“I think your dog got out,” she said when I came around the corner. “My boys opened the front door, and she ran off.”
She was still speaking while I was flying toward the front yard. The way it was said so casually indicated to me that she had no idea the jog I was about to take. Or the danger that my pet was in.
It was pouring rain, and I had dashed out without shoes so my socks were soaking wet in seconds. I could see her way up ahead, nose to the ground, oblivious to the cars zipping by.
This wasn’t the first chase I had been on since getting her. I had no idea when I was researching dog breeds and which one to get that this would be something to contend with.
She had been born and raised in a place that wasn’t the best. When I got to the location, there were beagle puppies running everywhere. The mom hid under an old beat-up car and looked at me with sad eyes. I didn’t know about puppy mills back then, but the conditions looked rough. When I took her to the vet because she had so many parasites, I was given medication actually to save her life.
“If you hadn’t taken her in, she would have died soon,” I was told. She was so wild and full of energy that I would have never known.
It appeared to be a farm that hadn’t been taken care of, so dog breeding had been thrown in to raise funds. There were so many dogs going in all directions that I decided to sit on a gravel path to see what would happen.
A very tiny girl puppy came and started pulling on my shoelace. The harder I tried to get it away from her, the more ferocious she held on and threw in a little growl while wagging her tail. When she was tired of that, she curled up in my lap.
“She’s the runt of the litter,” the breeder said. So was I, and she became mine.
My backyard had no fence, but we were told she was so small that we could probably catch her. Probably not. A chain-link fence had to go up immediately.
I took her to obedience classes. While all the other students ran to their owners, she visited everyone else and their dogs around the room. I wasn’t even an afterthought.
“Beagles have a heart of gold, but they will not listen. They will follow a scent and forget what is around them completely. They get focused and do not hear. It’s really difficult to train that out of them.”
So I ran down the sidewalk yelling her name, trying to catch her attention during a spring thunderstorm. We never went out the front door, and the people there were looking to buy something listed in the paper.
A neighbor waved at me from his garage as I tried to get closer to her. All of them had seen this happen so many times between the two of us.
She would spend a few moments on one spot of grass and then suddenly zoom away as if triggered by a smell of something she just had to investigate.
It ended the same way every single time. I was now blocks from home, within inches of her, out of breath, and she would realize I was behind her.
“Libby!” I would say for the millionth time, and she would stop.
“You stay.” And she would, now worn out from her half-crazed jaunt.
She wasn’t sitting still out of realizing she had done wrong; she was exhausted and wanted a lift back home.
Curling into a small ball, she would wait until I picked her up to carry her.
I walked back into my house with a dripping wet dog. I peeled off my socks in the kitchen.
“Oh. You caught her,” the lady said, smiling. My hair was dripping into my eyes. One of her teenage boys went through the front door, and Libby charged again, ready to have a second round. I grabbed her before It could happen.
I went over and locked the door. The lady looked at me like I was being rude, locking her son outside.
With a tight grip on the dog, I said,
“Either they stay in the garage or come in the house. I have had my exercise for today.”
I stalked off to find dry towels with her securely in my arms. If given a chance, she would do it all over again. And that lady didn’t get it.
Some would say that an animal can’t control their behavior, such as Libby, who once on a trail had to follow it.
I have met people who have been on that path. It’s operating on no filter and sheer determination to satisfy something that may be a bit out of balance.
During one of my shifts as a shelver at a public library, I was approached by a woman.
“Can you tell me where the adult videos are?” It was a low whisper.
I held a stack of DVDs that I was putting back. I knew what she was asking me, but I decided to pretend I didn’t fully comprehend.
“All of the material for adults is right here. The children’s section is toward the entry.”
I made no eye contact and went back to my task. This was one of those moments when I wished she had gone to the reference desk. I was a lowly shelver, and they were paid and trained to deal with these issues.
“No,” she insisted. This is not what I am looking for. I want movies for adults.”
I held up what I had in my hands.
“These are for adults.”
I was trying to have her give up and walk away. Inwardly, I was screaming for God to help me. I kept my facial expression neutral.
“You don’t seem to understand me,” she retorted. Now she was getting snippy, not realizing I was brushing her off for her good.
“I want movies made for adults only.”
“You are looking right at them,” I said, not budging for the third time.
“I want X-rated movies. Porn! I want porn!” She said this not with an inside voice, and her quest to get what she wanted had overtaken her ability to practice self-control in a public place.
A couple of patrons glanced our way. It was a quiet weeknight, so the crowd was thin, but the older man looking at the history selection looked a bit shocked. I smiled weakly at him. I knew it was part of my job to keep things orderly, and that wasn’t just the books.
My subtle efforts to redirect her had gone unnoticed, so I had to set her straight now. Her drive for something like my beagle escaping was taking her to places she shouldn’t be.
“This is a public library. Are you aware of how the media gets paid for so you and everyone else can come here and check out material for free? Do you know how that system works?”
She blinked when the realization hit her that I was a lot more intelligent than I had come across initially. I didn’t demean her, but with as much professionalism I had within me, I continued to inform her about the ways and means of purchases made so the community at large could enjoy them.
“This is all possible with taxpayer money. Do you think people will sign up to pay for what you are looking for?”
Now she had gone silent. I had killed the mood with talk about taxes. You can pretty much make a room go silent if you start talking about the IRS.
“You aren’t going to find what you are looking for anywhere in this building. Does that make sense?”
“I don’t want to see you wasting your time going from place to place searching for something that doesn’t exist. You will not find that here or at any other locations.”
I was helping her but also sparing other employees from this conversation later.
I kept my voice low and made sure I didn’t make her feel bad. If anyone felt horrible, it was me! I wanted to drop everything and run for the break room. But I fought off my awkwardness to help her understand.
Suddenly, she looked ashamed, mumbled thank you, and walked away.
She just needed someone to put down a boundary to bring clarity.
No one is immune to saying or doing things based on habits or even false ways of thinking. Self-discipline isn’t always at the top of the priority list, and something that starts out innocently can run amuck.
I learned this when I was in elementary school. Every Christmas, my dad would make homemade chip dip. This was the only time of the year that we would have it, and it was my favorite. I basically ate nothing else but that when he brought it out on Christmas Eve. It was like a bowl of an addictive substance I could not leave alone. And every year at midnight, I was violently throwing up.
When I was nine years old, my mom anticipated my upcoming vomit session by addressing me before it hit the table.
“Chris, try not to overeat that this year.” She told me this while he had the mixer going and was in the process of putting it together.
As she gave me this speech, my brother’s girlfriend asked,
“What are you talking about?”
“Chris throws up every year because she overeats chip dip. Every year!” She had to add a sigh like it was the end of the world.
“I will give you a quarter if you don’t get sick this time,” she said.
As the night went by, I thought about the deal struck, and it made me consider my choices. I limited my indulgence. It was my first year that I didn’t have to run for the bathroom in the early hours of Christmas Day. My mother rejoiced and offered me a quarter until my late thirties to ensure I never did it again.
All that was needed was a guideline so I could adjust my actions. While I had to be the guardian of Libby and give assertive instruction to a stranger in the library, I had control over my own fate.
When it gets difficult to see past the addiction or the behaviors that aren’t for your highest good, that’s where God can help. Heaven will come gently to your side and offer assistance so you can advance. It might be in the form of a counselor, a sign that change must occur, or a quarter. In 2 Corinthians 3:17, it says,
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (NIV)
And if you are wondering if God wants to be there for you, read this from Psalm 91,
If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God,
“I’ll get you out of any trouble.
I’ll give you the best of care
if you’ll only get to know and trust me.
Call me, and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times;
I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party.
I’ll give you a long life.” (Message)
All it takes is realizing that you want better for yourself and a simple prayer. Strength will come to you to get past the situation where you can live at a higher level, with no limitations, never feeling restricted or fenced in.