Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Radar Love

What is it about a dog that can make your life so loving and wonderful, but at the same time, make you use words you never say in church?
What is it about their beady eyes and toothy smiles that makes us wonder if they love us, or if they just love to manipulate us?

About three years ago, my son came home from a college visit
and brought with him a fluffy bundle of fur named "Radar".
He was a Jack-Russell/Pappilion mix.
Radar was one of those puppies that you just wanted to squeeze
and talk baby-talk to, and plant kisses on.
He made you say crazy stuff like "oooh, sweetsie, goo-goo, precious...."

That sort of thing.

Radar was one of those rare little animals
that people stopped on the street to look at,
that the bank tellers gave extra Milk-Bones to,
and the kind of puppy you might see in a movie-
tumbling from a big box
under the Christmas tree.

It was a while till my son's next visit home.

I met him in the doorway with a hug and then looked down at his feet.

"What's that?" I asked.
"What do you mean, 'What's that?' - it's my dog."
"You got a new one?" I questioned.
"No, this is Radar," he said, bending down to pet him.

Well, just as beautiful babies can grow up to
be real ugly ducklings-
Radar had definitely lost the majority of his good looks
and was now long-legged and shaggy,
jumping like pogo stick at the chance for attention.

To put it kindly, he was an ugly dog.
But, being only the "grandparent",
I knew I wouldn't have to suffer the embarrassment
of strangers staring at the end of the leash,
of bank tellers weeping in sympathy,
or feel the humiliation of going to claim him if he ever got lost.
(Lord knows no one would ever steal him.)

But all that soon changed.

My son moved and couldn't keep Radar,
and, as all good grandparents do,
we took him into our house.
Into our lives.
Into our once quiet, flea-free home.

At first we treated him like a new baby.
(An ugly baby, nonetheless)- but, hey- what's a grandparent to do?
We ran him tepid little bubble baths,
laid him in soft fleece blankets
and fed him the most expensive puppy chow.

And, without realizing it, we began to love him.

It was a gradual love.
He would curl up with us and lick our faces
when we came home.
He would fall asleep in our laps and we
wouldn't move for hours in fear of waking him.
He would bark at strange sounds
and look at us like he was doing us a big favor.

We began buying him regular puppy treats,
a variety of tennis balls and Frisbees,
and set him up a toy basket in the hallway.
We bought him a new collar
and a shiny tag with our address and phone number on it.

We had officially adopted Radar.

And, so, with love, comes comfort.

The sweet bubble baths became "Let's get it over with" ordeals.
The puppy chow became generic.
We pushed him aside when he began to nap,
telling him to go somewhere else.
And we flipped him off of our bed
when he attempted to take over our space.

What is so strange is the fact that Radar no longer seemed ugly.
He was our sweet little dog that loved us in return.
Anyone who might even infer that he was ugly
might be sorry they spoke up.
(A parents wrath can be so cruel, you know.)

We weren't looking for a dog when we found him.
We weren't wanting to devote any time, space, or affection
to any type of pet.
But love works in mysterious ways.

So, today, open up your heart and ask
what do you have room for?
A new pet, a brand new baby, a lifestyle change -
or simply just love and forgiveness?
Our lives and hearts and arms
are bigger than we think
and are only enriched by staying open.

Even to ugly dogs.