Golden Nala has been with us now for four months. Things have gotten back to normal. Smile. Well, no, we have a slightly different, new normal. For instance, there is no such thing as hitting the snooze button with Nala around. Once the alarm goes off, she is up and making sure we get up, too. My husband hasn’t been late to work once since she arrived, and I haven’t slept past 6:30 am either. Life with older dogs had gotten into a smooth, slow routine. Like life with a human toddler, our lives just got shaken up, but for the better.
Life is suddenly brighter at 6:30 am with Nala licks and tail thumps as she manages to wake both of us at the same time, giving one puppy kisses and the other tail thumps before friskily flipping in one bounce to reverse the action. At first, it was an excited run to the yard for morning busies. Now, after four months, Nala insists on food first followed by a brisk walk around our large yard, sniffing every flower or bug and greeting the neighbor dogs as she takes care of morning busies along the way. I have gotten more exercise in these months and seen more sunrises than I have in a few years. The feel of the warmth on my face as the sun slides up has taught me where east is while filling me with joy as I ponder God’s creation. The two older dogs, who used to sleep in beside me, now walk with us and feel the warmth of the new day’s sun melting away the stiffness from the old bones. Life is different with Nala, but it is better.
In her short time, Nala has gotten used to new sounds, new sights, and new activities. Nala has given kisses to several students as they took new baby steps seeming to understand that baby steps were actually giant leaps for each of them as she encouraged them to keep working. Nala has helped me graduate the 2015 class of Wynfield Christian Academy and even gave them the signature Nala full-body wag as we all celebrated their milestone. Recently, we traveled out of town to a special service held by the South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church to say goodbye one last time to my sweet Daddy. Nala led me through the crowds, sat at my feet as we listened about his life until it was our moment, quietly helped me take the first corporate communion I’ve had in years, and then she stood by my side as the Elder called his name, and we said, “Thank you, Lord, for this your servant.” Nala leaned against my leg as if to support me and show her love as they rang the bell signifying that Daddy is now at home in peace.
Nala has done so much already in a short time, but is she a second match in Heaven? I already had one, so is my prayer for a second too much to ask? Nala is fitting in so well, that you might think it is possible. Let me tell you a little story about talking with her puppy raiser and how it all began. . .
Nala’s puppy raiser family was a husband, wife, a daughter who was a senior in high school, and another daughter who was a Junior, along with a niece. In a way, Nala had lots of help in the raising department. Nala was sponsored by a Junior class at a high school as a gift honoring the Senior class of that high school. The high school was the school the two daughters attend. In fact, the younger daughter, being a Junior, sponsored Nala, as a gift honoring the Senior class, including her very own older sister. That might seem like a coincidence, but there was a plan in place. Nala’s raiser, the mom, had a father who really supported the cause of Southeastern Guide Dogs and had always wanted to raise a puppy for them. He died a few years ago, before he got the chance. Nala’s puppy mom decided she would complete the dream herself and raised one puppy before Nala. The raiser didn’t say, but I can read between the lines and probably see that the mom or the Junior daughter knew just the perfect gift to suggest to the Junior class to honor the Senior class and her sister giving her sister an even more special gift as the new puppy could live with them for a year being loved by them all. This story, minus my little addition of reading between the lines, was included in the public bio of the raiser and her family in the welcome package I received the day I signed the owner transfer agreement to receive Nala at the end of our training period. With my father dying so recently and the fact that he loved dogs and my gift of independence through a dog, I felt a connection to this family I had never met. There was a common thread between our two families: the love of a dog.
With this thought in mind, I was given a brief connection via emails just before my trainer left. There would not be any other connections for at least ninety days. That is a good policy that Southeastern Guide Dogs has because it allows a smooth transition for the dog’s bonding to the new handler. Once the transition is made, then both parties can decide, unfettered by feelings of obligations and deeply sensed sentiments, whether or not continued contact fits their particular lifestyle. Not knowing what either of us might decide, I wanted to leave a distinct impression of my appreciation for what the family does for Southeastern Guide Dogs and especially for what they did for me, personally. We talked in text about the generalities of our lives, and I explained how much a guide dog does for me by giving me a sense of independence and confidence. Then, I couldn’t help but think of my father again, knowing he would have loved meeting Nala, which reminded me of how the love of dogs brought our two families together. I typed, “Your father is smiling down on you, I’m sure, proud of what you are providing to those of us who need it.” It was all I knew to say to express so much of what was in my heart.
Later, as I talked with my trainer, she told me the puppy raiser had said I seemed perfect for Nala and had brought her to tears with my comment. I was so glad that those few words were able to express some of what I felt. My trainer went on with words I didn’t expect. “I feel this was truly a match made in heaven.” My heart skipped a beat, and I gasped with awe. My Lord had found the perfect way to show me His love and that He is always in the middle of the details. I typed quickly to confirm, “Did you tell her about my article or anything like that?” The response was, “No, nothing at all. I thought it was interesting.” All I could say was, “Yes, there is a God.” Yes, there is, and He is perfect in every way and so good to me.
We make plans, but God guides our steps. That scripture, Proverbs 16:9, has meant a lot to me over the years. It has never been more visible, more real, than it was in that moment. Thank you, Lord, for Your goodness and faithfulness. Yes, I certainly got a second match made in Heaven.