Learning How to Love Thanks to My Labrador Retriever, Wilson

Time really flies. It will be one year next month that we added Wilson, the yellow lab, to our family. When we adopted him, he was about to turn two years old. We were the fourth family he had been with in a period of 20 months.

Now, I’ve never owned a Labrador. My last dog, and best friend, was Duffy, a Golden Retriever. I quickly found out that the breeds are entirely different. While both are known to be chewers, Duffy at least had some restraint. Wilson, on the other hand ate anything! In a very short period of time we lost a Handel’s Messiah score, the cover to one of my favorite journals, the cover to one of my favorite books, an I-Pod, two pair of eye glasses…. Need I go on?

Plus, I have learned that Labradors are counter surfers. We have learned to not leave anything on the counter that could be eaten. We can’t even leave the phone in its cradle when we leave the house. Yes, he tried to eat that too.

When we first had Wilson, he hardly wagged his tail. He made very little eye contact and didn’t like to be petted. This behavior was the exact opposite of my Golden Retriever. Duffy was always at my side and lived to be petted. Also, Wilson would be in the other room instead of being in the same room with us.

In addition to the chewing, Wilson turned our serene, nature loving backyard into a murderous hunting ground. We once enjoyed sitting outside watching the bunnies and chipmunks scamper around. Now, we’ve watched in horror as Wilson goes into hunting mode, the likes of a lion chasing an antelope on the Serengeti.  We’ve lost at least three bunnies.

Painting this pretty picture could make you understand why Wilson was not exactly lovable, (we first called him J.D. for juvenile delinquent) even though he looks adorable – as you can see.  It could have been very easy to ignore him, or worse, give him away again. But we didn’t do either. We chose to love him.

I refused to own a dog that didn’t wag his tail or want to be petted. So, I showered him with non-stop attention. We went for walks. We played catch. I made it a point to hug him and not let him go and to look him in the eyes. Every night we have a ritual where I pet him and scratch his ears before we go to sleep. At first he didn’t let me pet him. Just this month, he knows exactly what I mean when I tell him, “It’s time to go night night.” He immediately goes to the door to head upstairs to the bedroom.

I get down on my hands and knees and he comes bounding into my arms. THAT is what love will do.

As I’m writing this post, he is no longer in the living room by himself in his chair. He is here with me sacked out. Usually, I’ll find him under my desk with his head or some part of his body resting on my foot.

We all need love and attention. In spite of Wilson’s poor behavior, we loved him anyway. Wilson has taught me what love really means. It’s not about receiving love; it’s all about giving love. When we give,  when we love, a miracle happens. Love comes back to us.

No wonder Paul wrote in I Corinthians 13:8 & 18 – “Love never fails. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Who can you love today?

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