Five years ago today, we brought home our Lily girl.
We had lost our bulldog two months prior, and I finally felt like I was ready to open my heart again to a new dog. We got pre-approved by several rescues and set to searching for our next pup. I scrolled through page after page of dog photos until two caught my eye, both from the same rescue. I reached out to the woman who runs the rescue and we set up a time to bring our two dogs up for a meet and greet.
When we arrived, she brought out the English Mastiff first. He was big and lumbering and sweet. He was only a year old and beautiful enough to have been a show dog. He tackled Eric to the floor and they rolled around playing for a while.
After about 15 minutes, Peg asked if we still wanted to see the other one. We did, so she brought her out to us. Her profile online said she was a bull mastiff, and while her face had the right markings, she was small and had the jaw and hind quarters of a pit bull. (I can’t blame rescues for not wanting to announce that online given how many people would skim right over because of mistaken beliefs about pit bulls.) She seemed a bit shy, but she made her way over and it was clear she had recently had a litter of puppies (and mostly likely several litters over the course of her short life given the state of her belly). She had scars on her face and legs, but she was sweet, ducking her head low in hopes of an ear rub.
Peg noted that she was picked up from a high-kill shelter in Mississippi with a litter of her pups, all of which had been adopted already. Wherever she came from, she clearly had had a rough life. She was cute, but had nothing to make her stand out. She was a sandy brown with a darker brown face. The only reason she caught my eye online was that in her picture she was curled up in a tight ball sleeping on a couch and it reminded me of another dog we had loved and lost.
Peg asked if we needed some time, and we conferred for a few minutes, and all agreed that the girl belonged with us. There was something in her eyes that just spoke to us.
I had to travel early that week, so we agreed I’d come back Wednesday night to pick her up. When I arrived, she was waiting with her foster parents, who were sad to see her go. I opened up the back door of the car and she jumped right in. Peg turned to me and said she was sure we were going to pick the English Mastiff boy. But she was happy with our choice – this little girl – now called Lily – deserved her own home.
That was five years ago.
Today is also a big day for another reason. In May, Lily was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, and though it was only stage 1, they told us she had no more than three months to live. By God’s providence, the neurologist we brought her to happened to be doing a research study with Mt. Sinai Hospital on the very kind of cancer Lily has, and they’d been waiting for an early stage case. They accepted Lily into their study, and two weeks later, the Mt. Sinai neurosurgeons performed brain surgery on our girl. They weren’t able to get all the tumor, but they got most of it. She was in more than a month ago for a follow up MRI and the tumor had not grown at all. And today marks 100 days MORE than the three months we were initially given. Praise Jesus! I’m counting each and every extra day as a blessing from God.
I’ve always said that my first dog, Oscar, was my dog soul mate. And he was. He got me through some really difficult times, and we were two peas in a dysfunctional pod.
But this Lily girl is a close second. She has marked my soul in ways I can’t even put into words. And yet, there’s nothing remarkable about her. She’s got plain looks. She’s smart enough but certainly not the smartest one we’ve had. She’s sweet but she doesn’t prefer me – she’ll pretty much curl up in any lap that’s willing and available. She doesn’t do any tricks. And she’s eaten more than her share of pillows when she’s been pouting. And if someone asked me what’s so special about her, I would have to say nothing. But she’s mine. And I love her.
As I was driving home today, God spoke to my heart that I’m very much like Lily. I so often wonder – and if I’m being honest, I doubt – why God would love me. I’m nothing special. I’m not beautiful by cultural standards. I’m smart enough but certainly not a rocket scientist. I don’t have any special talents. And again, if I’m being honest, I’m not all that sweet. And most days I’m pretty terrible at doing the things that Jesus did (and told us to do).
But none of that matters, because I’m His. And He loves me.
Sometimes that just hits be like a sonic boom. Today was one of those days. I love when He uses our dogs as a means of speaking to my heart. Because it helps me understand just a little bit better the mystery of His love for us. And the more I grasp how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ for me, the better I can reflect that love back to an ever-increasingly wounded world.