Some months ago, my husband and I became the proud owners of a beautiful little 7 week-old Chocolate Labrador X German Short-haired Pointer puppy (pictured below). Our lives changed instantly. It was as though another child had come into our home as we adjusted to the needs and desires of the new addition. Since that (largely unplanned!) day, we have been experiencing the steepest learning curve we could ever have imagined. Buying the food, beds, collars and leashes, doggy-doodle bags, snack pouches, a food ball and of course toys was just the beginning.
Thankfully, ‘Boomer’ is a fast learner and is always eager to please. With us, he graduated from puppy training school pretty easily, was toilet-trained from night three onwards, and hasn’t dug up too much of the garden thus far. At six months, he is a happy friendly and very sociable puppy who loves to meet everyone and their dogs on our daily walks. And this in part, is because we have invested much love, time and patience as we try to teach our dog good behaviour and manners. We recognize we still have a long way to go and obedience school will happen again when the cold of winter passes.
The other day, we traveled across town to look after our grandchildren for an afternoon followed by sharing dinner with the family. This was a great time to catch up with our son, daughter-in-law and children, but we worried about leaving the puppy outside for all of that time, particularly as we don’t have much shelter in case of rain. Not to worry, my husband assured me, he would drive home and back mid afternoon, give Boomer his dinner and leave him in the laundry. However, not twenty minutes into his trip, an anguished phone call told me such a trip was impossible as he was stuck in peak traffic.
Back with the family, we enjoyed dinner before setting out for home as soon as peak hour had passed. As we pulled into our driveway, who should come bouncing along our front path to greet us but Boomer who looked very pleased with himself, as well as being pleased to see us. We were aghast! How had he got there? Had he learned to jump a fence or a gate? Our hearts thumped as we began to consider possibilities such as how long he had been able to wander and did he in fact wander? Immediately we gave thanks to God that he hadn’t run away.
As I continued to speculate how he got to the front of the house, my husband confessed that he might have left the side porch gate open. Sure enough, there it was, open for the world to come and go and of course to allow one chocolate brown puppy to wander around the front of our house and beyond! Once we were all inside, with Boomer fed and settled on my husband’s lap (yes, he still fits as long as they are on a recliner chair!), we began to think about all of those nervous possibilities of Boomer being outside and unsupervised. Only later, did I think about what we have invested in Boomer thus far. I arrived at a tentative conclusion that what we have invested in teaching and training him (as well as loving and feeding him!) appears to be paying off. As we have offered, so he has accepted that our place is where he belongs.
I thought about how our lives change when we become parents. How much we are called upon to contribute into the lives of our children, beyond basic provisions of food, shelter, safety, education, health and well being. We don’t just love them, we nurture, guide, mentor, instruct, correct, encourage, support them all of the time they are entrusted into our care. Above, we instill in them a sense of confidence in belonging to our families, local communities and communities of faith.
In his funny and adorably chocolate brown, waggy-tailed and exuberantly trusting way, Boomer’s unconditional devotion for us has been a timely reminder that he has absorbed a sense of belonging with us. How much greater then, is our sense of belonging to the God who loves us so much, as we anchor our lives more fully and completely in the love, joy and assurance of belonging in community with Him?
Glynis Dickins is an ordained Baptist minister who has served in a number of churches across the northeastern suburbs of Melbourne. She loves the multi-cultural nature of Melbourne and to meet with people from many backgrounds in churches and communities where she has served.