on tiggers, gracias, and grace

Were I to have set out to obtain a canine companion – which I most decidedly did not do – I could not have chosen for myself a better match than the four-legged ball of brown fur and wagging tail that chose me. Truly.

For a long while I had ‘wanted’ a dog – like someone ‘wants’ something that is just out of reach, but always desirable.

But, faced with the practicalities of life, I didn’t put any action into actually obtaining that which I believed I wanted. But clearly someone heard. Clearly some intention was communicated out beyond the confines of my small self, to a world beyond that heard, listened, and responded – or maybe it was all just chance, coincidence, luck. I prefer to believe in serendipity.

Granted, at the time of the fluff ball’s arrival I was not so convinced – how can I possibly have a dog, I asked myself, and anyone who would listen. Until one day about a week into the adventure a friend pointed out that, having purchased a stylish matching leash and collar, it appeared that I had, in fact, admitted that I did, actually, have a dog.

But I don’t have a life for a dog, I protested, rather futilely, as the canine began to slowly, almost imperceptibly at first, to rearrange the life that I thought I had so well ordered.

Three years and some weeks later, I cannot imagine life without that dog in it. Yes, I do have a fairly crazy life for someone who now has not just a dog, but two cats as well. But there are ways of figuring those things out. The joy that creature brings to my life – and I chose the word joy intentionally – far outweighs the hassle of figuring out what to do with her when life takes me away from home and into the world.

She loves to play fetch. She loves the ocean. She loves running on the beach, chasing the birds, chasing the frisbee. She loves to swim. She looks like a bit like a coyote, my favorite animal as a child and the subject of my fourth grade report on an animal – any animal – of my choice.  She has mellowed out somewhat, from those first months, thankfully, and now sleeps peacefully nearby while I sit to write this.

I named her based on her high energy and her propensity for jumping – Tigger, was what a friend on facebook suggested – and it stuck.

But had I given her a name based on her place in my life, for her role rather than her behavior, there is one name that would have transcended all others – gift. Or perhaps grace. For that which I could not actually accomplish on my own, was graciously given to me. What I wanted, but couldn’t find the space or the way to encounter, appeared on my porch without the slightest action or initiation on my part – other than to allow her to stay.

In the debate about baptism in the Christian church (trust me, you didn’t miss a paragraph or a page here, this will relate, shortly) there is a discussion of whether or not one should be baptized as a baby or as an adult. “You should be an adult,” many will say, “for only an adult can make a decision on an important matter such as this.” The emphasis is on the importance of belief, the importance of acknowledging, accepting and embracing that which one believes to be true. That is a good and reasonable rationale.

But there is also the conviction, held just as strongly, that being baptized as an infant, an infant who has no choice in the matter, is just as valid a form of baptism as that of an adult. “Being baptized as an infant,” the reasoning goes, “shows us in a tangible way that God chooses us before we can even know what that means – that God’s love and graciousness are offered to us freely, long before we know how to respond.”

Not all that unlike a dog – the perfect dog for us really – who shows up one day on the porch without any decision, action, or belief on our part, and proceeds to begin a transformation of life as it had previously been known.

A gift, freely and graciously given – a gift that we are invited to receive. And feed.

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