November 11, 2014

Somebody's Got You

The other day I said to my southern beau, "if we end up having a child, would it be okay if we named it Leon?" In case you weren't aware, Leon is my dog...a 9 year old rescued boxer mix who captured my heart from the first moment I saw his bright shining face in a photo on the website of our local animal shelter.

Leon chilling in bed - He has his own Facebook page by the way!
Since bringing him into my home, my heart has opened up in places I didn't even know existed...places that are now filled to the brim with love for his smelly 70-something pound self.

We may or may not name our future child Leon, but that's beside the point. Earlier this year, Leon started walking funny. We first noticed it when visiting my parents. He was dragging his back feet and happened to walk across their jute rug, leaving the tops of his paws raw and bleeding. Then we noticed that he had trouble using the bathroom because his back legs didn't want to support him when he tried to squat.

After some tests and Internet research, we figured out that he probably has a degenerative disorder, much like multiple sclerosis in humans, causing nerve damage in his hind quarters. It creates loss of sensation in his feet which is why he drags them and often walks on his back knuckles.

It's pretty hard to watch your sweet able-bodied pup go from leaping up multiple steps in a single bound to needing to be carried just to get out of a doorway. But his spirit is still just as sweet and so far it doesn't phase him too much.

Leon and I lived alone together for nine years and nearly every night we've slept side by side, first in a queen and now in a roomy king sized bed. Since his condition has gotten worse, he really can't get up into the bed by himself so I find myself hoisting him up several times a day.

He has a $40 dog bed located in my bedroom, and he enjoys sprawling on it, but sometimes he just wants to come up on the big bed. Usually all it takes is a little whine but sometimes he rests his face on the edge of my bed and looks at me with those big ol' eyes. It doesn't matter what I'm doing or how comfortable I am, I always get up and haul him up here.

I gotta say it's not a graceful act. He's wiggly and wobbly and I have to reach under his stinky little dog armpits and sling him up about three feet in the air, all the while trying to lift with my legs and not my back. But every time I do it, I always say the same thing. "Momma's got you."

Sometimes he cries from the floor in the middle of the night and I go through this dog-lifting routine while half asleep. When I wake up with him next to me, I often can't remember how he got there except I know he didn't do it by himself.

He doesn't have to worry about how he's going to get up on the bed, he just knows that I'm going to take care of it for him. In so many ways this is a picture of what love looks like. Messy, awkward, uncoordinated efforts that result in somebody feeling safe and cared for.

Lots of people in my life have been there for me like that...way more times than I deserve. It doesn't always play out exactly the might be something as simple as an encouraging text or Facebook message from a friend. But even these seemingly little things remind me that there are people in my corner, people who've got me.

Sometimes I feel guilty thinking about all the people who've never felt loved or cared for like that. Even still, I know this is how God feels about all of us. But I guess if somebody who was supposed to love you treated you mean, it's hard to believe in God.

The best way I can even begin to remedy it is to add a little more love to the world. We all can.
It only takes noticing people. Well, not just noticing but also really seeing them. And looking past their "I'm fine" to see what hurts lurk below. It might be awkward or wobbly. And we might end up wondering how we got there. But let's do it anyway.