Thursday, April 3, 2014

Belly Up

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1, 2 NIV)

My pup was an orphan. 13 years ago, she was found wandering in the woods in the mountains of North Carolina. No one knows how long she had been out there, but when they found her, her dark brown/almost black fur was orange, bleached from sun exposure. She was too thin, a few pounds shy of her healthy 11 pounds.

She was brought to a shelter and cleaned up, and was quickly adopted by my brother's mother-in-law, Dale, who was looking for a tiny dog with a big personality. That is exactly what she got. Dale took her home but soon realized Suki's time in the wild had made her quite scrappy. All on her own, she had learned she must fight for what she wanted. She began to tell all of Dale's other dogs what to do. They, being 5 times her size, were not ok with that and they attacked her. Dale realized that this arrangement was not going to work and began looking for someone to adopt her adopted.

I agreed to take her on a trial basis. I loved dogs but had never had my very own before. And I had never considered myself a "tiny dog person", but as this fluffy girl arrived on my doorstep, one look in those big, brown eyes and I was in love. I named her Suki.

One week in, I found out she had intervertebral disk disease after she jumped off my bed and was unable to use her back legs. The vet gave her high doses of steroids that helped reverse the paralysis but the condition plagued her again and again. Her first few years with me consisted of many painful vet visits and eventually invasive and gory spinal cord surgery, followed by months of living in a crate to recover. 

I am not sure if it was trauma from her first family, the time in the woods, the time at the pound, the time at Dale's or all the pain from medical issues she had when I first got her, but I do know she had trust issues. She would always lie down in the corner opposite where I was sitting, her feet right underneath her (so she could rise at a moment's notice). For a long time, she would barely sleep. And when she did, any noise or movement would cause her eyes to fly open and she would jump to her feet, startled. Many times she seemed to sleep with one eye open, always keeping watch, keeping watch, keeping watch for impending danger.

After many years together, I was sitting on the couch watching TV. Suki was dozing off on the living room floor. At one point, she took a deep breath and opened one eye to look at me. I smiled and coo'd at her, then noticed something amazing which took my breath away: She rolled over on her side, closed her eyes and fell asleep.

I burst into tears.

Dogs don't sleep on their sides unless they feel safe. She finally felt safe. She finally trusted me. I loved her so much from the second I got her, but now she finally believed it. My sweet girl.

It is hard to learn to trust when your life has been rough, when people have hurt you, when you've spent your whole life fighting to get your needs met. I've spent most of my life like that. My position of "rest" has never been a place where I could let go and surrender. It has been a fitful rest, sleeping with one eye open, keeping watch for oncoming danger. So exhausting.

From the second I was a thought in God's mind, He loved me. But when we first met, I didn't believe that. I have spent years watching Him from across the room, cringing with fear at his incoming hand. And sometimes I still do.

But slowly things are changing. There are moments. Moments where I surrender. Moments where I go belly up.

And because of my Suki, I know a bit of the joy He feels when I choose to believe that He is trustworthy and safe.

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