, especially after he had been digging in the garden, or standing outside in the rain as he pleaded to us with his eyes to let him come inside! That was all very fine until recently when he took a dip in one of the lovely waterways in the parks around where we live. He loved chasing those water birds which inhabit our neighbourhood, and which excite and arouse him with their flapping wings and noisy squawking. Trouble was, when Boomer was enticed back out of the water, he brought multiple odours home with him and that challenged us to the fact that he really needed a proper bath.
While my husband searched online for mobile dog wash outfits to come to us, a couple of days later I stood in our ensuite bathroom and experienced the proverbial light bulb moment! Our house is of the vintage that spa baths were routinely included in the ensuite bathrooms, but as we had moved to this house in a time of extreme drought, we hardly ever used it as we couldn’t justify the amount of water required to even part fill it. So it sits there for me to dust every now and then…
But on that morning as I stood and looked at the spa bath, I knew we had our solution to achieving a clean dog. And sure enough, with my husband to restrain Boomer and reward him with doggy treats for standing reasonably still, I shampooed and rinsed him all over with comparative ease. Afterwards, we rubbed him down with towels, relieved that his shorthaired coat meant he dried quite quickly. And, when let outside, we expected the doggy-dirt rolling to begin, but I will confess I was happy that he didn’t tackle the dirt at all.
Rather, he retrieved an old bone, flopped down on the patio and chewed on that piece of bone until it was time for his afternoon walk. When we brought him in and harnessed him up for his walk, I marveled at how soft his coat had become and how lovely, clean and fresh he smelled. The sun gleamed even more brightly than usual on his richly dark chocolate coloured coat as we walked on that afternoon.
As I thought about what an easy process to achieve the solution we had discovered on that day, I reflected similarly on how I too, love to be clean. And, having worked and ministered in a couple of African countries where the water is frequently not fresh, clean or plentiful, I give thanks to God every day for the abundant, clean and fresh supply of water with which we are blessed, even in times of drought. I thought too about how we can be made clean in and by our Lord Jesus Christ. Whether that is a spiritual cleansing in His blood that was shed for us, or in the literal and symbolic cleansing of being sprinkled with or baptized in water, which is so essential for life, we can be made clean in Him.
Though it occurred many years ago, I can still recall my baptism by immersion in every detail, right down to the felt presence of the Holy Spirit on that evening. And as a pastor, it has been my very great privilege to have been able to baptize numbers of people, similarly by immersion into life and faith communities of God. These have taken place in various places – including in the absence of a baptistery – backyard swimming pools! It does not matter where or how; it is the celebration of a person’s cleansing in our Lord Jesus Christ that counts.
Being cleansed serves to chart the journey of life with our Lord. And like the celebrations which our Lord shared healings and in parables such as the lost coin, sheep and son, our Lord’s joy know no bounds when a person begins the journey with Him – and being cleansed in His life-giving water too.
Glynis Dickins is an (almost!) retired minister who has pastured in several Baptist churches across the northern suburbs of Melbourne. She is passionate about family, people, writing and the many ways dogs can bring joy and laughter into our lives.