Who Rescued Who? Lessons on Life and Love that I’ve Learned from Rescuing My Pups – Love isn’t about You

Disclaimer: I am not a professional dog rescuer (if that’s even an actual title). I do not volunteer at a rescue on a regular basis. However, I am an animal lover and a firm believer in rescuing. This blog and the ones to follow in the series are simply my opinions and the lessons I have learned.

Note: This is the second in a series of blogs. The first blog has a bit more background information in it, including information about all the dogs we’ve rescued. If you would like to read it, click here.

Adam and I have said many times that if we had rescued any of our other dogs first we probably wouldn’t still be rescuing. However, Bagel was our first dog, and he was the best dog ever. When people tell us how wonderful we are for rescuing, we have to give all the credit to Bagel. He taught us so much in the few years that we had him, and he is the reason we still rescue today. Many of the lessons I will discuss in this blog series are from Bagel, but the one that sticks out the most is –

Sometimes, most of the time, love isn’t about you.

Animals are known for their self-preservation instinct. The reason that they can, for the most part, survive on the street is because, above all else, they take care of themselves. On three very distinct occasions Bagel proved this theory wrong.

Some friends of ours used to bring their daughter over to our house. She was at the crawling stage. We would sit on the couch and talk while keeping an eye on her. We noticed that Bagel would follow her wherever she went, which we thought was sweet enough. He loved her. However, the sweetness didn’t stop there. Bagel walked directly beside her while she crawled along, unless she was nearing something he deemed dangerous (a coffee table, corner of a wall, etc.). Then he would step in front of her, creating a barrier with his body between her and whatever danger he perceived. She would proceed to crawl directly into him, as he let out a little whimper with the head-butt. Now, you would think that once he figured out that her head-butting his ribs didn’t feel good, he wouldn’t do it anymore. However, he was persistent in this endeavor to keep her safe. He consistently interceded whenever he observed danger, sacrificing his own comfort to keep her safe.

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One of Bagel’s favorite spots, nestled between my legs and the couch.

On another occasion, I had just been pink slipped at my job. Adam was at work and couldn’t be there with me, so a Friends marathon, good ol’ Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food, and Bagel were my only sources of comfort. I was sitting on my couch, crying, watching Friends, eating Phish Food out of the carton (because, really, with no job, what was the point in a bowl?), with Bagel in my lap – sad picture, I know. For quite some time Bagel sat in his typical position – his body, length wise, on my legs, head on my stomach – watching me eat and cry. Then, out of nowhere, he nudged the tub of ice cream to the side with his nose and crawled up so that his nose was touching my chin. Now, Bagel was just like any other dog and rarely turned down an opportunity to eat. I once made enough tuna salad for a week, but accidentally left it on a low table for a minute, and Bagel downed the entire bowl! We’re talking six cans of tuna! So, it’s not like this dog didn’t like eating. However, he knew that in that moment my need for comfort came before his desire for food. He sacrificed the opportunity to partake in some chocolatey goodness to comfort me, and for a dog (heck, for most humans) that’s a huge deal.

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You can’t really tell it here, but he’s chewing on a rawhide, one of his favorite treats and a testament to how much he really did enjoy food.

On a food related note, the final time that Bagel showed me selfless love came at dinner time, not for me, but for him. I was fixing his and Bella’s food. We gave them half a can of wet food each mixed in with their dry food. I had already put the dry food in their bowls, so they were alert and ready for the food, both doing their cute, little, “feed me” dance at my feet. As I went to pick up the can of wet food, I accidentally dropped it on my pinky toe. It smashed my toe, cut my toe open, and I’m pretty sure broke my toe. I forgot about their food, began to cry, and hollered for Adam. I made it to a chair for fear of passing out or getting sick. Bagel followed me to the chair and sat beside me the entire time I cried. Bella, on the other hand, never moved from her spot, staring up at her food. After about ten minutes, Adam went over to finish fixing the dogs’ food and feed them. However, even when Adam put Bagel’s bowl down, he wouldn’t leave my side to go eat. His human was not okay, and in that moment, nothing else mattered. Even though a few minutes earlier he had been doing the “feed me” dance, he knew that now was not the time for food. He again, put my need for comfort before his need for food. Bella, however, scarfed her food down in 10 seconds flat and would have moved on to Bagel’s if we had let her.

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Who wouldn’t feel comforted by this face? Precious!

Scripture calls us to “Love your neighbor as yourself”. If we do that right, it looks a lot like the love that Bagel had for our friend’s baby and me. Often times we have to put our own desires to the side in order to be a good friend, spouse, parent, etc. Ministry requires sacrifice, and in his own way Bagel ministered to me on those occasions.

 

“Who Rescued Who? Lessons on Life and Love that I’ve Learned from Rescuing My Pups: Baggage and Grace”

Disclaimer: I am not a professional dog rescuer (if that’s even an actual title). I do not volunteer at a rescue on a regular basis. However, I am an animal lover and a firm believer in rescuing. This blog and the ones to follow in the series are simply my opinions and the lessons I have learned.

I’m allergic to dogs, yet Adam and I have two Beagles and have had two additional ones that have passed on. Many people have asked why we rescue dogs if I’m allergic to them, and the simple answer (that I don’t always give because I fear sounding silly) is – it’s a calling. We feel that rescuing animals is a part of our ministry, and we have dreams about it becoming a larger part of our ministry one day in the future. Sometimes, I doubt the calling, thinking that it’s just something we enjoy, and it’s silly to think that ministry can involve animals. However, God has taught me so much from the experience of rescuing, and each of our pups have impacted my life in such a powerful way, that there is no denying God’s hand in this. Besides, I believe that scripture does support ministry involving animals. One of the first tasks assigned to Adam by God in Genesis was to rule over the animals, which obviously involves caring for them. And if we are to take the verse about doing everything to the glory of God seriously then that means caring for them to the best of our ability.

How’d We Get Here?

Rescuing was not something we ever planned to do. We kind of stumbled upon it. At my previous school, the science teacher on my team had a chinchilla named Gizmo, and I loved that thing! I decided to take it home over Spring Break to see if I wanted to get one, and as expected, I loved it and decided I must have one. So after Spring Break, we went to PetSmart to look into them, but we barely even gave them a second glance because of the oh-so-precious doggies that were there from a shelter in Paris, KY. We found a pup we loved and decided to pray about it, especially knowing my allergies, and go up there the following weekend to see about it. Well, the next weekend we went up to see about that specific dog that we had found at PetSmart, but it was a different dog that found its way into our heart. As we were walking through the shelter, laying down in the back of one of the kennels was a Basset/Beagle mix. He barely even opened his eyes when we passed, but Adam was interested in him, so we asked to see him. We took him outside of the shelter to play with him, but all he wanted to do was lay under our chairs. That seemed like the right speed pup for us, so we rescued Oliver (his previous name, which we later changed to Bagel) that day!

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Seriously, the best dog ever! We loved him so much!

Since then, rescuing has been a huge part of our lives. As I stated before, I have learned so many lessons in the past eight or so years from the experience itself, as well as the individual pups we have welcomed into our home. In this blog, and upcoming blogs, I’m going to explore these lessons:

Lesson One – We all have baggage, and as a result, we all need grace.

All the pups we have rescued have come to us with issues, some more significant than others. When we took Bagel to the vet after rescuing him he had lung worms (which we didn’t even know were a thing) and a heart murmur (which would affect him greatly later). Not only did we have all the responsibilities of being first time pet owners, but we also had a VERY sick pup that was on a lot of meds. Bella came next, because Bagel needed a friend of course! We picked her from the rescues staying at Luxury Pets (the place we board our dogs – sidenote: I highly recommend them. They are fantastic!). She stuck out to us because she was cowering in the corner refusing to interact with human or dog. We chose her because we doubted anyone else would ever notice her. We’re pretty sure she was abused before Luxury Pets found her since she spent the majority of her first year with us hiding behind our couch (still a favorite spot of hers during storms) and cowering every time we came near her.

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It took a long time to get here! Also, believe it or not, she actually started our underweight, as did all our dogs. 

Lolo was our third dog. We initially spotted her at the PetSmart in Lexington when we were going “just to look”. The sign on her kennel said “unique gait”, so of course we had to see how she walked. Ya’ll, I had never seen anything like it! She was the most precious thing! Her back legs moved in unison, bouncing side to side, and her front legs marched straight up and down, not bending at all. She also had very few teeth, which just added to the preciousness. We spent about an hour with her. An hour of me telling Adam how much we needed her. We left her, with Adam jokingly saying, “It would take a sign from Jesus for us to get a third dog”. Well, the very next weekend we went to the local PetSmart to pick something up and guess who was there?! Yep, that’s right, Lolo! Adam pointed her out, and with tears in my eyes I shouted “It’s Jesus!”. We immediately went home to get our dogs to make sure they would gel well and brought her home with us that evening. We, however, had no idea how much that precious walk would impact our lives. She was a handful, to say the least.

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Welcome to life with three dogs! Didn’t Adam look thrilled?! Lolo is the one sitting beside Adam.

Then came Theo. On top of many other issues, he was recovering from mange. Bella and Theo (the two dogs we have now) had major separation anxiety, and still do to a minor extent. Together, they have destroyed/damaged rugs, blinds, pillows, kennels, walls, etc.

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This was the first day we met Theo. He was, and still is, so happy to have attention.

As I said in the beginning, each of our dogs came with issues. We did, and still do, get frustrated with them, but then we remember that they haven’t always had the life they do now. We don’t know what they went through to cause their behavior. They have baggage, but we all do; it’s part of life. However, when we encounter baggage, whether it be in humans or animals, we are called to go against our natural instincts of becoming frustrated, and instead extend grace. Over time, God has taught us that this “baggage” takes time to process. Rescues are not going to go from street dogs to Pet of the Year overnight. It takes time, patience, gentleness…it takes grace. God has transferred this to our ministry by showing us that when we encounter people who have baggage that is different than ours (because, let’s be honest, that’s the baggage we get frustrated at. We have empathy for baggage similar to our own), we need to extend them that same grace. The same grace that God extends to us. Over time, that grace changes people…and puppies.

 

Initially, when I got the idea for this blog, it was just going to be one blog with a few lessons I’ve learned from rescuing. However, as I began typing, so many memories and lessons flooded my mind, so I decided to make this a series of blogs. I’m not really sure how many. That depends on how many lessons I think of, but stay tuned for more!