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.
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.
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.
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.