Over this weekend, our almost twelve year old son was “hired” for the job of taking care of our neighbor’s dog, Winston. This sounded like the perfect opportunity for Thomas to gain some independence, foster responsibility, and earn a little pocket change.
Before our neighbors left town, they instructed Thomas on the process for feeding Winston, getting his water to him, and taking the pooch on his twice daily walks. Our neighbors gave Thomas written instructions, their house key, showed him the food stash, and how to open and close the fence gate where Winston stays. It seemed like a basic dog-sitting gig with little concern for difficulty.
That is, until one Hurricane Joaquin hit the Atlantic. In our area, temperatures have dropped drastically and it has been a constant barrage of steady, pelting rain. These are not ideal conditions for a boy’s first dog-walking and dog-feeding job.
On his first trip down the street to care for Winston this morning, Thomas set off with house keys in one hand and the dog’s leash in the other. We expected his return within the half hour.
After almost double that amount of time, I began to worry a little and slipped on my rain jacket and shoes to go make sure an extra set of hands wasn’t needed.
When I approached our neighbor’s house, I saw Thomas, his back to me, latching back the gate and a very spirited dog pacing back and forth on the other side. The closer I got, Thomas turned around and with a forlorn look in his eyes and the front of his rain-soaked clothes covered in muddy dog prints, I asked him how it was going?
His response: “Mom, I don’t think I’m cut out for this dog-sitting job.”
I asked if he’d finished feeding and walking the dog.
It turns out Thomas had spent the better part of the hour just trying to get the dog’s leash on. He and Winston both had been sloshing through the mud and rain and every time Thomas tried to attach the leash to the collar, the excited dog had playfully escaped his grasp.
I helped Thomas remove the carabiner and unlatch the gate; I swiftly clutched the dog’s collar and attached the leash. Pretty soaked by now myself, Thomas and I walked the dog a few hundred yards down the street, locked him back up, and agreed to check back in a few hours.
To give a little background on this story, I have to share that when I mentioned this dog-sitting job to Thomas after getting the text from my neighbor, his sisters were more than a little jealous. Not only do they like dogs a whole lot more than he does; they also are desperate to be old enough to earn some extra money taking on odd jobs such as this one.
Thomas was pretty emphatic that this was his job that he had been hired to do and that he did not in any uncertain terms need or want any help caring for Winston over the weekend.
too lazy to go back down there again always thinking on my feet, I insisted that Thomas take Mae and Kate with him on his return trip to feed, water, and walk the dog later in the day. He barely balked at the idea and I knew deep inside he was relieved to have his sisters along to help.
They all devised a plan. They took empty cups from our house. Thomas went inside our neighbor’s home to fill the cups with water and dog food. His sisters held the cups while he locked up the house and unlocked the dog’s fence. He had a better plan in place to hook the dog onto the leash and while his sisters held the dog off, Thomas emptied Winston’s bowls of leftover food and rainwater and refilled them quickly. The three of them shut the gate, took the dog on his walk, and returned him easily to his pen.
Overall, this process was much smoother than the first go-around. No one was covered in muddy dog prints. Sisters were happy to get to walk Winston. Thomas was thrilled that two extra sets of hands helped to lighten his load.
I have absolutely no idea if Mae and Kate’s help will compel Thomas to share his earnings or not, but this has been a very valuable, teachable moment around the Wood house this weekend.
I drew a few parallels between having a team to share in the dog-sitting with some real life truths about trying to do things on our own.
We may believe that we are fully independent and capable on our own. We are not.
God longs to carry us and help us relinquish our burdens.
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. ‘For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.'” (Matthew 11:29-30)
God places people around us to help give us strength.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
God comforts us even when it feels like we are all alone.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
It took my son nearly an hour of wrangling a wet and muddy dog to recognized that he, in fact, needed some help. His sisters willingly came to his aid. He now realizes that while dog-sitting may be a one-man job on a normal, sunny day, in the rain the extra hands make all the difference. It’s not #justfeedingandJoaquinthedog It’s trying to do it in torrential rain.
I pray that I would be more aware of the times when I am floundering in the rain and muck of my own life and instead of insisting on doing things myself, my way, on my time and terms, that I, too, would willingly and unashamedly accept the help my Father longs to give me.
Maybe you don’t feel cut out for or qualified for the job or task the Lord is asking of you these days either. I guarantee that if you simply look around and look up, He is waiting to carry your burdens. He’s placed a community around you to help. And He will comfort you when you feel despair.