The New Puppy

Our dog died last year. She was a hand-me-down from the college days of one of our kids. Parents inherit things such as these from time to time; that’s just how it works. She was a remnant from when the crew was in full swing, and we bonded well.

Needless to say, the death of that dog lay heavy on our hearts, and after a full year of grieving, we now longed for another companion, the kind with a wagging tail.

Pete did his research and found the perfect puppy for us (according to the pedigree). After watching him drool over it, I felt rather lucky to have been considered as his bride years back. I didn’t exactly come with papers or a family lineage attached. I’m sure my relatives were wonderful people, but as far as I know, I wasn’t registered lest you count my birth certificate, Baptismal papers, and the marriage decree stating I was his and he was mine.

We crossed two state lines to pick up the puppy, traveled through a snow storm, and arrived with an official vehicle break down needing dealership repair over a major holiday in order to retrieve our retriever. In the end, she was a dandy.

She traveled back beautifully as we cuddled her in a blanket and stopped along the byways of life to let her go so-to-speak. She looked great in her new kennel we purchased for the occasion and thus it began. Her toys were pink, vet visits were scheduled, and the puppy food purchased was highly recommended.

Three times a night, we (meaning Pete) are getting up with her to let her out. Sometimes it is successful and other times not. I’ve been penned up in the kitchen with her for seven days straight to be exact, but who’s counting…and we are cheerleading her on as duty calls.

Truth is we are pooped. At this stage of our lives remembering what went into training a puppy had been stored neatly away in our memory banks for safe keeping. Now that the flashbacks are becoming reality, we’re learning quickly. Just who is training who is yet to be determined but suffice it to say, we know the investment will be worth it.

The reality check between the two of us goes something like this.

Pete: “I just want to sit with her in the chair and do a little reading tonight.”

Me: “She’s not 20 years old in puppy years yet. It might have to wait a bit.”

She’s adorable when she sleeps, cuddles, and does what she is asked. For every step forward there is at least one back but learn we all are. We’re learning to put things out of reach to make the curve of success more manageable. We’re learning that piddle-pads double as a chew toys for no extra cost. We’re learning that love takes time and grace sustains. Harsh tones used will drive her away too easy, and she will repeat her mistakes to her detriment.

Sort of reminds me of Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it.”

It’s our job to protect as her overseer. When we get our new puppy to walk in obedience, it’s for her protection, not because we want to suck all of the fun out of life. On the contrary, we want her to live a long and fruitful life.

Ephesians 6:1–3 reflects on this. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise) so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Many years from now when we sit by the fire with doggy at our feet, these puppy days will be long forgotten. Why just today she ran to the door TWICE and wanted to be let out, and it’s only day 7 on the farm.

I’ll keep you posted from time to time on how it is going. Thanks for being a part of it all. And by the way, her name is Maddie Francine. Although a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, this is the name we chose. Amen.

Kathleen Kjolhaug, OblSB

This article was first published in Theology in the Trenches, a column written by oblate Kathleen Kjolhaug. Posted with permission. Read more articles on her blog, Theology in the Trenches.

Photo: Sisters Colleen Quinlivan, Margaret Mandernach and Luanne Lenz (left to right) enjoying a sweet dog’s companionship. Taken by Sister Nancy Bauer