It was life as usual since I said goodbye to Luke. There was a giant void with him gone, but I had surrendered to the idea that I probably wouldn’t ever have such a deep connection with another dog. Of course, I love all of my dogs. Immensely. But there’s a deep soul-tie that sometimes happens along that’s unexpected and profound. Once you’re knit together with another creature in the depths of your soul, life will never be the same. And losing them will be agonizing.
But then along came Clementine.
As I watched over Velvet giving birth to 9 beautiful bulldogge puppies, I noticed about midway in the birthing process that an exceptionally tiny pup had been pushed forth into my world. Weighing a whopping three ounces at birth, this pup was alarmingly small. She was less than half the size of her litter-mates. As I watched her scoot around and struggle to nurse in what seemed to be a sea of giants, I knew that I had to intervene if she were going to live. I put her in a shoe box next to my bed on a heating pad and began bottle feeding her every two hours around the clock. I prayed a lot. I cried a lot. To say that I was exhausted is an understatement. I have vivid memories of bottle feeding her during the night while seriously wondering if anyone had ever died of sleep deprivation. It seems ridiculous now, but in that moment I was convinced that I might simply drop dead of exhaustion.
Needless to say, I lived through the many days of agonizing sleeplessness and emerged from the experience healed and whole in a profound way. The heaviness of life without Luke coupled with weariness as I bottle fed this wee little pup opened up a floodgate of God’s grace which poured forth in unexpected and overwhelming ways. As my heart ached for Luke, God sent to me a pup that I would have to surrender myself to. As with any relationship, deep connection and love is only cultivated through devotion and self sacrifice. As I poured myself out so that this little pup might live, my soul began to connect with her in ways that I had not anticipated. Simply put, she stole my heart.
It’s our natural inclination to wonder where God is when we enter into adversity and suffering. Life is often heavy and riddled with struggle. No one is exempt from the cruelty and harshness. I have found that it is precisely within the struggle that God’s presence is most tangible. After all, the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and he rescues those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18) As my heart broke, God’s heart broke and poured out into me healing in ways that I didn’t recognize in the moment. I wouldn’t have chosen it. I resisted it, in fact. And as with most of what’s meaningful in life, it only makes sense in reverse. A dear friend of mine said that this pup was God’s love song to me. As beautiful as that sentiment is, I remember thinking as I was running on fumes that she was more like a heavy metal song. Now that I’m on the other side of the struggle and I’m able to more clearly discern what God was doing, I cherish that sentiment in my heart.
We named this miracle pup Clementine and she graduated from a shoe box, to a plastic tote, to our bed. Still tiny, she weighs in around twenty five pounds now. I’m amazed that the good Lord could pack so much personality into such a tiny package. Opinionated and strong-willed, Clementine was a fireball dropped right into the middle of my “life as usual”. I find myself wondering how I ever lived without her. Isn’t it interesting how we relent to a certain type of existence and then suddenly, out of nowhere, life is turned upside down and transformed into something we never could have imagined, something glorious? That’s what grace does. It bores into our messiness and revolutionizes our lives. It’s unexpected. It’s often wrapped in unassuming packages. And sometimes it’s a tiny runt puppy that steals your sleep and erodes your resolve. I’m thankful for the grace gift of Clementine that I didn’t ask for, didn’t know I needed and tried to resist.
And though she be but little, she is fierce.