And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins (Mark 2:22).

After over a year without a pet, we got a new dog about 10 days ago. She’s a sweetie, an eight month-old rescue dog named “Chloe” that Susan found online. A miniature dachshund, of course, as were our two others. Chloe c

Chloe has her own personality, her own take on the typical dachshund traits that we love and are sometimes challenged by. And I know one of these days we will cease calling her by her predecessor’s name. But right now, about half the time, we talk about her as “Penny.” We’re still getting adjusted or we might say oriented to our new pet, as she is to us.

Part of that orientation, too, is trying to find our pet-owner rhythm again. We’ve rarely been without a dog throughout our entire marriage, and we know that we will establish a routine. But right now, getting used to the new pup’s habits, taking her for first check-ups at the vet, figuring out what she will eat, and house training her feels disruptive, even though we’re glad to do it.

Any change, whether joyful like having a new pet or not so great, like losing someone you love, brings stress and disorientation. Life is interrupted. We don’t know whether to zig or zag, how to fit in the new reality with our old patterns. Well, it may be that such cannot be done. The old patterns have to go. As Jesus said, no one puts new wine in old wineskins, because the skins will burst, and the wine will be lost.

In other words, we can’t go back to our old lives. We can only go forward.

Walter Brueggemann, the biblical scholar, comments in one of his books on the pattern one finds in many psalms: orientation-disorientation-reorientation. Life deals us a blow or brings a change which sends us reeling. Our old understanding is gone, and nothing has come yet to take its place. A loved one dies, and we have difficulty coming to terms with the loss. But then somehow—I prefer to believe by the grace of God—somehow we are reoriented, that is, we find a new direction, a new way of looking at the world. We can go on, changed, wounded maybe, but somehow more whole.

Everything I need to know I learned from my dog. Or maybe it’s from being a dog owner.

© 2009 Tom Cheatham