Puppy Dog Tales

My dog is my friend. We call Hunter Velcro dog for obvious reasons; even now he is resting close by. About two years ago he had surgery on his leg for a small tumor. The vet said it needed to come out, eventually he thought Hunter might stop using his leg. Usually I’m the one who says, “He’s a dog” – meaning no extreme or costly measures. However, when we walked, even though he briskly made his way down the street, I worried.

The tumor was removed and the place on his leg actually was a little bigger rather than smaller. Just fluid, they said. To make a long story short, as the saying goes, we have another vet now and the growth in my dog’s leg is huge. And, he still walks briskly down the street and runs around the yard. Yet, I worried; now, with the added burden of the possibly that I made the wrong decision in the first place. Sometimes I would wake up in the night and wonder what I will do when he can’t walk or imagine something even worse. Irrational and even rational fears are real at 3:00 in the morning.

I even prayed for him. I remember when our young daughter filled out a prayer card at church for her pet mouse who was suffering. Our wise pastor sent her a letter and she was encouraged by his care. God cares.

Distressed that I was getting more anxious about a matter I could do nothing about, I decided to change tactics.

Instead of praying for the dog, I prayed for myself. I prayed that I would accept what was obviously a growth in his leg about which I’d made the best decision I could at that time.  I prayed that I would serendipitously find a solution; meet someone who had expertise or could guide me to someone who did. Fairy tale prayers, Frederick Buechner calls them, even for a dog, I thought.

The idea of such prayer requires that I pay attention expectantly. “Expectantly” means something entirely different than “with expectations.” Cosmic flirts, my friend calls them, those nudges from God, maybe, that let you know that you are heard.

These were my nudges that put me over the edge of worry to acceptance. Synchronicity let’s you know that you don’t have to strive and control or fret anxiously. Not that everything miraculously is happy but the worry is mediated by a peaceful surrender.

On the weekend we went to our daughter Margaret’s for a party. Hunter went with us.   Erin, Margaret’s college roommate, noticed Hunter’s leg and asked, “Does he have cancer or is that just one of those growths that dog’s can have?” She went on to tell me, somewhat matter of factly, that her brother’s dog had a big tumor on his chest that started out as a little lump. It doesn’t seem to bother him at all. Hmmm, a familiar story that resonates with the hopeful part of my own story; the part about “it doesn’t seem to bother him at all.”

Then, a few hours later on the same day, Mitch came back from taking a walk and the dog happened to be along. A lady made her way out of a beauty shop they passed to say hello. She had Weimaraner’s like Hunter. Of course she noticed his leg. Her dogs had those tumors, too, even had one taken off and it grew back even bigger. Another nudge.

Now these two casual encounters weren’t the solution I might have expected. In these not so everyday conversations to me, my fear and worry were lightened and maybe even taken away for this time. I haven’t been awakened by panic of Hunter’s demise; the tumor is still there as he plays and runs and jumps and isn’t bothered at all.

Fairy tale prayers challenge the fairy tale that I construct at 3:00 in the morning; so that, at least for a moment, I am required to exercise trust in a disciplined and wonderfully childlike way… to notice and let it be.

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