From Psalm 3
I didn’t even know dog anxiety was a thing, until I adopted Bella. She’s my ten-pound, black-and-gray Shih Tzu/Poodle mix. I picked her up in Canandaigua, New York, nine summers ago this year. Part of an accident litter, she was the only girl of eight puppies, and I fell in love with her instantly. She was a ball of fluff you could fit in your hand with little brown eyes poking through black cotton.
My goodness, it’s a good thing she’s cute—or I’d have gotten rid of this dog a long time ago.
To date, I’ve lost somewhere between ten to fifteen jackets (I've long since stopped buying Columbia brand). Bella likes, scratch that, loves to chew zippers and then leave them for you right next to their victims on the floor. It’s like she’s proud of it, like she’s done you a favor: “Whew, that was a lot of work, but finally I got that silly thing off for you. You’re welcome.”
She also likes to dismantle jewelry, the decorative elements on shoes, and any stuffed animal she can get her paws on. I can’t tell you how many of my daughter’s friends have gone to the “hospital” (aka my mom’s sewing shop) to be repaired after an attack from little ole, brown-eyed Bella.
And this is why I can’t leave her out. You understand, right? This is why I can’t let her roam free while I’m away doing errands or running Liv to school. I CANNOT TRUST THIS DOG. I’ve tried setting boundaries, closing doors, and giving her limited space. It doesn’t matter. She finds something to chew on, and even when she’s in her cage—her metal cage—she just chews on that. It took her about five years, but eventually, she chewed enough bars off her last one (I wish this wasn’t true) that she could wedge herself through the hole she’d made.
I came home to a wagging tail, a locked cage, and a head (mine) full of confusion.
Why the obsessive chewing? Her counselor hasn’t disclosed everything to me (something about HIPAA), but this much I know: Bella hates being alone. She gets nervous (actually starts shaking when we’re about to leave), and despite the years we’ve been together, despite the number of times I’ve always come home and always let her out, she still gets anxious, still bites her nails, and still chews the bars of her cage.
How many times, I wonder, has God felt as exasperated about me as I do about Bella? When I find myself in another tight spot, how many times has He thought, Child, why don’t you just relax? Despite the years we’ve been together, despite the number of times He’s delivered me—He always comes through—I still find myself restless, nervous, riddled with anxiety.
In Psalm 3, David wrote, “O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me” (v. 1 ESV)—a tight spot indeed. But then, somehow, in verses 5-6, he’s able to say: “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of the many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.” David had a legitimate reason to sound the alarm, yet in the Lord, he found peace.
His secret can be found in the verses between: “I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill” (v. 4). This is written in past tense; in other words, it’s a memory, and this is key. When we find ourselves surrounded again—whether by circumstances that scare us, people who threaten us, fear that overwhelms us—we should remember both what He's done and what He's promised, both who He is and who we are in His eyes.
The door may yet remain closed, but rest assured, “Salvation belongs to the Lord” (v. 8).
Next week’s reading: Psalm 7–13.