“Did you get a new puppy?”
It’s a question we often hear on our walks, especially when we’re on the last leg and home is in view of his nose. That’s when the puppy like spunk shows up, when he’ll look back to make sure we’re still with him and then sprint like he’s 15 months instead of 15 years old.
Judging by the pile of plush squeaky toys he’s accumulated in the corner of the living room, he’s quite spoiled. He still has every lamb, ball, squeaky bone, and red fish we’ve ever wrapped in Christmas tissue or bought him just-because. And yet, most of them appear brand new. Most. But not all.
There’s that one brown and white (okay, it used to be white) stuffed soccer ball that he’s loved much of the fuzz from. The squeaker still works, but I’ve had to mend the poor thing more than once, stitching up holes so the filling doesn’t spill out. Same with his big red bone, although the squeaker is beyond repair for that one.
The poor dog is often in need of a bit of mending himself, which is to be expected in one so seasoned. One foot only has three toes where Dr. Fry removed a tumor. Mending involved the dreaded cone of shame. He suffers allergies to more things than I can count, which requires vigilance lest he end up with an infection that needs mending too. And he’s missing an eye, which had to be removed due to a cataract that morphed into glaucoma.
It seems to me that some of the best things in life require mending, but with my sweet Roman it’s worth the effort because his love mends my weary heart and soul.
Perhaps it is my own seemingly constant need of having some pain or ailment tended and mended that affords me the compassion to keep up with his needs. I don’t enjoy cleaning crusty ears or tending to infected toes. In fact, the effort often causes my osteoarthritis to flare up. But I love him, so I do it.
Love often requires sacrifice—mending is hard work—but it’s always worth it. C.S. Lewis, one of my favorite authors, wrote:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
When Roman no longer requires mending because he’s gone on before me into a life without pain, my heart will break. But I will be so much the better for having had the honor of caring for an old dog who lightened my struggle with his adorable puppy ways.