What happens when you weaken to the point of a beautiful cuddly little chocolate brown puppy entering your life after you have booked the overseas trip? Well, let me say that first up, you just concentrate so much on socializing and teaching the puppy all of those things you want him to learn in order to be the perfect dog, that suddenly the trip is upon you and you haven’t organized anyone to care for him, or a suitable place for him to go for those weeks you will be away…
This is exactly the situation we found ourselves in! Way before our beautiful chocolate Labrador Pointer cross puppy Boomer came into our lives, we had a trip to Scotland booked. We just got into the swing of concentrating on caring for and training Boomer at home and at puppy school. Then suddenly the trip was upon us and we were yet to sort out his care while we would be away. Guilt rose in us by the bucket load in us as our options were narrowing by the minute.
At seven months of age, we felt he was too young to be left in kennels, so we tried the house sitting option. Following an interview with a local lady who came with experience and an impressive house sitting resume, we felt quite encouraged, even though she didn’t take terribly naturally to out beautiful fur boy. But, barely hours later the lady texted us to say she was unavailable.
The beautiful young daughter of friends was keen to come and stay, as she loved dogs and adored Boomer. This arrangement sounded positive – and quite possible until we discovered that she left for work in the city at 5.30am to get a car park at the local station and didn’t get home until 7.30 in the evening. Too late for playtime and walks, we reluctantly agreed that this arrangement was just not going to be practicable. What to do?
Mad Paws, of course! This is a booking site that my husband refers to as the ‘Trivago’ for pets! Through the site we came across the loveliest lady, a dog-lover who was looking for home-based work, which suited her family situation better. The whole family popped in just a few days before we left to meet and interview us as well as for the family to meet Boomer. Our lovely carer immediately fell in love with Boomer and they agreed to take him.
The day before we left on the trip, we drove across town and the Dandenong Ranges to the family’s home with its generous yard, which had been well set up for multiple dogs and children. With Boomer’s bed, food bin, treat packs and favourite toys on board, off we went. Nevertheless we felt so utterly guild-ridden, that we felt like we were abandoning our puppy. Indeed, a strange inversion of the Biblical story of the Prodigal Son would not shift from my mind and that of my husband as we drove along.
Boomer settled in immediately. He loved the family and they loved him. He enjoyed the run of their house, beds, couches and kid’s trampoline! Most of all he reveled in the constant company of people and other dogs. Of course, we were not to know this until we got home, despite our lovely carer sending us occasional updates with pictures by text message! We just suffered on that drive home after dropping him off, despite the excitement of the upcoming trip. Somehow, that image of the inverted situation of the Bible story that made us out to be the prodigal parents just would not go away!
Upon our arrival back in Melbourne, our first task was to drive across town again to collect Boomer. The guilt thing set in straight away and the prodigal feelings of ‘desertion’ dogged us (no pun intended!) all the way there. But, like the son in the Biblical story of the prodigal who was received with rapturous joy and unconditional forgiveness by a patient and long-suffering father, Boomer ran to us and launched himself straight into our arms, jumping and licking us for joy while he wagged his tail for all it was worth! He didn’t look back as we left the carer’s and has stuck to us like glue ever since!
I will confess to feeling great relief. And then telling myself not to be ridiculous, as Boomer is just a dog! And despite his size, he is still really a puppy, albeit a great big puppy now. And just as he accepted our departure and our return with his constantly ready unconditional love, I came way with a renewed insight for God’s vast, incredible and ongoing unconditional love for His children, no matter where we go and how long we are away.
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.