Friday, April 3, 2009

What Gives Us Paws

I always swore that I would be the perfect canine parent. That was, of course, before I adopted a puppy.

As I surfed the Humane Society website, enraptured by a four-month-old German shepherd mix, my friend warned me, “Don’t you get that one. He looks like nothing but trouble.” A day later, trouble came home with me. I named him Isaiah for the prophetic twinkle in his eye.

That gleam never left Isaiah’s eye as he set out on a puppy path of destruction, chewing up cell phone chargers, computer cords, flip-flops, eight leashes, and a wooden knickknack my grandpa made. He tore through screens, ripped up rugs, gnawed on the coffee table, and peed on my friend’s laundry pile. He was an indiscriminate eater of chew toys, rat poison (with lots of doggie Vitamin K to combat it), and tons of poop. We tried prescription medicine to conquer that last bad habit. When that failed, I sprinkled cayenne pepper on all of the piles in the backyard. Isaiah took a large fecal bite, teared up, sneezed, and kept on chewing.

We’ve traveled a long journey, Isaiah and me, on a road that has included training classes, multiple vet visits, a therapist, and Prozac. I’ll let you guess who needed what.

At almost four years old, Isaiah is much calmer now, but his obstinacy abides. This past week he aided and abetted his friend Claude in ripping a downspout from my friend’s home in hot pursuit of an elusive chipmunk. They also hit a gold mine – a wascally wabbit’s den with five dead bunnies, one of which Claude brought into the house as a gift.

Underneath Isaiah’s annoying antics, there is an unwavering loyalty, a deep affection, and an unconditional love. He repeatedly begs me the question, “How do we love those we cannot control?” How do we care for those who make us laugh one moment and cry the next? Who bring us endless joy and fits of frustration? Who break our hearts and heal our wounds?

I believe we take the risk of love, both human and canine, because it is in the messiness that we discover our own weaknesses, our longing for wholeness, and our need for redemption. When we dare to let go long enough to love, we recognize the gift that was waiting for us all along. And we realize the ultimate truth: We love because Someone first loved us.