"The kids wanted a dog, and she dreaded the thought of adding more responsibilities to her day."
Stories of Families
Two years ago, an attractive 20-something young woman named Patty, a business associate, abruptly confessed to me that her home life was not going so well. Her two kids had problems in school. Her out-of-work husband was piling on the pounds and not pulling his weight around the house because he was busy playing video games! She was planning to get a better-paying job and leave him shortly. The kids wanted a dog, and she dreaded the thought of adding more responsibilities to her day.
“What do you think? Should we get a dog?” she asked.
I told Patty that I didn’t know if she should get a dog, but shared a story about someone in a similar situation. A year earlier, my friend Mary had not wanted to replace the deceased family dog because she felt overwhelmed by the demands on her time at home and work. She didn’t want any extra work to do. Her husband and the kids would go to a dog shelter every weekend just to pet the dogs. I suggested to Mary that if they felt that strongly about dogs, perhaps she could make a deal with them about the dog care chores? She insisted that wouldn’t work. Eventually she relented and they got a dog. The kids and her husband were the dog walkers, and she was the backyard pooper scooper. But Mary had no regrets because the dog brought so much positive energy into the household. They were all so much happier!
After sharing this story, I didn’t see Patty for about six months. I heard she got a promotion, and figured that she continued on with her plans to divorce. Then one day, she came up to me in the hall.
“I wanted to tell you that everything is going great at home!” Patty said. “We got a dog, and we started to have more fun together. My husband found a job and the kids are doing better in school. I’m so glad you told me that story about your friend. Thank you!”
God Works - Whatever it takes
As a cat person, I can’t figure out what happened in these two households. It would drive me crazy to have a dog at home. Did the daily sight of a wagging tail or the ritual of walking the dog have something to do with the joyful outcomes?
Whatever happened to these two families, my own personal experience and understanding of the human brain confirms these truths:
- Relationships with domestic animals can generate feelings of unconditional love.
- Good feelings and walking outdoors are associated with good brain chemistry.
- Unconditional love and good brain chemistry are signs of God at work.
When God’s love for us can’t reach our hearts through people, God will work through animals, plants, and the rest of Creation . . . whatever it takes!
This summer, if you know someone who needs a shot of positive energy, tell them to head for the dogs! Maybe someone they know could use some help walking a dog . . . or maybe it’s time for you to consider adopting a dog from a local animal shelter. The tough economy has been tough on man’s best friend, too.
And a little dog shall lead them . . . thanks be to God.
Phyllis Strupp is the author of Church Publishing's Faith and Nature curriculum and the award-winning book “The Richest of Fare: Seeking Spiritual Security in the Sonoran Desert.” She is a CREDO faculty member and lives in Carefree, AZ with her husband and three cats.