You don’t always get what you want. Who owns the original of that phrase? I have no idea but we all know what it means! Most of the time, the result is much better than what you wanted; thank God!
In January 2017 my sister and I drove to KY to get this dog from a shelter in Christian County. He was called White Paw. It was the coldest day of the year. We got up at 5am and were in line by 8am. There was one car already in the parking lot; the shelter opened at 10am. After a lot of coffee and waiting, the car drove off and a young man waited outside in the shivering cold. We invited him into our vehicle. He was here for White Paw too. And he was first in line.
We shared our dog stories. He was here to get White Paw for his mother, who needed another dog. I was here to get White Paw because my dog died and I’d waited 16 months to get past my grief and dive back in to the adventure of dog ownership. His mom already had some dogs; I had none. But one of her dogs had died.. so she had grief as well. And this son was really wanting to fix his mother’s pain. Although My sister pleaded my case quite eloquently, this man wanted White Paw and unless something changed when the shelter opened, we would be going home empty handed.
I got nervous. I texted my cousin, who lived nearby, and put him on alert that I may need a reference. I’m a Tennessee resident, showing up a Kentucky dog shelter, and the odds are against me – I may need someone to vouch for my character. My cousin agreed to be on standby.
By the time 10am rolled around there were 25 cars in the parking lot. Most were there for ….you guessed it: White Paw! We waited it out. We all went in organized by number so there would be no mistake. First come, first serve. The young man we’d been sharing space and conversation with over the past hour or so took one look at White Paw and confirmed: “I’m taking this dog.”
I’d waited 16 months. We got up at 5am. I looked at every other dog in the shelter, thinking…surely there is one here for me. But no; there just wasn’t. I’d already been through several searches in Tennessee. It just didn’t seem like getting another dog was going to be the right thing for me. We thanked the people and got back in our vehicle.
And then my cousin texted me to inquire, “did you get the dog?” I explained the “no” and that we would be heading back to Nashville. “Well, my friend just posted on Facebook that they need a home for their dog. Do you want to meet the dog?” Literally ten minutes later, we are standing in the kitchen of a family home. There are three young boys running around; a mom and dad standing there looking very hopeful and a little black and white dog watching the whole scene unfold. They share the story. The dog has quite a long story!
His first owner had been elderly and died. Her daughter inherited the dog and kept him for a year. Life was busy and she determined to find him a new home..which is the home where we were standing. Oreo (his name) had been with this family for three years. The boys were growing up and playing soccer. Oreo need time and attention but this family was becoming more and more engaged in things outside the home; the dog was not as happy as he used to be. They wanted him to have a new home.
While we listened to the story and the young boys were telling me all the wonderful things about “Oreo”, including a 3 week adventure when he was lost out in the KY winter weather, something very different happened. Oreo came and sat at my feet. He looked up at me with a clear message: “I am going home with you.” It didn’t feel like I had any choice in the matter. I would be his 4th owner. This was happening right now!
He was not the breed I was looking for, and not the situation I was hoping for – but it sure seemed like something beautiful was happening. I decided to just go with it. Within a few minutes my SUV was loaded down with dog food, toys, a bed, pee pads, and this little dog…named Oreo. He was 9 years old. It was January 7, 2017, the day after Epiphany.
I didn’t know if Oreo would become a work partner for me. My previous dog had been an incredible partner for ministry. I didn’t expect Oreo to be the same and haven’t really invited him into any intentional situations. Until now. We’re almost 3 years into this and though I really wasn’t sure if he was ready; now we know. Oreo has developed a deep sense of how to be present when presence is all that is needed. Presence is a ministry; if you’ve ever been in need of it, you know what I’m talking about. No words are required; no entertainment or rescue. Just being there is enough. And healing occurs, almost with no one knowing.
Oreo has been sitting with my mom who is recovering from a recent fracture. He does it every day. He somehow knows this is not an ordinary visit. He shows up differently. He has been a companion and encouragement day in and day out; without fail. It looks like I have a ministry partner again! Who knew? This little black and white Shih Tzu from KY, who went through 3 owners on his way to me… is here to help all of us. No program or training; just learning a way to “be” by paying attention to the people in front of him.
Sometimes we go in search of one thing and God offers us something totally different. We might call it a holy embrace, should we choose to receive the blessing. It comes in whatever way we need it, not necessarily how we expected it. And always in just the right season. I am grateful. What creatures are blessing your life? “All creatures of our God and King; lift up your voice and with us sing: ‘hallelujah!”