Faith, as Taught by a Puppy

The author's replacement...

The text message read, “Meet your replacement.”

Soon after, the picture arrived. I saw a litter of puppies, most playing and roaming around in the background, except for one. One puppy stood firmly with his back toward the camera, but with his head turned over his shoulder staring directly into the lens. His two huge ears like radar dishes, that he will inevitably never grow into.

I held my phone, looking eye-to-eye with my parents’ new puppy, my replacement. As much as I wanted to be jealous, I couldn’t. Looking at those enormous ears and those focused eyes, I knew I had lost the battle to the adorable puppy, but I wasn’t jealous at all.

***

In August, I met him. A half corgi, half blue heeler mix, he would always be short with dwarfish legs and a long torso. My mother appropriately named him “Tyrion Lannister Biro,” in honor of one of her favorite characters from Game of Thrones.

One evening during my short visit home, after a long day, my mom, dad, and I sat around talking. The puppy played at mom’s feet, or rather, little Tyrion fought valiantly to return his rope toy from under my mom’s foot. Eventually, as his tugging waned and the effects of a long day full of exploring and playing caught up to him, my mom picked up Tyrion and held him in her lap.

It’s strange to say that a puppy can melt, but this one did. He laid on his back in my mother’s lap, and simply melted into sleep. His head leaned back. His arms fell to his side. His stomach faced her, inviting a belly rub. His positioning would seem awkward to anyone who has bones, but for a puppy dissolving into the comfort of being loved, he looked like he was in heaven.

***

A few months later, I quickly learned two lessons from my parents about Tyrion. First, be careful not to get the puppy too excited. Second, be careful the tone you use when correcting the puppy.

He gets very excited very quickly, and—still being quite young—he has trouble holding his bladder. Every time Tyrion sees me, his excitement leads to his little chirp-like bark, and nearly every time a little accident.

At one point, I unwrapped something and accidentally dropped a piece of the paper. Looking down, I realized Tyrion had grabbed the paper, so I said, “Drop it.” His little ears drooped back, he dropped the paper, and slowly stalked away. Right where he was standing, a little puddle remained. I hadn’t been loud, only firm.

I later tracked him down, and I apologized—which I know sounds crazy to do with a puppy, but I did it anyway. Only, I hadn’t planned on how happy Tyrion would be—as if he understood that I wasn’t actually mad at him—and he got too excited…

***

One evening, Dad, the puppy, and I were watching football. Tyrion was sleeping comfortably in the chair with dad. Something we did must have woken him up, and he sat up.

There was a look on his face, and I knew that look meant trouble. While sitting up on the extended legs of dad’s recliner, he looked with a ferocious focus at me and my chair. Mental calculations occurring. His ears twitching, checking wind speed. His little legs quivering with energy about to explode. Then, he jumped.

The little puppy, too small to genuinely make the distance, sprung into the air. His short, stubby legs outspread like Superman leaping over a building in a single bound! Despite his belief to the contrary, Tyrion is still a corgi—there was no way he was going to make the gap. At the last second, I sprung forward to catch him and pull him into my lap.

He curled up on my lap and went to sleep. What I thought of as a death-defying leap, a Evel-Knievel-esque dare, he somehow knew would be perfectly fine. His smug little nose hid itself between my arm and the seat cushion, and I couldn’t help but wonder if all along he had planned for me to catch him.

***

Tyrion Lannister Biro – the good life.

And here’s the honest truth: I am jealous of the puppy, but not in the way that you might think. It’s not that he’s more adorable than me; I concede that willingly. It’s not that he gets to play all day, though that sounds pretty awesome. I’m jealous of how simple things are from his perspective.

Sitting in my mom’s lap, Tyrion knows he is entirely safe. He lays there, in total peace. No worrying about how to fit his work into the hours of his day. No obsessing over whether something will or will not work. No struggle to navigate when to be guarded and when to be vulnerable. No overcomplicating things. He trusts entirely that it’ll be OK—that someone will catch him even if he falls.

It’s pure. It’s simple. It’s a faith without questioning or overthinking. It’s a faith with a little heart entirely open. It’s a faith so authentic, that I’m jealous. It’s the faith of a puppy, a faith that I wish I had.

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Photos by the author!

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