**Editor’s Note: This blog post is a follow up to our “So… we got a dog” post where we introduced Rufus as a hopeful service dog-in-training for one of our students (here)**
Name Above All Names:
YHVH O’saynu – The Lord Our Maker (Psalm 95:6)
Things I’ve learned over the years include how to swaddle a baby and get it to sleep through the night, how to have a good argument without closing off the conversation, and how to end things that need ending. I wish it was easier to end relationships, hobbies and jobs, but the reality is, that no new beginning can occur without a proper ending. Today, I teach seniors heading into some challenging years…the twenties. I don’t know about you, but that decade brought about more endings than I can count. Endings can be sloppy and painful, and after a while you learn the beauty in letting things fall into a natural cycle of birth, learning, and release.
As I sit and type, a beautiful set of eyes is watching me from his favorite bean bag chair, borrowed from my daughter. Rufus came to us at 8 weeks and stole many hearts. He learned to sit, stay, come, and stay off furniture. So many people helped to give him experiences to expand his world. The Steen family tirelessly worked with him and cleaned up puppy messes with a smile. We are so very thankful. Rufus came to classes and learned to be quiet and lay next to students, not climbing into backpacks for a nap. Students worked to teach Rufus to go potty very quickly when told, and he does that with finesse (if that is even possible to go potty with finesse)! Now every night, he lays on my feet to be close to someone and give love. What a good boy! What a collection of love and effort from our community.
We are called to evaluate ourselves at different times in life. Am I really called to be a mother? A teacher? A dog trainer? For Rufus: a service dog? As humans, we feel that our plans are best. Sometimes we push and push and push, trying to be something we are not designed by our Creator to do. I really wanted to be a competitive weightlifter. It’s true! I worked really hard at it and had trainers advising me the whole way. Finally, one brave trainer spoke words to me that shaped how I see life. He said, “Dawn, either get surgery to fix your legs and do this for real, or forget the whole thing and work out for fun. Just make a decision and stick to it.” Wow. I sat there with my warmup of 285 pounds extended in a leg press just stunned. It’s true, I don’t exactly have the most svelte legs. Trust me, every woman knows her flaws. But to face that kind of decision was crazy! Have cosmetic surgery at 19 years to chase a dream, or just enjoy the journey and let my strengths dictate my direction? Why wasn’t my hard work good enough to reach my goals? I knew I had to make a decision. He was right. So, I let my trainer go and followed my own path. Some may argue that I surrendered to God’s path for me. This freed up about 20-30 hours of my week, and I get to eat donuts. Today I pour that energy and time into a husband, 6 children living in my home, a few doggies, and hundreds of teens at Eastern Christian High School. I have never been happier. No more chasing a dream I am not designed for. God was asking me to prune my branches (John 15:1-10).
Rufus is still watching me as I glance over. I look into those beautiful, brown Bambi eyes and I ask myself, “What will bring Rufus joy? What is he designed to do?” It is with a sad sigh that I face the keyboard and admit it, Rufus is not meant to be a service dog. He is not happy doing repetitive tricks. He doesn’t want to do things for others. He just wants to be near others, do his own thing and celebrate the joy of the moment. I have to let that be okay. Rufus will be a loving companion to someone somewhere, but he is not going to be a willing support dog. Similar to my mismatched build and goals, his body frame is also not designed to be a mobility dog. Isaac is so brave to let this puppy go.
I don’t know too many children who can go through a process this long and keep the hope. I pray you feel loved, Isaac. The whole school really wanted to give you this gift of a dog, adults and kids alike. You were our first trial. We learned a lot in six months. We are not giving up, but with a lot of research and help from professionals, we learned that over 75% of dogs trained professionally will fail as service dogs. It has to be a perfect match of human personalities and dog personality, stature, and health. This one wasn’t a match for you. But it was fun! And we learned a lot. We could try again for you, but with the timeline of trial and error and high cost, a large organization has a much better shot at getting you the right dog sooner. Mrs. Tyvoll and I don’t want to waste any more of your precious time. You gave us a gift of opportunity to serve you. We are so appreciative that you shared your world with us, and we will continue to pray over you. I bet the whole EC community will.
So stay tuned! The program is getting pruned and -God willing- is going to produce bountiful fruit. The Hennessy family has met amazing connections in the world of companion animals that hopefully will lead to the perfect dog should they choose to continue that path. We have made awesome connections locally with Professional Dog Trainer and Consultant, Melissa Ritsma, and of course at Grateful Doggies where Rufus was first introduced to us. So many people love Isaac and have served faithfully. It is inspiring. We have altered our dreams and still think the program has merit, but we are back at the drawing board sketching details..
I saw love and unity in the halls of the school. I saw kids who normally are shy or reserved reaching out and talking excitedly to other kids as they interacted with a wriggly puppy. I saw joy. It gives me new hope.
One last food for thought my friends…it is the end of summer. I know I have spent a lot of time with my family out of doors and I feel better because of it. I hope you do too. In my psychology class, I ask the students to look to the Bible for the ideal environment for mental health. There are key ingredients that bring us closer to our ideal state of being. Can you guess the story? Look no further than Adam and Eve. I encourage you to read Genesis 2:4-22. How close does your summer look to the Garden of Eden? Did you walk early in the morning with the Lord? Did you enjoy water? Were you in the woods or working in your garden? Did you climb a hill or roll down a sand dune? Did you have human companions with you? Did you care for animals? Perhaps our joy is a lot simpler than we thought. Perhaps we need only look to the first book to discover some of what is broken today, hidden behind screens and headphones. Perhaps it took a doggie in a man-made school to remind us that God wants us out of the brick box a little more. That is how He designed us.