I thank my God every time I remember you… (Philippians 1:3).

I am a part of all that I have met… (Ulysses, Alfred Lord Tennyson).

Tomorrow we say goodbye to Jennie, the long-legged chihuahua mix we have fostered for the past two weeks. We’ll put her on a Homeward Bound truck at the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine, and she’ll be on her way to a new life in New York. The ASPCA up there will soon have an adoption event, and we’re sure she will find a family who will love and care for her, receiving in return the abundant love and affection this little pup has to give.

We’ve had Jennie for only a short time, but we will remember her fondly and miss her. I think our dachshund Chloe will miss her, too, since Jennie was such a great playmate, though Chloe will also be glad we belong exclusively to her again.

The experience with Jennie reminded me that there are also people that come into our lives for only awhile, but they remain with us. Sometimes we wish they would go away, like the rude driver who cut us off or the apathetic clerk at the store; the frustrated, angry mother screaming at her kid while she also blocks the grocery aisle with her buggy; or the telemarketer who phones at suppertime.

But other times the encounters are welcome and all too brief. We wish we could’ve lingered and savored the conversation with someone we see by surprise when we are out running errands or soaked up a bit more of the smile from a friendly store clerk who greeted us warmly and was helpful on a rushed day. We have a friend for a few years, then life takes us in different directions, and we lose touch. We see people at church or on a board or in a club meeting once a week or less, and the relationships seldom move beyond superficial conversations about business or the weather or maybe music and sports, but we long to talk about what truly touches us in our hearts. Loved ones are taken from us all too soon, and there is so much more we would have liked to have said and done.

God in his providence brings vulnerable and loving creatures like Jennie into our lives, and they are gifts. He also provides the encounters with people of all sorts, for a shorter or longer time, and they too may be gifts. Time and life will teach us what God intended in giving them.

© 2012 Tom Cheatham. All rights reserved.

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“[T]he Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b). 

Last Friday, we began fostering a miniature dachshund named “Missy” for the local animal shelter. Missy is morbidly obese at 23 pounds (the proper weight for this breed is no more than 12). Her owner, who had to surrender her before going into a nursing home, had fed the dog bacon and eggs every day. We’re continuing the low-fat diet the shelter had her on, as well as making sure she IMG_0656gets plenty of exercise. The goal is to bring her weight down so she’ll be more readily adoptable.

I found myself, to my shame, surprised when this fat little dog showed how smart she was and how quickly she could learn where the door was to go out or adapt to our routine. I told Susan that I realized she was fat, but not stupid. Did the two go together in my mind?

I had to admit there was some lingering prejudice I had based on the way the dog looks, and also, on the way people look. Whatever my claim to the contrary or how loudly I preach against such an attitude, I still do judge by looks and externals.

Maybe it was because my niece Page just got two new tattoos and a new nose piercing that I began to think about how negatively I react to body art, even if I don’t say anything. I better get over that, because not only Page but my brother-in-law Warren and some other relatives (as well as church members and friends) enjoy such self expression. Tattoos may not be for me, but someone’s decoration is no cause to call into question his or her character, talent, faith nor any other quality. The same must be said for any other aspect of appearance. (The opposite is also true, I think. Just because somebody is neat, well-dressed, slim, and/or articulate does not mean he or she is moral, trustworthy or gifted.)

Missy has only been with us a week, but already caring for her has taught me a valuable lesson and made me come to terms with a part of myself and my upbringing I thought I had dealt with and moved beyond.  Who knows what she will teach in the coming days?

© 2011 Tom Cheatham

If you’re interested in Missy, please contact the Oktibbeha County Humane Society at 662.338.9093 or go to http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/21064898.