Lesson Learned: Dogs Can Actually Teach You Stuff

fitz baby

This is Fitz. I know, *all the heart eyes*. One of my in-laws’ dogs had a litter of 10 pups in May of 2015, and to keep track of which puppy was which, they put numbered collars on all of them. Every single one was cute, but Fitz (aka “Puppy #2”) stole my heart instantly. We called him “Number 2” for months. And for whatever reason, they decided to keep him for us, long before we even had a place to put him.

fitz puppy

I’ve spent my entire life wanting a dog more than almost anything else in the world, but I also mentally rolled my eyes at the people I knew who talked about their dogs like they were human. (I’m aware of how backwards and stupid this sounds.) You know the ones – the people who are like “He’s/she’s my baby,” who dress them up in sweaters, who share those cheesy pet memes on social media, and who can’t manage to take a single picture without including the dog in it.

Well…I finally understand why people talk about their dogs the way they do!! Like I said, we’ve only had him for a little over three months, but I still bawled my eyes out a few weeks ago when it occurred to me that he won’t actually live forever. Sure, being followed around the house incessantly and never being allowed to go anywhere alone gets old after awhile (especially when he just neeeeeeeeds to follow me into the bathroom and I can’t stop him because the door doesn’t latch all the way). But the thought of him NOT faithfully laying on the floor every time I sit on the couch, and NOT being so excited to see me that he trips over his own feet on his way to the door….it makes my stomach hurt; I just can’t think about it.

Fitz

I remember the day Fitz came to live with us so well, particularly the moment when I paused in Tractor Supply, bewildered and overwhelmed in front of about 16 different kinds of dog food. What are dogs even good for anyway?, I wondered, my heart beating faster as I surveyed the few but expensive items in my cart. (Side note: I am SO thankful that Daniel’s parents, Sue and Steve, were with me. They helped me navigate the entire store and pick out the things I really needed, and I probably would have stood in front of the dog food in a daze for two hours without them there.) As I reluctantly made my way to the checkout counter, knowing that Daniel and I were about to be several hundred dollars poorer, Steve put his arm around me and joked, “Boy, it sure is fun to go shopping with other people’s money!” Lolz, thanks Steve. I called my dad while waiting in line and told him that I finally understood why he never let us have a dog. He belly-laughed and told me that kids are a way better investment. LOLZ…thanks Dad.

fitz sleeping

UGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH. I can’t believe he used to be this little. Good grief, he was cute.

And look at those best friends forever!! ↓↓↓ I miss that lil girl. She needs to move here.

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It hasn’t all been cute pictures and cuddles and roses, though. Oh no. He’s torn up outdoor couch cushions, shredded 10 rolls of toilet paper on the rug, trampled through the entire downstairs with muddy footprints, scratched up wood floors and doors, sloshed water all over the place, and shed enough hair to knit about seven sweaters. Not to mention the barking, the pooping, the energy, and the fact that taking him on a walk is about as relaxing as a Navy Seal obstacle course. Sometimes I remember that I love him, and sometimes I think about strangling him. I won’t tell you which I do more of.

The weirdest thing of all, though, is that Fitz teaches ME stuff. I expected he would learn a lot from us over the last couple of months, but I never thought I would become a student again too. I’m willing to bet most of you dog owners can relate!

4 Things I’ve Learned from Fitz:

1. Unconditional love is an actual thing.
I know this sounds horrible…but I don’t know if I truly believed in unconditional love before Fitz. I mean, yes. I KNOW that God loves me unconditionally, no matter how much I screw up. But that’s hard for my little brain to make sense of sometimes. And so few human relationships reflect that kind of love. Even though Daniel does a great job of making me feel loved no matter what, he’s not perfect. And I put a lot of condemnation on myself too: for example, “How could he possibly forgive me for this again? I’ve apologized for the same thing like 12 times.” Fitz, though? Oh my gosh. It doesn’t matter WHAT happens. It doesn’t matter if I’m gone from the house for two days or two minutes; he is EXCITED BEYOND ALL BELIEF to see me. He loves me more than I’ll ever understand. I’m thankful for the sweet reminder that God’s love for me is the same – wholehearted, unchanging, unreserved, and unlimited.

2. Obedience is a constant choice.
I wish it was possible to do the right thing ONE TIME, and your brain is like, “Oh..okay! This is how it’s done, so I’ll just do it this way from now on.” But we aren’t robots. So that’s not a thing. Being obedient is not always the easy thing to do, and Fitz has given me a taste of what it’s like to be a parent because I’ve watched his thought processes play out. It’s like I can see the gears turning in his brain. I’ve seen him do the wrong thing deliberately, even after I told him no. I’ve also seen him do the wrong thing multiple times too, like the toilet paper fiasco I documented on Instgram – he had already done this exact thing twice within a weeks’ time. But the other day, he did something INCREDIBLE. We were on a walk and stopped at the college campus’s front lawn for a break. I sat on the ground and he walked around the lawn on his leash. As he smelled everything in sight, I noticed a piece of trash about three feet away from him that I knew he would eventually see. Sure enough, he saw it and nosed toward it. Because he has a history of eating literally everything in sight, I tightened my grip on his leash, preparing to give him a gentle but firm nudge away from it. To my surprise, he barely even sniffed it before completely passing it by. What a rock star! I was so proud of him! I was prepared to pull him away, but I didn’t even have to because he had no interest. That’s exactly how we should be with sin: completely uninterested and so unfazed by it that we can’t even be bothered to stop and check it out. I pray that God breaks my heart over my bad habits and wrong choices, but I’m also thankful for His grace that fills in the gaps for us when we DO fail.

3. Growing up is hard and requires patience.
Sometimes, I forget that Fitz is a still just a puppy because he’s a giant. I remember very quickly, though, when he is hyper and wiggly and wild. Countless times, he’s struggled to be patient and do the right thing even when he doesn’t want to, like sitting still or doing a trick for a treat. He makes the same mistakes over and over again. He sneezes in your face. He thinks you’re playing with him when you’re really trying to punish him. He tries to hug you with his entire body and ends up giving you Wolverine-esque scratches instead. All things that a fully grown, old, tired dog would probably watch while quietly chuckling to himself. Aren’t humans the same way? I look at preteens now and think, “Uhhhh I really hope I was not that immature and dramatic when I was that age…” And I totally was. Let’s get real…I’m still dramatic. (I can admit it now.) But not like I used to be. That took time! I didn’t grow up in five minutes. And I can’t hold my dog (or my future kids, or other people’s kids) to that expectation.

4. Sometimes the things you want aren’t actually good for you.
The other day, I took some empty boxes out to the storage shed in our backyard, and Fitz, of course, had to follow me. You know how Christmas lights usually come with a little package of extra bulbs in case one on the strand burns out? He found that package and decided to try to eat it. I turned around and hurried toward him as soon as I heard the crunch of plastic in his mouth, but he thought I was playing with him and started running around the backyard. Running around with a flimsy package full of glass that could go down his throat and kill him. I was just trying to protect him and he thought it was all a big joke. As I finally managed to grab him, it occurred to me that God does that with us CONSTANTLY. We think we know what we want, that we know what we can handle, that we know what’s good for us. But He sees things we don’t, and every move He makes is for His glory and for our good, even when we don’t like it.

fitz puppy #2

I love my boy. He’s smart and feisty and cute, and he’s taken up a very permanent residence inside my heart. Who knew he’d be such a great teacher?

P.S. I have to include this bonus (albeit horrible quality) iPhone photo because HE ACTUALLY CUDDLED WITH ME. He’s not super snuggle-y, but I think it’s just because he’s still a young pup and can’t lay that still, that close to a human who can play with him, for that long, without getting the wiggles. This was a rare moment and I cherished all 30 seconds of it. I mean……..doesn’t your heart just burst with love?? ♥♥♥

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