Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Barking at Fireworks

Image: my own photo

Stewie, my dog, doesn’t like fireworks. 

Not in a I-don’t-like-peas-but-I’ll-eat-them-if-there’s-enough-mashed-potatoes-to-cover-them sort of don’t like fireworks.  More like the I-don’t-like-velociraptors-figuring-out-how-to-open-doors sort of way.  It’s a deep hatred for Stewie and it triggers his fight or flight response.  The trouble is, he’s missing the flight part, so my 95lbs black lab mix runs at the windows and doors, barking his thunderous bark at every boom of a firework.  Oh, and the county in which I live allows some pretty serious personal fireworks.  So for five days I’ve got a freaking out dog on my hands. 

Last year I tried giving him Benadryl.  It made him groggy, but didn’t lessen his freaking out barking.  I think he was more frustrated by the drugged feeling of not being alert, and so fought it more.  So this year I’ve used a multifaceted plan of helping Stewie cope.  We went for a five mile walk this morning.  I haven’t let him nap all day.  I’ve got the (white) noisy fan in the bathroom going, and classical music at the upper limits of comfortably loud.  He’s had the maximum recommended dose of doggie herbal calming tablets.  He hasn’t had any dinner, and I’m going to give him a big beef bone to focus on, right when it gets dark and the fireworks kick into high gear.  On the milder nights leading up to the fourth, I cut up several hot dogs, and every time we heard a firework, I gave Stewie a piece of hot dog and told him he was a good boy. 

My friends who have kids say that they learn an amazing amount about God through their children.  Well, I learn a lot about God through Stewie.  I’m not saying that he’s like a kid.  I am emphatically not Stewie’s mom.  I am not a doggie parent, I am a dog owner.  But that said, Stewie is a heck of a lot more work (and reward) than a hamster, and God really likes to speak to me in object lessons.  Therefore, Stewie plays a part of my spiritual formation in this stage of my life.  This time, help Stewie with the fireworks reminded me of something God showed me years ago, and added a layer of meaning to it.

A number of years ago I was going through a particarlly rough patch.  One night I had a dream that I was out on a battle field but terribly wounded.  God, as a knight on a horse, comes charging over at the head of a group of calvary, picks me up, and rides out from the midst of battle into a castle.  In the infirmary, my wounds tended and resting, God’s sitting beside my bed.  We’re inside the castle, but in my semi-delirious state, we can hear the roar of battle, and I’m flinching at every sound.  God is patiently calming and soothing me. 

When I woke up, I read the bible in the morning.  At the time I was cycling through the book of Psalms, reading one or two psalms a day.  That morning, the next psalm was the 18th. Go ahead and read it.  The highlights are:

1I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
    my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
16 He sent from on high, he took me;
    he drew me out of many waters.
19 He brought me out into a broad place;
    he rescued me, because he delighted in me.
35 You have given me the shield of your salvation,
    and your right hand supported me,
    and your gentleness made me great.

The psalm of the day mirrored my dream.  At the time it was a great comfort, that God had rescued me, but was still patient as He and I worked through the ramifications of what He’d rescued me from.  That instead of being mad or disappointed that I still had issues to work through, He was patient and understanding of the process. 

Now several years later, helping Stewie deal with the fireworks gives me a whole new appreciation for how awesome God’s patience with me then (and now) is!  With Stewie, I get frustrated that I can’t explain to him that he’s inside, the fireworks can’t hurt him, that his barking will do nothing, and it would be best if he’d just chill out and go to sleep!  I feel like saying, “Dog! Will you just believe me!  You’re OK! Calm down already!”  How much more should I believe God when He tells me not to worry?  Or when He tells me to rest?  What a difference there is between me and God!  He’s not annoyed like I am with Stewie, but patient and gentle.  

Oh, and God doesn’t try to bribe me with hot dogs.  :o)

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