Saturday, July 4, 2009

This is our Tinkerbell -- or Jezebel, depending on how well she is behaving that day. We adopted her in January 2008 from the Delaware County SPCA. We went that day "just to check it out", you know, "just see what they had". All words that were used when we left the house that day. We had just put down my "best friend" of fourteen years, Palmer; she'd become ill suddenly and seemed to beg me for help with each breath. Scott was on the road that week, and we had planned to take her last ride to the vet when he got home; she couldn't wait. She hadn't eaten for days, and whether it was pain or just the confusion created when her "Mommy" couldn't seem to fix what was wrong, her eyes gripped my heart in desperation. I left a tearful message on Scott's voicemail that Christine and I were headed to the vet for a quiet, sorrowful departure that night.
It had been less than a month since then. I didn't want a replacement -- there could never be one. I wanted time to grieve. I wanted, when the time came, to go out and get a dog because we wanted a dog. My family wanted something completely different. Truthfully, Palmer had been a little strange -- she was my dog, my best friend, and everyone else, she tolerated -- and not always so well. My family saw this as their chance. While I know they cared for her, they didn't love her like I did. They saw her as "not quite what they wanted"; now she was gone. Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to paint anyone in a bad light, but this was a family we were building, and "my old friend" was exclusive. They never complained or wished that she was not around, no matter how many times she grumbled, growled or snapped at them; they just saw an opportunity to add another piece to the equation that we all could enjoy. And that is exactly what we did.
Of all the dogs that day, "the tennis ball dog" was the one that everyone gravitated toward -- everyone except me. I assumed the part of the taskmaster. "We're just looking, remember?" "I thought we weren't getting a dog today." "We didn't even get the house ready. What're we gonna do -- just turn her loose and hope she's housebroken?" I think at some point Scott snapped back into reality and said, "I'm sorry, Babe, did you say something?" But it was all over for practicality. "The Tennis Ball Dog", AKA "Tinkerbell" had them from the door. She was sitting, pressed up against the front of her cage, tennis ball in her mouth and tail wagging. When she stood we realized it was actually her tail that was wagging the rest of her, and she was a sweetheart. She'd been turned in by the police in a "round-up" of dogs whose owners were suspected of dog fighting; she bore some scars on her face, but apparently, not on her heart. She has turned out to be "our dog" and, in her own way, she is something different to each one of us. To Scott she is "a man's dog", greeting him at the back gate when he comes home and sharing leftovers with him at the kitchen sink. To Joe, she is his buddy, cuddling at the foot of his bed at night. To Christine, "Belle" is "the cool dog" that attracts a crowd wherever we go and, as a result, makes Christine the center of attention. To Madison, Tinkerbell is still "the tennis ball dog", waiting for Maddy to come along and make a huge fuss, talking baby talk and scratching behind her ears while she plants a big kiss right at the end of Tinkerbell's nose. When it comes to Olivia, Belle is her partner in crime -- standing by with ears upright and head cocked, watching Olivia's every move, knowing that somewhere along the line Olivia will unearth some treasure or uncover some treat that Belle can explore and gobble up. To me, Tinkerbell is mine -- not like Palmer was, never like Palmer -- but she lays with me, seeks me to let her out or feed her, loves to walk with me, and assumes sitting in the passenger seat of my truck is her God-given right. She comes when I call her, runs through her repertoire of tricks on my command, and most days, follows me from one end of the house to the other.
Scott and I are reminded frequently of just how blessed we are, and today we realized that, right down to our dog, God is good to us. We could have fared much worse than our "sometimes Jezebel", but even with the loss of a "good friend" God chose to bless us with someone whose company we could all enjoy.

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