I’m sure you already know who’s who here. And if you know me personally, then you definitely aren’t a stranger to our journey and relationship. Tippet’s role in the life of this nerve tumor warrior has become an iconic one. That’s for sure.
I’ve struggled to publish a blog the last several months, as there’s been no real drastic change in health for me, to report. I still have hundreds of inoperable nerve tumors that have varying levels of activity, every day. So I still have “flares,” which I happen to be currently still in the throes of. I had initially planned for this blog to publish this past Sunday, but my body had other plans. I’ve run us out of hot water twice in the past two days.
Some days my tumors wreak havoc, leaving me with minimal energy and mobility, gridlocking me to baths and heating pads. Other days my tumors emit just enough pain to remind me I’m sick, and keep not only my body, but my mind and emotions on edge. Honing my ability to hold patience is always a thing. For me, that looks a lot like the proverbial “mary sunshine” with an incredible aptitude for sarcasm. Being inherently sarcastic doesn’t automatically make me indefinitely angry at the world. But it does allow me to lace this crazy life and it’s happenings with humorous parallels. Again, those who know me, know. You can’t see me, but I’m winking.
Four Paws and One Determined Spirit
What I can report on though, is this wild and loveable Sheprador, what she does for me on a daily basis, and how she, in her own doggy way, illuminates life and its many lessons.
I know there are some who have followed my neurofibromatosis journey and have seen a few pictures of Tippet, but know little, if anything, about this girl. So let me share her soul with you!
She will be four in August. We rescued her at four months old in December of 2018, and needless to say she has filled our home with love since day one. We knew she was special and so incredibly smart when my husband I were able to house and crate train her within just a couple months. She learned all the basic commands dogs are taught, “sit, stay, lay,” etc, in no time. But her mind and capabilities continued to expand over the next year. Off leash bathroom trips, all controlled by verbal commands. Answering questions, and being able to differentiate between questions like: “Do you need to go outside?” And, “Are you hungry?” Along with several other questions, phrases and words. When we needed to begin spelling, and implementing other words/phrases just to avoid recognition, we knew she was a smart one!
I began watching dog trainers like crazy online. But didn’t actually get courageous enough to try a new trick, or an out of the box command until she was legitimately three years old. I lacked confidence and belief in myself to actually make any progress. I just didn’t think I could. Regardless though, I still wanted to at least try and explore everything she might be capable of. One day, I got brave enough, and I tried it on for size. I told my husband I was gonna teach her to open the fridge.
Well, we both went from “unsure and doubtful” to, “let’s see if she can open the front door!” And it only continued from there. In one day, she learned to open the fridge, the front door, and the side door. We now have ropes that dangle from every handle.
The next day I had her identifying my medication by nose punching the bottle. By the end of that day, I had her retrieving my medication from various and assorted places in our home.
I kid you not. She’s about the smartest dog I’ve ever known. Anyone who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, is grossly wrong. And, maybe a little intimidated?
Just three short months ago, I made the command decision to start working with her in a couple of our local grocery stores. Teaching her to open doors and retrieve meds at home seemed like an easy task compared to the challenge of taming a hyper, exceedingly vocal and reactive Sheprador in stores. To say I was nervous, is an understatement! I lacked confidence all over again. When I talk about reactivity, I don’t mean aggression. Tippet isn’t aggressive. She loves people, and I do mean everyone – every stranger. She views every man, woman and child as a friend. I’m grateful I was blessed with a loving dog, nobody wants a “cujo” as a pet. But at the same time, it’s been quite a difficult task bettering her full undivided attention.
I think she probably would be flawless by now had I started when she was a pup. Hindsight, ya know.
Anyway. I had to learn, and quickly, how to navigate through crowds, quiet places, and busy stores with a reactive breed. That meant leash work, and a lot of it. That meant redirection when faced with a “trigger.” I’m mostly affable by nature, so making my way through groups of people with an unapproachable expression felt foreign and downright uncomfortable for me at first. But I knew it was necessary for Tippet’s in public demeanor. It meant knowing that I needed to somehow make myself the most interesting, exciting, and important thing in her surroundings – and that meant keeping her attention and focus on me, despite the bystanders who insisted on communication or interaction with her. It’s been a challenge! She’s a mama’s girl by default, so that’s helpful, and a little food motivation goes a long way. I just needed to educate myself on how to gain this undivided attention and successfully lead her. I needed to learn how to take this fragile, yet headstrong, loyal and loving mess of a soul, and not only protect her, but guide her to be her best. And that was when it hit me. I realized that she’s only as successful as I help her be.
Look Up, Child
Ironically enough, one day last week, Tippet and I were strolling through the freezer section of our local Ingles and Lauren Daigle’s song “Look Up, Child” came on. In this moment, I looked down only to be met with doughy brown eyes, and a big k9 all-teeth smile.
Dogs smile, I don’t care what anyone says.
I smiled back at her, and then my heart smiled, because it was also in this moment that I realized the parallel.
I realized that we too, look for validation, encouragement, growth, closeness and purpose. Similarly, the way that our dogs look up at us with trust and excited expectance, is the way we should be looking at Jesus. What lessons, treasures, and blessings await us when we’re focused on the One Who protects us?
I think the question we should be asking ourselves is this. Do we also allow ourselves to be guided, taught and molded? Are we looking up at the King with eyes of adoration, eager feet, and a willing spirit? Granted, God isn’t gonna feed us morsels from a treat pouch. Our spiritual and emotional well being are fed to us in different measures, and in different avenues. No one believer is the same. But rest assured, our “Handler” is the same, and He’s multi-versed and multi-dimensional. He equips our spirit to receive and translate growth measures that we can understand in our individualistic ways of comprehension.
Have you ever wondered how the perfect human image of health and wealth can be so miserable and self loathing, while an ordinary, and flawed individual can beam boundless joy and exuberance for life? Let’s dive into that for just a moment.
Perspective and Purpose.
I may be partial, but I’ve personally experienced and witnessed souls in the Neurofibromatosis community who went from “this glass is half empty” to “let me show you how to live life.”
Perspective. Am I right?
It’s truly astonishing and flooring to witness different walks evolve as God sees fit. He gives perspective first, then purpose. His construction is careful and methodical, lacking nothing, and perfectly timed.
I think we should be making strides at focusing on our paws of obedience and adoration for the King, instead of hyper focusing on our human-derived spades of flaws. We serve an Almighty King Who has flawless and eternal ability to coach us to be our best.
Choose To Live Now, Not Later
If you’ve ever studied a happy dog’s disposition, it’s obvious that they’re happy because they’re living in that moment. They’re not worried, or stressed about what’s next, or what’s tomorrow. It’s almost like they coined the phrase “carpe diem.”
I think God places certain people, animals, situations, and even afflictions in our lives to give us perspective that we previously lacked. I think the goal is to capture our attention, edify our character, and recalibrate our footsteps. We start out as blank canvases, and throughout our journey we end up with wild, crazy, and unorganized brush strokes that highlight misdirection, due to our hasty walking. Those misled brush strokes eventually lead to chaotic splotches of a disheveled identity, and the only Artist Who can transform our secularly-designed frame, and redesign it for success, is the King.
Messing up is inevitable. Missteps are bound to happen. We trip, and we fall. But when Jesus comes knocking with a gentle reminder, or even a common sense 2×4, are we attune to it? Do we get back up and allow Him to get us back on track? We can be ready to be protected, and guided for success, or we can be daft and dense.
Free will, and a free spirit under the direction and protection of the King makes for an unbridled warrior for the Kingdom.
Never forget that.