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Ministry With Dawgs - The Length and Breadth of Life


Why adopt older animals? That means allowing animals into our lives and having to say good-bye on a shorter timeframe than we would like. Both parts of that continuum -- connecting and letting go – require intentionality and energy. We prefer the time in between, when we have a sense of what to expect and the interactions are more predictable and, hence, may require less energy.

Several years ago, we adopted an older pointer/black lab. Her daughter had come to the shelter with her, and we did foster care for a month with both of them. Her daughter did not give the mother a moment of peace, as she needed more attention on her own than was available with all of the animals in the family. We returned the daughter to the shelter, and she was adopted by a man who became her people. We adopted the mother and named her Lady. She had such a gentle disposition that really became evident in her interaction with our other 2 dogs and cats. Actually, I would describe it as having an old world wisdom. That was probably the first time that she did not have to deal with her daughter, and could be a dog in her own right, so to speak. She was with us for about 1.5 years. Such a gift.

In January 2012, we adopted Parsifal, an older golden retriever, primarily as a companion for Tess, our older neurotic pit bull. (See Being Displaced and Thanks to Tess) We discovered in January of this year that he was Lyme positive (probably infected just before coming to the shelter so that it was not detected there). Even with treatment for that and more recently for symptoms of what may be arthritis, we watch with concern as he has mobility limitations. Life expectancy may be shortened (well, his time with us may be shortened, we do not know his age). He gives us so much. He helped Tess with her anxiety, even staying up with her some nights. After she died in April, he began to relax. I had not realized how much of her anxious energy he had absorbed. His sense of humor and fun is emerging even more, like hide tennis balls then look for them at times inconvenient to us. He is so attached to all of us in ways that are individualized.

So that brings me to the initial thoughts. I find that I am increasingly willing to develop a relationship with that being the focus rather than how long the relationship might last. The gifts of a relationship are eternal and exceed the length of time. My I ever remember that, lest I miss opportunities and cherished experiences when the focus is duration rather than depth.

June 3, 2013

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