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  • Writer's pictureShirley Larson

Libby: This Woman's Best Friend

COVID-19 isolation has me reflecting on those closest to me. But those closest physically include my mama and my dog. So today I write about my dog and all the things she is teaching me in isolation.

Libby is the most unique, and quirky animal I've ever owned. "They" say that animals take after their owners, so take that for what it's worth. That being said she also the sweetest, kindest, least dominate creature known to man. She is always good with kids and other dogs, however in her old age she likes to do her own thing and, for the most part, tends to ignore people and other dogs. What can I say my dog is independent and wants to sniff everything around her.

In her old age Libby is no longer interested in people and other dogs for a long amount of time. She greets. She's not rude. But she quickly moves on to sniffing something else. EVERY 5 FEET!! This wasn't so much of a problem when we could walk off leash, but now its slightly annoying. She lacks self preservation which makes me keep her close and from running too much. Im sure from her perspective she just appreciating her surroundings. She is no rush to do our lap by the library just to return home. If she really had it her way we'd be out for 5 hours and then she wouldn't be able to walk for days. But my dog likes to take it all in. Im not sure why I am always in rush, I tell myself constantly on our walk, let her sniff, we have no time limit. I suppose it speaks to my inability to be still or because I'm using this activity as my own exercise and don't want to stop. Or it speaks to her training and how I'm not really the boss. All of these seem logical but also to have deeper ramifications that we don't need to explore right now. But Libby stops and smells everything, so I'm learning to the Psalms is called a Selah, a break in the singing. It's meant to pause and reflect on what has just been said. I need more of these pauses. I need more stop and breathe moments of reflection. Often times I am quick to react and to offer an opinion, or a solution to a problem. So I am appreciative of my dog teaching me to stop. In the days of our off leash walks she would always sprint and frolic in the snow. She swirls and takes off and then dive bombs snout first allowing the powdery flakes to wash over her whole torso. Then she flips, rolls and twists essentially making a doggy snow angel. Every time she does it, I think its the cutest, funniest thing ever. Every time she does it, it brings me joy. EVERY TIME. The delight she has in playing in the snow is so pure and full of spirit, it is contagious. You can't help but smile. I'm reminded that joy doesn't just come from circumstances it comes from just being who you are and loving what you do. My dog playing in the snow isn't to entertain, it's because who she is, is a pup who loves the feeling of the frigid frost washing over her whole body. Joy also comes out of who God created us to be and He delights when we embrace and use the gifts, talents and characteristics He designed within us. Libby often brings me joy because of her enthusiasm for the outdoors. How much more must God have joy when we passionately pursue the things in our hearts? How much joy could we create within ourselves if we stopped looking at our circumstances and the waves the surround us and be who we were created to be?

What used to be adventures, has turned into daily walks, but while her youthful spirit still yearns for those adventures, her body does not agree. When we over do it, there is a lot of moving slow and whining in pain. We do what we can medically speaking but she's getting older and her joints just hurt. What I've appreciated about my dog is her enthusiasm for the outdoors and her reaction every time we say we're going for a walk. That has never changed. She jumps, spins and barks and forgets that she's old. She loves the outdoors. If we had lived in different circumstances perhaps she would've been solely an outside dog. As it is, she goes in the back yard often, eating snow and then just laying by the back door. I think she chooses the back door to stay close to her people while enjoying the coolness of outside. When its warm again we'll go outside and have more backyard fires, Just to be with. That's what she longs for: the simple act of being with. Sometimes I find her asleep in beside my bed or in it just because she wanted to be close. This is is a lesson I am learning. It's not about what we do, or say with others, its simply about being with, occupying the same space and sharing with one another. It's not always about fixing a problem but more about listening. Its about closeness that doesn't necessarily mean proximity but understanding someone on their level. I also listen to my dog whine often. I still try to fix the problem...usually regarding food or being let out. But sometimes her whining isn't about anything at all. I'll just go lay with her on the floor and be with her. Sometimes that helps, her knowing that I hear her and that I'm just going to be with her.

It was returning from our walk a few days ago that Libby's actions had really spoken to me. She had eagerly started our walk pulling the leash, amped up for the journey. We had been out for less than an hour, and in the latter portion of our trip she had significantly decelerated to a walk beside me. Upon our arrival home she made her doggie snow angel and refused to get up out of the snow.

I was finishing up listening to "The New Activist" podcast. (Highly recommend by the way. The Esther is story telling at its best and while its a rollercoaster of emotions, its well worth the listen.) I wasn't cold so I let her just lay there in the snow. Literally 10 feet away from our front door. Like I said, my dog loves the outdoors. She just wanted to be outside with her person (that being with element). As she laid there in the snow I took note of the moment. The things we are all learning in this season but that my dog emphasized there in the snow: to slow down, that there's no need to rush, and to be content. Did I need to be in the, was I so cold that I needed to warm, was there anywhere I needed to What was waiting for me inside?...puzzles, food, books, Netflix, nothing that was pressing for my attention. So we stood outside...while I stood, she laid. It wasn't a long time, I waited for my podcast to end and my bladder to make the decision for us and in we went. With all that is happening in our world, my dog doesn't know any different. She just wants to be loved...and fed. In this season she too is learning to slow down. Although her self preservation instincts aren't fully in tact, but maybe ours aren't either. God built into our system a Sabbath, but how many of take advantage of that? Maybe after self isolation is all over we'll change some of our busyness. Perhaps we'll be more content and appreciate the season we are in, and then learn the art of slowing down. We might become more intentional with our time and words, as rushing through the journey without paying attention to any one isn't very life giving. Maybe we'll learn how to be with people in a new way that is engaging and personal. I'm not sure what the future looks like but in a time of isolation my dog is bringing me joy and teaching me that "being with" is enough. She is showing me the art of slowing down, not rushing, taking in my surroundings, being content and learning to pause. Its a lot for a dog but Libby who is independent and wildly quirky maybe doesn't know all the lessons she teaching me because she is just being who she is, which is currently this woman's best friend.

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