A puppy followed me home yesterday.
Janie and I were on our morning walk when a yellow puppy came bounding up to us. After some slobbery kisses to my sweatpants and a menacing growl from Janie, the pup began running up ahead of us and then throwing herself on the ground, on her back right in front of Janie. "I'm submitting to you - please like me!" she cried. But Janie, being her normal snobby, disinterested self, walked right past the dog. Stumbling over her too big paws, the puppy would scramble to her feet, bound down the sidewalk and throw herself on the ground again. A good ten times this happened! I got the giggles. Finally the pup conceeded that she would be getting no love from janie and contented herself to scamper alongside us ALL THE WAY BACK TO MY HOUSE.
"Whatchu doin' wid dat dog?" my neighbors jeered.
"It's following me - I'm not sure where it came from. What should I do?"
"Go home and name it! Youse got yerself a new dog."
So I took the little thing home and put in it the back yard, gave it water, and gave myself a pep talk. "You cannot keep this puppy, Ann. Puppies have too much energy and have to be potty trained. You don't have time for that."
Janie picked up her toy football, took it to the puppy and set it down in front of her. I about died.
So I put the leash on the puppy and began a walk around the neighborhood, knocking on doors. "Do you recognize this dog?"
We returned home and I fed the puppy and pet her and left her and Janie outside to play while Clarence's dog, Bandit, barked mercilessly through the fence. The dirt is always dirtier in some other dog's backyard.
I'm pretty sure the puppy slept most of the night (I can't be sure, I had in my super-duper ear plugs). But when I awoke in the morning, the banging on the doggie door (which I had locked) was unnerving to say the very least. Not to mention that getting in and out of the backyard was quite a task with two hyper dogs egging each other on underneith. Fed, pet and doted on, I left the energetic children in the backyard.
When I came home at lunch, the puppy practically ate the sleeves off my arms and covered my jeans with dirty paw prints. I loved on her anyway but with my legs still throbbing from the morning's puppy scratches, I threw the football to try and get her away from me. She just looked at me with big eyes while Janie took off across the yard, retrieving the toy and triumphantly bringing it back to me. "See, I'm your dog remember? Do you still love me? Remember me. I can fetch! Come on! Love me! Look at me!" It was precious but depressing. Never ask your children to compete at the same task.
After lunch, I headed out the door with Puppy while Janie whimpered from the backyard. I tried to get the leash on her but this proved to be quite a task. She's a rowdy little thing and I couldn't get her to sit still long enough to get the dang leash on.
"Raising children's hard ain't it?" Clarence called from across the bushes. "You named your new dog yet?"
"Puppy, Clarence. The dog's name is Puppy. And it's not my dog. I can't handle another dog."
He shook his head and smiled. Puppy and I started down the block.
"Hey y'all," I called out to some children on Bunche and crossed into the yard where the 11 year olds were scattered, having returned from school and caught in the space between television/isolation and playing outside/community, greeting family/doing homework and greeting the sticks and rocks on the ground/processing the day as only a child can do. I digress. "Y'all recognize this dog."
"Yeah, das Baby D's dog."
"Can you show me where Baby D lives?"
"Hey show her where Baby D lives. Das his dog."
"Ah know dat dog. It got big!"
"If ah found dat dog... I'da kep it!"
"Yeah we'll show ya," two boys finally agreed. "Come on Princess," they spoke to the dog like an old friend.
Princess? Puppy's name is princess? That's a horrible name for this dog. She has way too much energy and gumption to be called Princess. Not my dog though.
We arrived at a house that i had knocked on yesterday but received no response. A little boy named Timothy answered the door.
"Is this your dog hon?" I asked timidly. Had I really found it's owner?
"Yeah, das ma brother's dog."
"Are you parents home?" I just wanted to be sure it was really their dog.
"Yeah, hold on."
He left the doorway and I peered through the opening into a living room with mattresses on the floor, a tv against the wall and everything you can imagine littering the beds and floor area. There was barely room to walk. There were cracks in the walls and giant holes where an elbow or table edge had plastered through the plaster.
A young man came out and agreed that indeed, this was his nephew's dog. He thanked me and I sort of lingered, but then slowly began backing away. "You're welcome. You know I think her collar's too tight," I cautioned. "Um, it's tied with a shoelace and i really think that should be cut off and loosened." No one was listening to me. The dog had run into the neighbor's yard. "Okay, well. Cool. Great then. I'll see ya." I walked back towards my house. I turned to glance one more time at Puppy who was prancing around the yard trying to be corralled unsuccessfully by the children.
I walked a few more yards and felt my stomach drop and my head spin a little, a feeling all too familiar to me over the past few weeks. "Don't cry, Ann. What is up with you? It's a dog. And it's not your dog."
But it was given to me to care for for two days. For two days I fed it and loved it and nurtured it and provided for it and then I handed it back over to it's owners, to the people who dictate it's life, to it's world, and...
"It's a parable," my co-worker Kevin said. We had been discussing the great gift and the tenacity of being ministers, of working with youth and college kids and young adults.
"Yes," I realized. I invest in these people that I love. I feed them and encourage them and teach them and listen to them and love them and pray that somehow in the little time I've got, I make a difference. And then I hand them back to school, college, work, divorces, illnesses, car wrecks, suicides, felonies, drugs, alcohol, greed, addictions, perfectionism... and I pray that when they get back into their crazy homes that they will remember their real Home and that they will make it through.
And I teared up again. At a parable. At a dog and a youth and a college student and an inability to detach.