With A Cherry On Top

I called her name from the house.  It was one of those beautiful Sunday afternoons where all the windows in the entire house were open to let in the surprisingly cool breezes that you don’t expect at the end of June.  I called for her again, but she didn’t come.  Her brother, Stinky, had long been in the house after winding himself running up and down the fence a few times with the neighbor dogs.  It wasn’t like them not to come in when I called running side by side.  They had come into the world together, and continue to keep an eye on one another.

“Lily!” I said again hoping she wasn’t going to make me come find her.  When I got no response, I slid on the closest pair of sandals.  I located her under one of our trees throwing up.  Once she got it all out of her system, she did her usual energetic tail wag and came running as if nothing had happened.  I have owned a few dogs in my time, so this didn’t seem too unusual as this has occurred many times before.

I secured the two dogs and went grocery shopping.  I came home to more evidence that Lily’s stomach was not okay.  When I tried to give her a little food a few hours later, she headed straight back outside to be sick again.  At that point, I was beginning to become concerned.  It wasn’t like her to have this happen so many times in a row in such a short space of time.  Of course, it was a Sunday night, so our vet was not open.  I decided to pray before bed, ask God to help her and slept with one of my hands on her next to me.

The following morning, I fed her as and she seemed fine.  Business as usual, so I went to work and texted my daughter early in the afternoon.  I received a response back that all was well.  Then, within a half an hour, another text came saying she was throwing up again.  I came home and watched her travel from spot to spot in my backyard until she no longer had anything left in her stomach.

I placed a call to the vet.  I was told they were all booked up until the following day at 3 pm.  The technician told me not to hesitate to go to an emergency vet overnight, and she said not to feed the dog until morning.  I was to give her a small amount to see if the situation was clearing up.

That evening, Lily was more than upset to see her brother getting dinner and she was not.  Again, she zipped around the house, barked at strangers passing by on the sidewalk and didn’t seem to have anything wrong with her.  No matter how much she looked at me with her pleading hungry eyes, I stood my ground withholding her food until morning.

I woke up the next day, and I said to God: You have promised me that you will help me.  You care about my life and all the things that are in it.  I need an answer to this right now.  I have a 3 o’clock appointment at the vet that isn’t going to be free.  Please show me if I should take her in or not today.  I had enlisted the help of four people who I knew were praying for me.  Some would say: Why waste your prayers on a dog?  I would say:  Why not?  God cares about all aspects of my life.

I gave her a small portion of breakfast and followed her outside.  Along the way, I kept thanking God for the answer.  I didn’t have it yet, but I was saying it anyway.  I also kept saying: Show me the source of this trouble.

Lily walked over to a tree in the middle of the yard and began sniffing around.  I crouched down to see what she was finding so interesting.  On the ground was a bright red pit.  I picked it up to examine it.  It was as if someone had taken a cherry and ate the fruit and spit out the seed.  I thought it was odd, but actually dismissed it.

She headed back for the house with no more ill effects.  I still wasn’t sure what the trouble was, but I had a thought to look up cherries and toxicity to dogs.  What I found astounded me.  Not only can a cherry cause stomach problems for pets, the pit is highly toxic and can cause death.  I sprinted back outside to look for the pit but I couldn’t find it.  I gave my daughters instructions not to let the dogs outside until I had returned later.

As 3 ‘o’clock loomed closer, I kept getting this uneasy feeling.  What if she was really sick, and I didn’t take her in? As I pulled into my driveway, this thought went through my mind: if she doesn’t act sick, keep her home and cancel the appointment.  I found her to be back to her old self.  She sprinted across the yard and didn’t seem to have anymore tummy upset.  As I stood and watched her, I kept thinking…where did that cherry pit come from?  We don’t have cherry trees in my yard, nor had I bought any at the store.

God, where did it come from? I asked inwardly.  I felt I was to look to the left of me.  Across the yard, and slightly hidden by my shed, I saw a neighbors tree blossoming over my fence.  I walked over to examine it and found it full of choke cherries.  Some had fallen over the fence into my yard where my dogs run with hers back and forth. I had found the culprit!

I walked along picking up half eaten berries and other full ones so that no more would be ingested.  I saw my neighbor come out, and I spoke with her about the issue.  She said her dogs had never bothered with it, and she immediately cut the branches back so it was no longer dangling over my fence.  She was not aware of the poisonous nature of the fruit to dogs.

When I look back at the series of events, I can see how I was led to the solution.  I tried not to panic, but I gave God a chance.  Many times, we cannot see the truth because we are so blinded by fear.  My dogs are like my children to me, so when one of them is a little off kilter, so am I.  However, I know that God loves me and wants me to live in peace.  This is why I knew if I asked for guidance, an answer would come.

I cannot tell you how comforting that is to the mind and the spirit.  To let go and cast your care into the hands that made all that is around us.  We are not alone in anything we go through.  The answer may not always show up overnight, but if we keep on listening, don’t fall into despair and let the peace of God surround us, it will make us alert to what action to take in finding a remedy.  We are promised that we can have it all with a cherry on top.

Jeremiah 33:3

“Call to me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” 

 

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Loved From Head to Tail

I flopped into my bed at sunrise after a night of Black Friday shopping. I shivered under the covers as a slight hypothermia had started to set in. In a drowsy state waiting for sleep to fully descend, a picture began to form in my thoughts of my youngest daughter carrying a puppy in her arms. In my mind, I saw her go into her bedroom and shut the door. Then, another scene took its place of my other daughter carrying a puppy into her room and closing a door.

I opened my eyes. Had I been dreaming? I glanced at the clock. Not even a minute had gone by. I was pretty sure I had been awake with my eyes shut. A strange longing to give each girl a dog for Christmas began to grow as I stared up at the ceiling. Like a little nudge by someone saying,

“You want this. You know you do.”

After a few moments of consideration, I began to come up with every reason why I would NOT want this at all!

I just had gone through a horrible divorce.
I just had given away our black lab less than a year prior to a family who loved her. (A fallout from the divorce and lack of being able to take the time to keep her.)
I had never raised two dogs at one time.
Neither girl was asking for a dog for Christmas.

And, then I added this out loud:

“I need them to be free.  I cannot afford to buy dogs right now.”   I knew if I threw that on it, it would not come about.

I turned over satisfied that I had dismissed the entire emotional episode and fell into the most peaceful sleep during the daytime with the sun fully shining.

A week later, I received a phone call.

“I am at an appointment, and there is this lady who has puppies she wants to find good homes for before Christmas.  I was thinking you could take two. One for each of your girls.”

I had not spoken of my experience, and I had forgotten about it.

“How much does she want for them?” I asked.

“She is giving them away for free.”

“How much?”

My ability to hear correctly shut down because the event from the week before was hitting me full on.

“They are free.”

“How much?”

“Chris, they are free! She wants them to go to good homes.”

“Well, maybe I can take one.”

After I made that statement, I felt a heaviness and slight sadness in my heart. So much so that I had to blurt out the whole story about each girl getting a puppy for Christmas.

Once the entire encounter was out in the open, he said,

“You need to take two.  One for each girl.”

“I guess I will,” I said.

I told him to give my phone number to the puppy owner so she could call me later in the day.  She did so, and I made the mistake of putting the call on speaker phone.  I had each girl hanging on my every word as we spoke.  My oldest daughter wanted a boy, and the other wanted a female.  Taking only one was no longer an option.  I made arrangements to go see the entire litter later that day.

While driving over for our visit, I began to feel myself panic.  I silently went over all my reasons why I should not have been engaging in this.  Once I saw the puppies, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to say no.  As I fretted along, I felt a strong peace settle in my chest.  It was like my mind was whirling a hundred miles an hour, but I had a calm that kept my foot on the gas and the car moving toward the destination.

When we arrived and I knocked on the door, I heard a chorus of barking.  The three of us were greeted by puppies running around us in circles.  We decided to sit down in the middle of it all to see what would happen.  A small little male came and settled in quite nicely on my oldest daughter’s lap.  A smaller female came to occupy the other daughter’s lap.

“Ever since we got off the phone, these two have been sitting by the door like they were waiting for you to come,” Ellie, the owner, said.

The decision had made itself.  Lily and Stinky were now ours to keep.

We left them in her care for another week and on December 12 they came to take up permanent residence in my home.  Both girls had been given free dogs for Christmas.

I still don’t fully understand how they came to be mine because having two dogs was the farthest thing from any of my wishes.  However, they completely changed the entire atmosphere of my home.  We all laughed more often, and I worried less.  Many times, we would entertain ourselves watching the two of them tussle over toys.  I can still see Lily, all of two pounds at the time, dragging her brother Stinky across the living room floor by the toy in his mouth. He had clamped onto her favorite stuffed animal and wouldn’t let it go.  They became a good distraction from all that had gone wrong.

Oddly, after we had gotten them, my youngest daughter told me something even more strange.  After our black lab was adopted, she created a virtual dog on one of her gaming systems. It helped her to get over the fact that our real dog was no longer with us.  She named her virtual pet ‘Lily’ and gave her a black coat just exactly like the real Lily.  The dogs were already named when we went to go visit them, and we kept their names once we got them home. All of it seemed to be so arranged.  In a very good way.

The following year, as Christmas was approaching, I made up cookie trays and wondered if Ellie would like one.  On the night before Christmas Eve, I had a strong inclination to put together a tray and get it to her house.  Snow was falling hard that night, but I knew I was to deliver this to her.  When I knocked on the door, I heard the familiar sound of barks.

“Merry Christmas,” I said when she opened the door.  “I brought you a cookie tray that I made.”

I saw the tears come into her eyes, and then she hugged me while I tried not to drop the entire tray.

“I just got back from the store.  My oven broke so I can’t bake anything, and I was trying to find packages of cookies or something.  This comes at just the right time.”

That is how I felt about her gift of the dogs to me.  They came at just the right moment in my life, and I didn’t even realize then how much I needed them.  Someone who loves me deeply knew and sent them my way.  Just more proof that we are loved completely from head to tail.

stinky

Stinky and Lily