People say that when you get a puppy, you don’t just meet your neighbours, but you get to know them! Well, this has certainly been our experience. Out walking with our ever growing, ever loving, utterly and extremely enthusiastically sociable chocolate lab x pointer puppy Boomer, we have met so many wonderful people in our community.
Local people, also exercising their dogs, frequently stop for a chat and a chance for our dogs to meet – and of course for the dogs to meet by nose, from face to tummy and tail! While our doggies sniff each other’s rear ends, we chat about our pooches’ progress as we get to know fellow dog walkers…
One of the lovely families we have come to know live just a few houses away from us and around the corner. As we back onto a park, their house is located directly opposite that park. They are the proud and loving owners of ‘Monty’, a similarly lively and extremely sociable border collie who is also 11 months old. Like Boomer, Monty is still a puppy, despite looking quite grown up. But unlike Boomer, Monty’s ‘pack’ (family) consists of a much younger and fitter mum and dad than us as well as two active and loving primary school-aged children. This gorgeous family spends a lot of time in the park opposite their house (and behind ours), playing cricket, as well as playing ‘fetch the ball’ with Monty.
One evening just recently, Monty had run up to our back fence, which I may have mentioned is a rural fence rather than the high wooden fences that feature in many suburbs. Boomer had likewise run down to the back fence and the two dogs enjoyed a reunion bark across the post and wire barrier that came between them. Shortly after Monty’s family retrieved him from our back fence and returned to their game, when they became aware that Boomer had sailed happily over the fence to join them. With much joy and gusto he launched himself right into their midst as he tried to rescue Monty’s ball!
Knowing Boomer and where he lived, our neighbours grabbed his collar – not a difficult task as he responded to their calls easily and playfully. Then these lovely people proceeded to walk him around the street to our front door. Imagine our shock and surprise when the doorbell rang to be greeted by our own dog, who I might add, looked extremely pleased with himself! Now we found ourselves facing something of a dilemma. However reluctantly we felt about reducing the size of Boomer’s yard (which thankfully, is a big one), we realized we needed to section off a part of it, not to keep him away from Monty, but primarily to keep him safe.
Although we realized that Boomer was not an ‘escape artist’ for the sake of getting out and going for a run, we also realized the importance of ‘community’ (pack!) for our puppy. Since then we have redoubled our efforts to go out with Boomer, not just for daily walks, but we take him to our favourite dog-friendly coffee shops where he can learn to mix with other people and dogs without jumping all over everyone and licking them to pieces! With regular doggy training school classes as well, we are often exhausted as we try to offer him such a sociable life!
I got to thinking about the basic human need in all of us; and that is of the company and fellowship of other humans, from family to groups, clubs, workplaces, neighbourhoods, sports, local communities – and faith gatherings. As the only two fellow-members of Boomer’s ‘pack’, we owe it to our puppy for him to be able to socialize, experience and enjoy life as a dog and not just as our plaything at home and in the backyard.
Likewise, people everywhere need love and acceptance in any and all of the above-mentioned contexts. And nowhere is any ‘pack-leader’ as loving and unconditionally accepting of all people, than our Lord Jesus Christ himself. Just as he loves and accepts any and all who would seek to know him and find acceptance in him, all are welcome at his table and in his community. If we struggle to accept anyone and everyone in our community, let me urge us to remember the example of our Lord and Saviour. And if that isn’t easy (no, some people are not always easy), then can I encourage you to think of Boomer who just wants to love everyone – and lick you all to bits and back again.
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.