Stella!

“This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.” John 6:39

About a year and a half ago, against good judgment, I adopted a black and white Pomeranian out of the – oh so many! – pups who need homes. This I did, despite having sworn “Never another Pom” after beloved but difficult Martha Sue died in 2012. Dixie, as the dog was called then, had a beautiful face, with perfect little features. Honestly, she’s the prettiest dog I’ve ever seen. Others have commented likewise. Dixie was about nine months old, in foster care, having been rescued from an abominable puppy mill where she likely would have become a breeder. During our first meeting, I tried to hold her. She turned her head away and pushed out of my arms, unable to receive affection. I took her home anyway.

It wasn’t long before her name became Stella, as in Stella!, because she was the most out-of-control dog imaginable. She was eight bounds of destruction, a Tasmanian Devil, a dervish unleashed. Every waking moment she ran, jumped, bit, tore, chewed, urinated, defecated, and more. She jumped onto the kitchen counter. She jumped over a six-foot wide pond from a standstill. She jumped into the pond and fought the waterfall. She stopped only when, exhausted, she fell asleep. But just for a little while, then she woke up to begin it all again. Sharp words and spankings did nothing to deter her. Raise a hand to swat her and she would come back with all she had. She would have fought me to the death, that was apparent. In the backyard, she paced the fence, nosing every picket until she found one loose enough to butt open, then she was gone. Good luck catching her.

For a minute I thought, good riddance. Just let her go. But I couldn’t. Until Stella, I’d never had to fight an urge to beat a dog, to throw an animal against the wall. Needless to say, I was horrified at the anger and frustration she provoked. There was discussion of putting her down because you could be pretty sure this dog would be abused anywhere she went. She would bring it on herself with her craziness.

After a few weeks, a professional trainer was hired, Michael, who came highly recommended. Rightfully so. He was a miracle worker, at least it seemed that way. Actually, he just understood how to communicate with dogs and how to teach others to do the same. Stella improved immediately and dramatically. She still had crazy spells, but they grew shorter and there were normal times in between. She calmed down and began to seek approval. She began to absorb affection, rather than rejecting it. I truly believe for the first time in her miserable, short life she began to trust. Stella’s metamorphosis has taken time, consistency and patience. She turned two years old recently, and I tell her every day that she is a good dog, at least as Pomeranians go. No, of course, I don’t mention that last part.

I published a novel in 2002, narrated by a young writer who is about as unlikeable as Stella was. Although the reader never escapes this character’s point of view, I would like to point out that the story isn’t as much about her as it is about a Christian who befriends her. Many years ago while on holiday in New York, I had the idea of a woman – a Christian – stumbling across an unknown relative by looking up her own last name in the phone book. The concept developed into a story in which that serendipitous meeting became a lifeline to the relative, who happened to be in crisis. The Christian reaching out and continuing to reach, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, became the theme of A Lifetime Ago. If you read the book and look for that theme, you’ll find it easily.

Sometimes I think it takes about as much saving grace to hold onto us as it does to bring us into God’s Kingdom in the first place. The Lord Jesus said His Father (and ours!) gave us to Him and no one can snatch us from His hand. (John 10:28-30) Do you think Jesus “holding on” really looks like us holding on? I think it very likely does if we are His hands and His feet in the earth, as we so often say and hear. I suspect the process of Him keeping us safe is executed when we keep one another safe. We are indeed our brothers’ (and sisters’) keepers. Maybe the Lord brings us particular people whom we are especially suited to tolerate, to befriend, and eventually to love, people for whom we will go the distance.

I don’t know if the Lord brought a little Pomeranian named Stella to me or not, but here we are. We’re in it together, working out her salvation. Over time, we’ve developed trust and become friends. I love her, and she loves me. Today I can say she is worth all the trouble.

Saving a life feels pretty good, even if it’s only a puppy dog’s. Who knows? Maybe there’s a sheep or two out there who needs rescuing too.

© Melissa Kay Simonds

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