If we needed a picture of “dog” in the dictionary, I think Tiger would be a great model. She is all things dog-like. She likes to ride in the car with her head out the window. She loves to play. She sleeps on my bed with me. She also sticks her nose in the trash at every opportunity, barks at anything that moves on the lawn and sniffs bottoms – canine and human alike.
Overall, though, she’s an awesome dog.
I wasn't always this enamored with her, though.
We got Tiger about seven years ago, shortly after our Rottweiler died. Even though Taj had her puppy moments (she ate the arm off a sofa once), when she grew up, she was the best behaved dog I have ever known. We found Tiger at the Humane Society. I wasn't really expecting to find the dog to replace Taj that day. It was the first time we went looking after her passing. But there was this dog. Nick fell in love with her immediately. I was more cautious. What did we know about this dog?
The Humane Society told us that she was two years old and wouldn't get any bigger than her 45 pounds. They also told us that she was housebroken, that she was a Boxer/Hound mix and that she loved being in her crate. We took her home and quickly realized that she was NOT housebroken and that she HATED her crate. She barked nonstop when we put her in it, but when we took her out, we had to watch her like a hawk because she would pee on the carpet. We’d haul her outside to finish. She was horrible on the leash. Remember the old Charlie Brown cartoons where Snoopy acts like his collar is choking him to death? That was her. She’d try to get away and chase anything that moved. She’d run away just for the sake of running and think it was a game when you chased her. When we brought her back in the house, she barked when she was outside her crate just to get attention. And then when we crated her at night, she kept me up half the night whining.
When we took her to the vet a few days after we adopted her, we got some startling news. One look at her teeth, and the doc said, “This dog is 6-8 months old and she WILL get bigger.” At least it made me feel better about her not being housebroken. I asked if she was really a Boxer/Hound mix like the Humane Society told us. He said, “She’s a mutt.”
I've had a lot of dogs in my life, and she was the first one I've seriously thought about taking back. I didn’t think I could handle her bad behavior and was sure she was not going to change. I called my Mum about it and asked her what she thought.
She told me with absolute finality, “We have a covenant with dogs. We do NOT return them.”
“Covenant.” That’s a strong word. The dictionary defines it as a contract, but I think it’s more than that. I think it’s a bond which may have started out as a promise or a contract, but has developed into something much deeper. It’s a word we find over and over again in both the Old and New Testaments. God didn't just make a promise to Abraham. He made a covenant. He didn't just create a contract with the Israelites when he led them out of Egypt. He created a covenant. He didn't make a promise or create a contract when he gave up his own human existence to prove his love for us. He made a new covenant.
How many times have I misbehaved or run away from God? How many times have I barked too loudly or whined too long? But God has a covenant with us, and so he will never turn away from us. He will never turn away from me. How awesome is that? He will seek me out when I am lost; He will shelter me when I am cast out; He will love me always. No matter what.
I can only hope to reflect that in my relationship with Tiger. Perhaps it is no coincidence that “God” spelled backwards is “Dog.” I could go on about that relationship now in my own words, but artist/songwriter Wendy Francisco has already done a fine job of that for me. I want to share part of her book, GoD and DoG, with you now. You can see and hear the video version on YouTube. I highly recommend it.