I’ve never really been a dog person or, thinking about it, a pet person!
As a kid I remember wearing my parents down with my constant pestering to convince them to get me a hamster. As a twelve year old it was frustrating to discover that Hamish the hamster generally woke up at the time that I was being sent to bed. I honestly think he would have been a better companion during my Uni years when I was up all night trying to meet deadlines or watching endless episodes of Friends.
Then there was Lucy, the most arrogant, self important, snobbish cat I think I’ve ever met. Just imagine a cat version of the ladies who refuse to serve Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and that was Lucy! It seemed that living with us was one big inconvenience for her. The ONLY time she was nice to me was when I played the piano. She would try to sit on my knee or burrow her head into my arm and purr. As soon as I stopped playing, she would jump down from the piano stool and sit with her back to me, offended by my very presence.
Now, we have Watson!
My in-laws have always had Old English Sheepdogs as pets and my husband was keen to follow this tradition. After discussing the possibility of a range of more sensibly sized dog breeds, I was reminded that Old English Sheepdogs (surprisingly) don’t moult much and from that point on the deal was done.
Watson shows all the usual characteristics of his breed. He’s loveable, great with kids and when we walk through the door he greets us with the biggest smile you can imagine. If anyone goes out of the room he follows them to check if they’re ok and gently reminds them that they need to return to the rest of the herd…I mean family! He knows when I’m ill or fed up and will come and sit right next to me, often attempting to get on the settee in the process. As I mentioned earlier, I’m not really a dog person, but I’m not ashamed to admit that on many occasions Watson has made dark days easier to face and I’d be lost without him.
There is one other thing that you need to know about Old English Sheepdogs: they are extremely stubborn. If an Old English Sheepdog decides that something is a certain way then it’s going to take something pretty impressive, possibly even divine, intervention to convince them otherwise.
This morning I decided I needed some fresh air and a break from the lap top. I grabbed Watson’s lead and poo bags and we headed out of the door. Outside, it was a beautiful winter’s day with bright blue skies and crisp cold air.
We walked our usual circuit avoiding the Yorkshire Terrier that wanted to pick a fight (#smalldogsyndrome) and headed for the duck pond. For once, there was no one feeding the ducks and no toddlers for Watson to unknowingly intimidate, so I sat myself down on the bench, taking in the view.
I un-clicked Watson’s retractable lead and pointed him in the direction of the ducks, the inviting muddy puddles and the plethora of different smells available for him to explore.
He was having none of it!
Instead Watson sat by the road, flinching as a truck went by and looking back towards the houses on the estate. He then sat down next to the dog poo bin and refused to move!
In the end, after tangling myself up in his retractable lead and repeatedly trying to convince him to move towards the sunshine, I gave up. As a further show of defiance he then proceeded to lay down behind the bench I was sitting on, facing the opposite direction to the duck pond, resolved to sit it out.
Prayer has been difficult recently. I have struggled to sense God’s presence or hear his voice, but in that moment watching Watson laying in the muddy grass, the message was clear.
I sat there on the bench listening to nothing and for just a few moments I let my mind be peaceful. All the “shoulds” and “must dos” were silenced for just for a couple of minutes. There are beliefs, values, ways of doing things that I know I am stubbornly holding on to. There are expectations that I place on myself and opinions that I give far too much weight in my life. Instead of playing in the sunshine, I’m defiantly sitting by the road side flinching in fear as circumstances drive by, looking back towards what was before and sitting down next to a collection of negative thoughts and experiences. More and more I’m ignoring the ducks, water and sunshine.
Up until today I’ve been really hard on myself about it. I’ve made lists of things I should be thankful for and piled on the guilt when I’ve seen others who have so much more to cope with than me. That stops today…not overnight…but it stops.
Part of the personality traits of my breed (for want of a better word) is to push, prove, succeed, be reliable, be the one who gets the job done and yet I feel like God is purposefully pulling me in the opposite direction. He’s asking me to be still, reflect, be silent and sit in the sunshine!
Unlike me, who may or may not have uttered the words, “stuff you then Watson,” God is patient as He tries to cajole me away from the roadside towards a life that is lighter. It’s me that applies the pressure on myself unnecessarily and stubbornly sits in the shade.
Tomorrow, I will probably take Watson to the same spot. However, this time I will get my wellies on and walk with him to the water’s edge. I’ll reassure him as he tries to pull me back to the road he’s used to and will gently remind him that it’s all good and there’s nothing to be afraid of.
“The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.”