Thoughts on pets . . .

Today is National Dog Day.  It may not actually be that important to any one who doesn’t have a dog, or perhaps even to some people who do have a dog.  Until a couple of years ago, such a holiday would not have meant much to me.  In fact, I probably would have thought it was silly.

I think much differently now.

I first met Oscar at Thanksgiving in 2007.  I was at my grandparents’ house and I saw my youngest brother swinging him around with a knotted rope in my grandparents’ living room.  I wasn’t really a fan of Oscar because he looked like a Chihuahua to me and in my opinion was just a little “yipper dog.”   I was a bit surprised that Oscar was in the house because Grandpa and Grandma (to my knowledge) had never had a dog in the house.  My grandparents had always had lots of animals on the farm, but as their health declined and they were inside more and more, they got little Oscar for company.

Oscar puppy

Oscar as a puppy

The next time I remember seeing him, was Thanksgiving of 2013.  Grandpa had passed away several years earlier and Oscar had stayed on as Grandma’s companion.  He had aged in those years and had begun having seizures.

We had Thanksgiving lunch at my aunt’s house.  I was getting ready to leave, but thought I would take all of my kids up to grandma’s house so that they could see where I used to spend so much time as a kid (Grandma was still at my aunt’s house).  When I opened the front door, Oscar ran out into the driveway.  I didn’t know if he would run off, so went to catch him.  One of my older kids caught him, picked him up and carried him into the house.  Once in the house, he squirmed out of their arms and fell pretty hard to the floor.  He started having a seizure and I immediately sent my kids back to the van.  I got down on the floor and held Oscar tightly between my knees.  His dark eyes just stared into mine, moistened with the tears that often accompany his seizures.  In just a few moments, I bonded with him.

As we headed back to Illinois, I had a lot of time to think on the drive.  My mind regarding pets had changed quickly in those short minutes that I was holding Oscar.  My thoughts became more substantive as I passed the miles on the way home.  I was a bit confused because I could tell that my opinions were changing.  My resistance to emotional attachments to pets was weakening.

If you know me, I filter everything through the Bible, so I started thinking of “pets” in the Bible.  (I understand the context and the interpretation of the Bible story I’m getting ready to cite; I’m not misapplying it, I’m simply explaining something that dawned on me from the passage).  The “pet” that came to mind was in the story that Nathan the prophet told to David about the man who had many sheep, yet stole the singular pet sheep of his neighbor in order to feed his guest.  David was so angry at the injustice that he wanted to execute the man who stole the lamb.  It dawned on me that David didn’t think like I did.  I would have thought, “make him repay sheep for sheep, it’s just an animal.”  David understood (and so did Nathan the prophet) the affection that rests between an animal and a person; he considered the violation worthy of death.  With that thought circulating, I realized what Oscar meant to my Grandma.  I then realized that Oscar had become very valuable to me.

I talked to my mom on the phone and told her that if for some reason Oscar outlived Grandma, that I would be glad to have him if it was okay with everyone else.  I didn’t know that it would be so soon, but Grandma only lived another couple of months; my mom and her siblings decided it was okay for me to have Oscar.

I knew how much Oscar meant to Grandma, but it wasn’t until Grandma had passed away and my aunt posted a picture of Oscar staring at Grandma’s empty bed that I realized how much Grandma meant to Oscar.

Oscar at Grandma's Bed

Oscar staring at Grandma’s empty bed

My family has had Oscar for about a year and a half.  I can only imagine the change in his life going from living alone with grandma to a house with 7 (now 8) children in it.  But he has adapted very well.  His favorite part of the day is clearly 3:30 pm when all of the kids come in the house from school.  He can hardly contain his excitement as he runs around everyone’s feet greeting them as they come in the house.  Of course he still has seizures, but with medicine, they are not too frequent and not too severe.  He LOVES milk bones and table food (he only eats regular dog food when he thinks he can’t get anything else).  He sleeps on the lower bunk bed with Joel; he sits on the couch between the kids during our Bible time; he comes to the dining room when we’re eating; he always meets us at the back door when we come home; he barks at the post man (even the other day while having a seizure); he’s protective of baby Gilead when I get down on the floor to play with him; I could say much more. . . Basically, he’s added a new dimension of love to our home.

He fulfilled his purpose as a companion for my grandparents.  Now his purpose is to bring love and affection to our family and he is doing a very good job.  Oscar is almost 10 years old; I dread the day when his little heart will stop beating, when it does it will break the hearts of a lot of people in this family.

Happy National Dog Day Oscar!  You are a gift from God, created to bring joy and comfort first to my Grandparents, now to me and my family!

Oscar on my lap

Me and Oscar