Walking out to my vehicle to go to work the other morning, I wondered: How did I get here and how did things get so out of control? Can we nurture too much? Can a person love too much?
The little stray sauntered over to me with a smile that would either make you laugh, melt your heart or creep you out, and I patted her head. This is our usual protocol for mornings. You may remember the stray that showed up at my house a few months ago, the one that had obviously been abused and is so very shy. Finally, I can pat her head and she smiles. Yes, you read that correctly, she smiles. It's rather freaky actually, but her way of showing trust. As I patted her head, my very own dog brushes up against me in a jealous rage wanting a pat on the head as well.
All of the sudden, an odor wafted up, and the memory sensor in my brain screamed: SKUNK! They had indeed been in a battle with a skunk. Horrified, I jumped in my SUV and began with the vanilla scented hand sanitizer. I practically bathed in it. Remembering I was traveling out of town to a meeting brought even more pressure to my dilemma as I would be around the table with folks I'd never met before ... smelling like a skunk.
Now, anyone who knows me well, knows what a priss I am. I don't need therapy nor intervention about it. I'm not ashamed. Prissy is who I am, but I am not afraid to roll up my sleeves and get dirty if work needs done; but smelling like a skunk is just not something I can tolerate. However, the girls at work assured me they smelled nothing as I jumped in the car with them to travel to our meeting. Throughout the day as I put on lipstick or brushed my hair, the familiar smell wafted from my skunk smell-invested hands.
I'm thinking right now of the movie "Field of Dreams." Flow with me here: You know the movie where Kevin Costner builds the baseball field and the baseball greats from yesteryear come and play? OK, since moving to this house, it's as if a "field of dreams" sort of message has been sent through the air waves for animals great and small to come. Think: "If you move there, they will come."
I remembered "Lilly" the mountain lion with her two cubs this week as I read (with a smile on my face, by the way) the article on Yahoo news about the eastern United States no longer having cougars. Denial is one of the first steps in grief ... right after shock. Oh yeah, had they seen "Lilly" and the two cubs, they would know, that not only do they exist, but they live in populated areas at times. She was here when we moved in. She should've been in the lease, but you know, surprises are nice, too.
I think of our Arnold Swartza-turtle that visited along with many other little creatures. However, the concern presently is the cats and dogs that seem to be making their way here and pitching a tent, so to speak. Awhile back, I was driving downtown and was around the Hardee's area. I saw a tiny kitten curled up in the middle of the road. A funeral procession came and I watched the kind funeral director stop the procession, get out of his hearse, pick the kitten up and take it to the side of the road. I smiled at his kindness. However, as soon as he got back in the hearse and began the trek to the cemetery, the kitten jumped back out into the road and curled up into a ball. I could stand it no longer. I jumped out and yelled to Jeff that "I've got this, go ahead." I grabbed the kitten and waved at the sweet, but grieving passersby as they inquired if the kitten was OK. The procession moved on and someone from an office ran out and said, "So Kim, what now?"
So, what do you think I did? Do you think I am made of stone? I took the kitten to the vet, got all its shots, and brought him home. His name is Boots. That same week, my brother found a kitten half-starved and brought it home. Since his wife is severely allergic, he brought "her" to me. My kitten came alive with a litter mate, though adopted. So now we have two: male and female.
Now, back to the stray dog: Sugar. Yes, I named her, what am I suppose to do, say "hey Stray?" She will not allow us to touch her or get too close other than the morning pat on the head. There's no taking her to the vet or removing her from our property, barring a call to the pound. However, it became apparent a few months ago that Sugar probably has never seen the vet for "the surgery." Yeah, she was in the "wanting puppies mode." What to do? What to do? I could only get close enough to pat and without a tranquilizer gun, there was no way to get her "fixed."
I thought, she is so skinny, there is no way, on God's green earth, she will carry puppies to term. However, she grew a bit, but not much. She stayed in a dog house (yes, she took over one of those, too) one morning and upon inspection, I found nine new puppies nestled up against her. What to do? What to do?
Rotating between giggling at my predicament and being mortified, I am sure to get a call from the new show called, "Animal Hoarders" any day now. Not to mention our geriatric pet named "Puppy" is still alive and kickin'. Well, not really kickin', but alive. He is 16 and still sleeping in the house and growing up with his original owner: my oldest son.
Sky, the watch dog, is still here and as elusive as ever when it comes to being tied, tethered, fenced in or reined in. The fact that his neck is so much bigger than his head attributes to that, and yes, he had something to do with the puppies as there is an entire "pile of puppies" that are husky ... the sly little devil. And then there's the psycho beagle that belongs to my youngest son. See what I mean, this is totally "out of control" now.
Soon, we will set up at Walmart in hopes of finding homes for the cute little new arrivals. I'm thinking maybe giving the manager one as a thank you gift for allowing the giveaway may be a start, tongue in cheek here. Then, we could give them away as gifts for "special people in our lives" who do so much: the pastor, the mailman, the UPS man, and now I am thinking: graduation gifts. Yes, you tie a bow around a puppy and hearts melt. This shouldn't be too incredibly difficult. Sugar also needs a home. I'm thinking maybe I could give her to someone I don't really ... well, you know ... who hasn't been too ... you get the picture. Gifting someone with the skunk-chasing dog who was "born to breed" could bring out the dark side of me.
To bring some perspective to all this insanity, I began to reflect (you knew this was coming, didn't you?) on life and how there are times in each of our lives that we need a haven. The kids and I pray every day that God will make our home a haven for anyone who needs somewhere to find refuge, encouragement, safety and peace. Truly, we've been there and know what it is to be taken under the wing of folks just at the right time, and feel the warmth of belonging. A haven is more than a house, it is more like a refuge from the storms of life.
Home should be that for each person alive, but sadly, that is not the case. Therefore, we need to create havens within our daily lives, whether it be through our presence for someone who is hurting or by opening our homes. The only things in life that matter are God and people, and keeping my perspective of that reminds me that sometimes, others need a smile, a kind word, a meal, a phone call, and even a bed for a night or two. You are probably like me and find that God creates "appointments" in our daily lives for this to happen. It may be through your job, civic organization, club, church or family, but however it happens, you have a sense of purpose in it. The greatest truth in this is that as we strive to provide havens for others, we find ourselves reaping the benefits of the connection and finding purpose, fulfillment and joy.
However, the animal kingdom here is coming to a close as I hand out puppies left and right, find a nice home for Sugar and take another kitty to the vet. Please know if you visit me during the next few weeks, you may open your pocketbook when you get home and find a puppy or, the gift bag I hand you with lotion in it may also contain another little token of "wiggling appreciation." I do not want my own reality show due to the creatures on this little plot of land ... so, how 'bout a puppy?
(Kimberly Short-Wolfe, MA, is a homeschool mom and a counselor/licensed chaplain with Cornerstone Christian Counseling Center. To contact her, call 304-637-7018 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.)