It was a break-through moment. My dad and I had persevered for close to a year, gently trying to help Bailey overcome his abusive past. To that point Bailey had exhibited fear and oftentimes aggression if anyone other than me came too close. That Sunday dad arrived for his routine visit and sat down in his usual place on the couch. Bailey boldly jumped up next to him. Then, he did something he had never done before—he laid down with his front paws overlapping my dad’s leg, anticipating a treat. We rejoiced, as it was the first time Bailey had ever intentionally touched my dad.
From that day on, Bailey only continued to improve. In the six years since his adoption, he has changed from an abuse-scarred animal into a loving, well-behaved, handsome fellow—in short, the perfect pooch for our family. Now when we go to my dad’s house for a visit, Bailey can’t wait to tear through the door and run straight for my dad, who is usually sitting in his recliner. Bailey takes a flying leap into his “granddad’s” lap and my father delightedly exclaims, “Well, hello, buddy!” When family visits from out of town, Bailey is in doggie-heaven. He makes the rounds, moving from lap to lap to receive the maximum number of tummy-rubs.
A few months ago Bailey was due for some booster vaccinations. A vet who had never seen him before came into the exam room to administer the shots. Opening the file, she saw the word “FEARBITER” highlighted at the top of the folder—a label that had remained on Bailey’s record since his first fateful visit to the clinic. “When should we muzzle him for his shots?” she asked. “I really don’t think that’s needed,” I replied. “Bailey is not the same dog he was when he first came out of the animal shelter.” The vet took my word for it and proceeded to inject Bailey in the scruff of his neck. He didn’t even flinch. Then my “boy” did something that made my heart burst with pride. He reached up and gave the vet a lick on the nose.
She immediately grabbed Bailey’s file, reached for her pen, and scribbled furiously. When she turned the folder so I could see it, a huge smile broke out across my face. “Fearbiter” was obliterated, and in its place a new word was written in large capital letters: KISSER. I couldn’t have been more proud than if I was a parent watching my child cross the stage at commencement. That moment officially commemorated Bailey’s transformation. And it reminded me that it was no accident that God led Bailey to choose me to be his “mom.”
Bailey’s story taught me many lessons. I learned that negative behavior often has hurt and fear at its core. More importantly, I witnessed the transforming power of persevering love, gentleness and kindness. I now realize that when God brings someone into my life that is exhibiting behavior that is difficult to be around, I need to be patient. The Creator isn’t finished with him or her yet—or with me. It’s possible that a fear-biter may really be a kisser in disguise.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.”
I John 4:18
“Love is patient, love is kind . . . It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
1 Corinthians 13: 4, 7