Friday, April 1, 2011

Dog Hair, Despair, and Prayer

Yesterday, I posted on Facebook a picture of the enormous quantity of dog hair sucked into the see-through canister of my Dyson vacuum. One vacuuming, one Husky, I wrote. In a comment following the post, I added that I was tired of dog poop, dog hair, and general dog maintenance. The naughty creature had destroyed a box of Kleenex and run into the living room to pee on the floor—an act of defiance because I had appointments out of the house in the afternoon.  Having rubbed her nose in all her messes, kicked her out of the house, and made her wait longer than usual for dinner, our Husky stayed out of my way and would lower her eyes to look sheepishly at me. I wouldn’t touch her or talk to her long after she was allowed to resume her place on the office carpet. Dogs know when they have crossed the line.

This morning, my husband, in his silent way of acknowledging that he understands when I am tired of wiping butts around here, combed a garbage bag full of hair off the dog. The dog only reluctantly submitted to the weight of my husband’s legs across her to keep her from fleeing the dog comb. Today, the dog is remembering hard lessons. I spent the morning out of the house. When I returned, not even a dust bunny was out of place. The garbage (which the old girl occasionally ransacks for paper to destroy when I am gone too long) remained untouched. I put her outside and then sucked up more dog hair with the vacuum. As I write, she sits unusually quietly near the back door waiting for permission to return. The dog has a long memory. Mine is longer.

It’s not just the dog that grates me, I told my husband last night. It’s everything. It’s getting told my son was naughty in school again, feeling disconnected from my daughter, and, due to my hopes having been somewhat dashed by a polite turn-down from the potential of school, the feeling that I am out of control of everything.  My own fate is so hopelessly intertwined with that of others, that I must sit and wait for decisions to be made before I can once again develop a plan. Oh, listen to me just WHINE!

I haven’t written a thing here another dog-owning family-packing individual, male or female, hasn’t felt at one time or another. My husband makes decisions about work that he would make differently if he was not carrying the weight of one wife and four kids… and a dog. Every morning, he empties the dishwasher, brews coffee, brings me a cup of hot java, makes his own breakfast, packs his own lunch, and, to top it off, cleans up after himself. He restocks toilet paper and paper towels on roll holders, takes out the garbage, and brushes hair off the dog.  And only then does he go to work, coming home nearly eleven hours later. The stories he brings home range from tragic to comical, and we discuss them over a drink he has made for me. Perhaps, I shouldn’t complain at all.

And perhaps, dog hair is only a metaphor for everything else—the visible detritus of change. We brush it out, sweep it up, and vacuum it away. It comes again season after season, the massive shedding. My dog takes it quietly. Me, less so.

Wise words came from my sister who called me to provide comfort this morning. I told her I felt purposeless. She told me she loved me, that I was married to the right guy who loved me too, that I was lucky he would have considered altering his plans and waited on his own decisions about a myriad of things while I applied for school, and that it was my turn to be quiet, focus on my family, and prepare for inevitable change. She could feel, she asserted, that the right thing for me was around the corner. Then she tearfully acknowledged how she cannot stand being apart from us. These are all words I had prayed to hear.

Years ago, a priest once told a congregation that we should present ourselves to God the way dogs present themselves to us. Dogs show up on our doorsteps ill or wounded. They lay at our feet peacefully and wait for our intervention and beneficence. Likewise, God sees what must be fixed and does his work. My prayers to God this morning were simple: Transform me into an instrument of your purpose. I will lie still and wait at His feet. 

I'll try not to shed.


  1. A "living sacrifice"is a little more than most are willing to offer. God will call you to death before he calls you to life, and many cannot bear the burden of the death preceding that life.

  2. "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." Christ Jesus, Mark 11:24 (the operative word is "believe")


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