Woman’s Best Friend

Gryffin on adoption day, resting after his first bath

Gryffin on adoption day, resting after his first bath

A few months ago, my husband and I adopted a dog from the Kentucky Humane Society. After three years of allergy shots, I was ready for my first canine. We had been to the shelter several times and never found the right one for us: relatively quiet, good with kids so my niece could play with him/her, medium to small in size, and a low-shed breed. As we looked through the cages, I saw a ball of matted fur in the back of one, off to the side. Large brown eyes stared out of a mound of dirty white hair.

The name on the card read “Walter”. It wasn’t his real name (if he was ever given one) but a moniker given by the intake volunteers, which didn’t seem to fit his obvious youth. I slowly removed him from the cage and he walked around with me, hovering close to my ankles. While I knew we should keep looking at the rest of the dogs, this one had crawled into my heart. He kept gazing up at me intently and expectantly. I hated even putting him back in the cage to fill out the adoption forms—I was a afraid he’d think I didn’t want him, or worse, there would be a mix-up and he would be gone when I returned.

In the days to come as we bathed him, re-named him “Gryffin”, took him to the vet to cure his kennel cough, weaned him off of people food and tried to convince him we’d never abandon him, I learned that he was found at a gas station in the small town of Mayfield, KY. He tried to crawl into the car of a newspaper delivery woman before she called the pound to come and collect him. He was transferred to Louisville because of his sweet nature and high probability of adoption.

Gryffin whimpers and cries during storms, watches us sadly when we leave the house but no longer slams himself against the door to follow. He has gradually come to eat his meals more slowly, trusting that there will be another soon to follow. He still has panic attacks, but far more rarely unless brought on by his bad allergies. Yes, he’s a handful—with him I adopted his anxieties, his health problems, and his fears. But he’s given me such a blessing in return.

Gryffin lets me style his hair between cuddles

Gryffin lets me style his hair between cuddles

On days when I’m stressed, he jumps in my lap and forces me to play. He knocks me out of a downward spiral of anxiety because he is highly attuned to his parents’ moods. Gryffin’s demanding sense of playtime forces me to exercise more, which also lowers my stress and reframes my mood. More than anything, I have found it incredibly rewarding to help be responsible, along with my husband, for guiding this little guy out of his shell and watching him become more relaxed, loving, and confident every day.

I’m learning about that oldest and most ancient of relationships and what having “dominion over the animals” means. It’s a great responsibility to care for this puppy, discarded and unwanted by someone who didn’t or couldn’t understand the depth of that task. In caring for Gryffin, I’m also caring for myself. I’m being reminded of the blessing of God’s creation, the importance of being connected to all creatures in it great and small, and my heart has grown larger and more grateful.

I’d love to hear from you: Do you have a special relationship with an animal? What have you learned from that relationship? Leave me a comment!

Laura at ordinationLaura Barclay is an ordained minister and author. She holds an M.Div. from Wake Forest University School of Divinity and a B.A. from the University of Louisville. She spent five years working with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina as their Social Ministries Coordinator. Barclay is currently at the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship working on communications and networking. She is active at Highland Baptist Church, where she assists with adult education and children’s ministry. Her first book will soon be released soon by Smyth & Helwys entitled With Us in the Wilderness, and she blogs at The Winding Labyrinth. She is married to a fellow minister, Ryan Eller, a community organizer. She can frequently be found decked out in red and cheering for the Louisville Cardinals.

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  1. Laura, Gryffin is too cute! Beautiful story. My pets are always interrupting my peace and quiet, sticking their noses in, begging to be petted right when I am having a special, sacred moment all to myself. Sometimes I get annoyed. Sometimes I think to myself instead: “What would it be like if I were open to the thing right in front of my face, asking to be loved? Would that change me through and through, if I could really see the adorable, love-needy thing before me and pay attention?”

  2. Lovely essay! Gryffin is a lucky dog, and you are a lucky human.