Last week I wrote about friendship and the power of speaking truth to each other. I shared about my friend telling me I needed counseling to deal with a sticky, chronic family situation. I did not want to do what she suggested but I did.
I do not hesitate to get help for plumbing issues at my house or physical health issues. I get my car tuned up regularly. I Google things all the time. Why would I not get help with something so emotional, difficult and family related?
When I set up the session, the counselor asked if I was afraid of animals or had allergies. I thought those were strange intake questions until I arrived at my session and was greeted by Grace, a chocolate Labrador Retriever who does therapy alongside her owner. We had a Chocolate Lab when my kids were tiny so she looked very familiar.
I’ve seen therapy dogs in hospitals, schools, rehab centers and hospices but never in this kind of therapy.
She greeted me politely at the door and then settled down beside her owner’s chair.
I spent half of my life not being a dog person. We had some strange dogs growing up. Those dogs were not into human bonding at all so I didn’t even know it was a thing.
Then I read The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. It changed me. The entire beautiful story is from the dog’s point of view.
Now I have a yellow lab who is bonded to me like glue. She and I walk every day. She prefers to be by my side in whatever room I’m in. When we are traveling somewhere alone, even a place with no fences, I don’t have to leash her. She will not leave me. She often will give me a little lick just to let me know she is close.
Many times, I’ve marveled over my dog’s quiet closeness to me as similar to the closeness I perceive in God’s presence. Silent, comforting, near, as close to me as my own breath.
During that first counseling session, I cried. Gently, Grace relocated closer to me, laying on my foot, just a little, like my dog does. On my second visit, she actually pressed into me.
I see the world in metaphors, color, symbolism and unspoken meaning. I always have.
I believe those who have spiritual eyes see God often in unexpected places. I’ve learned not to doubt thar reality, just to receive those sightings, gratefully. I am a God of surprises, so look for me everywhere. Jesus Always, p. 267.
When you are working through hard things, talking to a stranger through your tears, trying to find a way and Chocolate Grace lays gently on your foot, then presses into you, you are home and God is close.
For by Grace you have been saved by faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God….Ephesians 2:8
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace, breast cancer survivor and dog lover.