The next three years were filled with some of the hardships of life. First, I ripped cartilage in my knee and had surgery. Then, a disc in my neck ruptured, causing excruciating pain and loss of function in my right arm. I had another surgery. After recovery from that, Greg and I went to work at an orphanage in Zambia, Africa for a couple of weeks. The strain of building relationships with many of the children and then leaving them behind was tremendous. This was intensified dramatically when our process of adopting two of the boys fell through at the last minute.
At nearly the same time as that bitter disappointment, we were betrayed by people we viewed as friends. Their dishonesty about money fueled their actions. Before I had time to catch my breath, some significant people in my extended family expressed great contempt for me, using many harsh words. My lack of value was made crystal clear. This different kind of sorrow nearly crushed me.
I was almost not surprised when I developed an agonizing pain that pulsed and radiated through the whole left side of my face and front of my head. Neither dentist nor neurologist could find anything wrong. I was told I had an incurable nerve disease, dubbed suicide disease. Four months later, however, it was discovered that a back tooth had cracked, top to bottom, front to back, but it had been held together by an old filling, making it invisible to x-ray and examination. I was happy to find that all I needed was an oral surgeon.
Throughout it all, we discovered we had a core of friends who valued us and we could trust. And we were blessed with the addition of a few very important new ones. All of these relationships flourished and grew stronger. They put God’s love into action as they nourished our souls with listening ears and kind encouraging words. God even let us be an encouragement to them. We were knit together by the simplicity and purity of God’s word. How fitting it was that an unexpected surprise should come through one of these families.
A year after the face pain had begun, we were told that our family dog would die soon of cancer. A couple of weeks later, our friends found a four month old stray puppy. They tried all known methods of finding the owner, especially since she looked like a well bred dog. She had long, slightly kinky dark merle blue fur. Her form was reminiscent of both Australian shepherd and golden retriever. She was intelligent and responsive, seeming to want to please. I knew immediately that I wanted to take her home.
My husband hesitantly agreed. He knew my history of fear of dogs. Plus, I still had four kids that I was teaching at home. Still, he conceded, with the understanding that she was not his responsibility.
It seemed to me that she was the pet that Melody and I had talked about. I spent Melody’s money purchasing equipment and dog food. Much of it went towards the open wire crate, or indoor kennel. She was given the name “Kiwi” based on the idea of her being fuzzy on the outside and sweet in the middle. She was attached to me by a leash when she was active and locked in her kennel for resting. Since we are home most of the time, we bonded very quickly. I soon discovered that she would sleep by my bed without leaving all night and wait for permission to get up in the morning.
I researched training methods and blundered through some positive reinforcement techniques before I recognized it as ineffective and silly. Then I recalled a program an acquaintance had mentioned to me years ago. This 10 week group class, with it’s daily practice, gave me the tools to deal with every challenging behavior and circumstance. Once I was established as Kiwi’s primary trainer, the kids also learned to apply the training and have even more fun with her. Greg even started to have fun with her.
It says in James 1:17 that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and come down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (New American Standard Bible) . Kiwi was the perfect gift for me at the perfect time. She is not yet perfectly trained, but she was just what I needed. God specifically arranged for her to come into my life like a hug from heaven, like a breath gently whispering to me in my heartache. Only He knew how to so beautifully complete Melody’s gift to me.