A week ago today, I said good-bye to my first dog, Delia. My husband and I drove all the way to North Carolina to get her the Fall after we were married. She has been a fixture in our home, in our marriage, and in our family for 10 years. I couldn’t help this week but reflect on how much I’d change in those years with her, and how much Delia actually taught me about life.
1. Obedience is the mark of a good life.
Delia was a good dog. What does that mean when we say that a dog is “good”? Typically, we mean that they obey. The purpose of a dog – whether to protect, to hunt, to smell, to guide, or to be a companion – all of those purposes can not be fully realized unless a dog learns to obey its Master. Likewise, we can not fully fulfill the purposes we have for our lives unless we obey the commands and leading of God.
2. During stormy nights, find your Father’s side.
Delia was afraid of thunderstorms. A crack of lightning or boom of thunder would send her immediately looking for us. If it was nighttime, she would do everything she could to get over the gate at the bottom of the stairs to get up to our room. She learned to nudge it open with her nose. She even managed to scale the gate, a good 4 feet up from the floor. When all else failed, she would whine until we can to let her up.
Once upstairs, she would wedge herself in this tiny space between my husband’s side of the bed and the wall. This 125 pound dog would somehow walk into this 18 inch space, turn herself around, and lay on the floor, finally peaceful. She would do anything to get to her Father’s side, and in His presence, she found peace.
3. Always circle back for the stragglers.
We took countless family walks over the 10 years we had Delia. They started with just Dave and I, then included a stroller. Then came toddlers and double strollers. Little boys would run ahead. Pregnant mom would lag behind. Soon, our family would be spaced out along the path or trail.
Delia would initially bound up ahead with the excitement of being out for a walk, but before long, she would always circle back and check on whoever was straggling behind. She would continue this circle, running ahead, then circling back, for the entire walk. She saw it as her job to ensure that all of us made it to the destination safely.
Oh the simple life of a dog. A scratch on the chest. A treat from the cupboard. A fresh, cool bowl of water. A wiffle ball thrown. An invitation to “take a ride”. These were the delights of our Delia.
She never needed the latest doggie gadget. She wasn’t worried about what to wear (although she was pretty embarrassed when we shaved her this summer). She didn’t give much thought to what her sister, Blossom, had. She didn’t want much, just our love and attention. The greatest joy was always in just knowing we are loved.
5. When you hear the Master say “Go get it!”, you run straight for the prize.
Delia didn’t like to be outside, especially in the last few years. She’d always been a bit anxious, particularly around loud noises, so big trucks or motorcycles going by would make her nervous. In the Fall, the Rod & Gun Club that is over the hill would echo booms and she’d quickly be pawing on the doors or windows whining to come in.
My husband would often get her off the back porch by finding any little creature that happened to be in the yard – a squirrel, rabbit, imaginary critter – and say, “Delia, what’s that? Go get it!” She didn’t always see what he was talking about, but she always would go bounding down the steps and into the backyard in hunt of the prize. Likewise, we shouldn’t always need to see the prize to be excited and ready to go. Just a prompt from our Father should get us bounding forward in anticipation.
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