I don’t recommend replacement therapy…

Disclaimer:  I realize that this is ‘normally’ a blog about cakes, however, this post is not.  If you are reading this blog only because you like to read about our cakes, then you should probably stop reading after this paragraph.

Those of you who read our blog may remember my post about losing my little chihuahua, Gypsy.  I wrote about how devastating it was to have to put my little friend to sleep.  She was my sweet little dog  who was constantly by my side, that is, except when I was doing a cake.  In a year that has been fraught with loss, I still miss her terribly.  I just couldn’t imagine my life without a little chihuahua by my side….

This is Thistle (say that three times fast).  Cute, isn’t she?!  This was the first day that we brought her home.  That was the last time that she wore this pretty little sweater…

My husband and I love animals, especially dogs.  I have to say that Rick is much more tender-hearted than I am and he will never turn an animal away.  I think that we would have more animals if it were up to him.  So the day that I brought Thistle home without telling him, he was perfectly fine with having another dog.  Yes, I bought a dog without telling my husband, even kept it a secret for three months actually.  I brought another chihuahua home, partly because he missed Gypsy as much as I did….and, because I knew that he would be fine with having another chihuahua.  He always said that Gypsy was our easiest dog to take care of.  She was so portable and you could contain her without a crate, you just had to put her on the bed and she couldn’t go anywhere.  I knew that Rick would be fine with another chihuahua just like Gypsy.

This was Thistle earlier today….after our walk.  She’s soaked.  It was raining while we walked.  We can’t let a little rain stop us.  We’re going to walk no matter what the weather.  Do you hear that, Thistle?!  We’re going to walk no matter what the weather.  We’re going to walk if it kills me.  In rain or snow or gloom or night or …….nevermind.  Let me explain.

Gypsy didn’t walk….anywhere.  Gypsy would never go for a walk, let alone through a mud puddle.  She didn’t like to get wet or dirty.  Thistle and I walked in the rain today and she hit every mud puddle on the entire route.

Remember when I said that we didn’t have to crate Gypsy, we just put her on the bed?  Thistle jumped down off my bed the other day.  She’s four months old and my bed is an antique reproduction bed.  It’s probably three feet off the floor.  Are you beginning to get the picture?

It wasn’t long after bringing Thistle home that I began to see that Thistle was not Gypsy, not even close.  Gypsy never chewed on a dog toy.  It was beneath her.  After all, she didn’t really believe that she was a dog.

This is Thistle’s bed.  There’s no room for her to sleep in it because it is full of dog toys.  I know that puppies like to chew so I bought her some cute, little, teeny, tiny puppy bones to chew on.  The toys in her bed are the toys that belong to my other dogs.  The red kong probably weighs as much as Thistle.  I play a game with her.  In the morning, I scatter these toys all over the kitchen floor and within minutes, she has gathered them all and put them back in her bed.

The difference between Gypsy and Thistle is like the difference between the two female dogs in the Disney movie, Lady and the Tramp.  Gypsy was like Lady, a sweet-natured, beautiful little cocker spaniel who lived in the lap of luxury, and, Thistle is Peg, the messy-furred, mutt who lived at the dog pound.  They both have a place in your heart, it’s just harder to love one of them than the other.

I decided that I didn’t like her.  She wasn’t my sweet, little Gypsy.  She was nasty and growled and chewed our hands, every member of the family.  She tried to dominate us.  She tried to dominate the cats.  She tries to dominate my border collie and…my 65 pound, 12-year-old husky.  Apparently, she dominated her litter mates and she was under the assumption that she could dominate us as well.  She had no trouble making the naughty list.

We’ve had enough dog obedience classes over the years that we knew what to do.  We began some pretty aggressive training.  I wasn’t going to let a 2 1/2 pound chihuahua be in charge of my house and family.  We put her in her crate when she chewed hands.  We did exercises to dominate her, yes, the same things that we did to dominate my husky, who is 12 times her size even as a puppy.

We started to see some progress, but not enough to make me like her.  I kept all of Gypsy’s sweaters and when I tried to put one on Thistle, she just growled and tried to bite me.  I contacted the breeder.  I was ready to take her back.  I’m ten years older than when Gypsy was a puppy and a lot has happened in that time.  I’m tired and old and I just didn’t feel like dealing with this nasty, little puppy.  I talked to my veterinarian of 30 years.  He did some things during her checkup that, he told me, encouraged him about her personality.  “She’s not a nasty or aggressive dog, she just needs to learn who’s boss.”

Then I talked to my husband, and my daughter, Gracie, who helped me buy Thistle.  No one wanted to take her back.  But then, no one was faced with spending the same time caring for her that I was and I just didn’t want to put forth the effort for a dog that I didn’t even like.

They say a dog is only as good as it’s owner is patient.  I started to think about the condition of my heart.  Why wasn’t I willing to work with this puppy?  Why did it seem like such a Herculean chore?  I’ve trained other dogs.  Why was this one any different?  I believe that everything that God brings into our lives is an opportunity to learn something more about Him and about ourselves, but why in the world did I have to deal with this puppy?  I thought that I would be bringing home another chihuahua just like my sweet, little Gypsy.  I started to get angry because I didn’t end up with the puppy that I thought I wanted.  Then, I lumped all the losses together from the past few years and I realized that it wasn’t just the puppy that I was angry about.

I know, I sound like I’m whining, don’t I?  I thought, “I’m tired…I’m weary….it’s been a hard year after a series of hard years, but maybe, just maybe, God knew that this puppy was exactly what I needed.”  I know that I can train this puppy and work with her and help her to succeed.  It’s just whether I feel like it or not.  Thistle certainly doesn’t realize what a hard year it’s been.  She’s just a puppy, doing what puppies do.  I guess the question is whether I am willing to invest in her or not.

And then we started walking together.  We both need the exercise.  I need it because of my age and weight (let’s not go there) and Thistle needs to burn off some of her limitless energy.  Not only did she not fight me but she walked beside me like she’d been doing it for years.  Something about her walking obediently by my side made me begin to see her differently.  She’s a nutty, crazy, wild little puppy, but when I put a leash on her, she walked like the best show dog.  Right now, as I write this, she has climbed up on the end table and is terrorizing one of the cats, but she’s also learned to sit on command and come when I whistle for her.  Small steps….puppy steps, but just as God continues to forgive me and give me chance after chance when I mess up, I guess that’s the least I can do for Thistle.

Does my heavenly Father see me the way I see this puppy?  I just can’t help but draw the parallels between my own rebellious heart and Thistle’s.  I keep making mistakes but with God’s patience and love, forgiveness and leading, my rebellious heart can be tamed as well.  I’m thankful that He’s been a whole lot more patient with me than I have been with Thistle.

Some things you just can’t replace.  It’s best to not even try.  I know that now.  I think I knew it all along.  Sometimes it’s best to just move on and, not forget the past, but be willing to change as life changes.  I guess, at one point, I needed a sweet, little, chihuahua who never went for walks.

Now that I think about it, I was always lonely because I didn’t have anyone to go on my walks with.

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