He peered at me from under his unruly bangs of brown fur, hidden in part by the grate of the cage. I commented on how much he looked like my own Yorkie, Junior, though this dog was much smaller and where Junior’s fur was a silvery grey, his was a black that accentuated his small size.
“He actually needs a new home, “the groomer commented looking at me with a question in her eyes. “His owner is moving and can’t take him with her. She’s asked me to find him a new family.”
Thoughts immediately exploded in my mind, Do I have the grace to take care of another animal? Our house is quite full as it is with three kids and a dog and many guests. What if Junior doesn’t like him? What will my husband say?
Not the First Time
This wouldn’t be the first time I’d convinced my husband to bring another dog home. The previous two experiences had been horrible—one dog trying to bite us and the other unable to be left alone for a moment. I wasn’t sure I was ready to try out another dog, had, in fact, told myself never again. But, for some reason apart from any logic I knew, I felt I had to at least ask my husband what he thought. I took a hasty, blurry photo of the dog whose name I learned was DJ and drove home to discuss it with my husband. I expected him to shut it down quickly with an “I thought we decided to not try to get another dog.” Instead, he surprised me and said yes.
So, in complete shock to myself, I went a couple hours later to pick up two dogs from the groomer.
A Rough Transition
That first night was not easy. DJ was an 8-year-old Yorkie, dogs infamous for their strong attachments to their humans. He was terrified and intense, nipping at Junior, marking everywhere, crying, and hiding under furniture. It took four long walks to wear him out enough that he could finally rest.
It became clear to me that I had to interact with him with the understanding that he was experiencing the dog version of post-traumatic stress disorder. I understood that what he needed from me was kindness marked by stability and routine. His life had been upended, and he was relocated to a world where he didn’t know the rules and didn’t know if he was safe or not. So I gave him the gift of routine.
This was made easier by the fact that the lockdown began in earnest a week after we got him. Every morning I got up and walked both dogs. I came home and gave them their breakfast and then we went to my office where I worked and they napped. Every evening after dinner, I would take them on another walk and then give them their dinner. Day after day this routine was ingrained in DJ and in me. It became a ritual of almost spiritual importance to both of us. For him, it was the daily reminder of when he could do his business and what to expect. For me, it became the quiet before the hecticness of a daily schedule or the lull before the evening rest. It became a moment to feel the sun on my face and to learn the tranquil streets of my neighborhood. It turns out that I needed this routine, this stability, as much as DJ did.
Finding Ourselves in Creation
In his book, Writing From the Center, Scott Russell Sanders answers the question that has plagued him his whole life: “How can one live a meaningful, gathered life in a world that seems broken and scattered?” In summary, he explains that he has learned that “it has to do with understanding my place in marriage, family, and community—my place on earth, and ultimately in Creation.”
While he is not a believer, he seems to acknowledge an almost spiritual connection that grounds him and protects him. The very first essay speaks of his childhood home and the land surrounding it. He states, “we need to know where we are, so that we may dwell in our place with a full heart.” Reading his writing reminds me of the centeredness and peace that comes from “dwelling” in my place.
Learning to Linger
Dwelling has both the connotation of living in a place, but also “to linger over, emphasize, or ponder in thought, speech, or writing.” To dwell in my home and in my neighborhood requires lingering. My routine is an invitation to linger. My body and mind, familiar with steps I take every day, learn to relax and observe. I study the slight rise in the road that I’d ignore in my car. Florida terrain is mostly flat, but by walking, I have unearthed its secrets of knolls and dips that are hidden from the person in a rush. My eyes are downward towards my little dogs, and I notice cracks in the road, colorful weeds pushing forward on the edges, and tiny snails risking the journey across the sidewalk. As I walk, I take in DJ’s confident strut as he walks our familiar path. There are days when our routine is disrupted by bad weather or plans that require me to leave early, but he is not perturbed. He knows that as soon as I can, we will get back to our normal routine. The days and weeks and months have given him stability and hope even when there is change.
Routine is the path that leads me to stability and stability is the house in which I dwell that protects me from the world of chaos that none of us can control. Just like DJ, I too feel my world often upended by events. I am not defenseless against this onslaught though. I have found, like my sweet DJ, to bask in my daily routine and to find in it my dwelling place. Every day, God proves his faithfulness—every available breath, every rising sun, every change of season reminds us that chaos is not the norm. Instead, God’s stability gives us hope in the midst of change.