Leaps of Faith

We make decisions every day. Some are major decisions that can affect our lives forever, while others are rather insignificant. When we make the potentially life-altering decision, we can never really predict with certainty if we are making the correct decision or not. At some point, we have to let go of the intellectual side of our brains and take a chance. We must make a leap of faith.

How we get to that leap of faith is different for everyone. Some people turn to God and trust that He is guiding them. Some people rely on their gut instincts. Some people defer to fate or some other outside force. We intellectualize and weigh options for as long as we can. Contemplating options is good, but over-thinking can leave us paralyzed and unable to act.

Sometimes these seemingly smaller leaps cause a significant amount of angst. So it was this past week, when I started contemplating when it would be safe to allow Willy to be off-leash. He has caused us significant consternation in the 12 weeks we have had him. The transition has not been easy. He was a stray, after all, and was not used to being with a family. He seemed to like us well enough, but the couple of times he got away from us, he sprinted off. Those moments of him fleeing at a gazelle-like pace felt like an eternity, and I was incredibly lucky that I was able to get him to come back to me. I wondered if he would ever settle in and want to be with us, or if there would always be a part of him that wanted to be a stray.

We had been making so much progress that I was beginning to think he would be off-leash at some point in the near future.  But I was still incredibly terrified of losing Willy. When I adopted him, I was making a promise to protect and care for him to the best of my ability for the rest of his life. As we ran and hiked along a trail on Tuesday, I thought about how much nicer it would be for him to be able to go at his own pace. He could roll in the snow and smell the marvelous odors of the forest. But, I wondered, was this truly the right time? Had we had enough time to really develop enough of a bond or would I possibly never see him again?

After contemplating all of the things that could go wrong over the course of several miles, I dropped his leash. He stayed with me. He flopped and rolled in the snow. I kept walking. I looked back and he watched me quizzically before following me down the trails.

First day off leash!

First day off leash!

Eventually, I took his leash off altogether. He still stayed with me. It was truly an amazing sight to behold. This wild-eyed feral creature WANTED to be with me now. Every single day since then, he has gotten some off-leash time. I am over joyed with how well Willy is doing. Our bond has deepened over this past week, as we have been able to learn to trust one another and fully enjoy our time outside together.

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Every major decision in life eventually involves taking a leap. At some point, we must throw some caution to the wind and hope that our decision leads us on the best path. With any major decision, we cannot know with 100% certainty how things will work out. I thought about all of the times in my life which involved letting go of a sense of control and hoping for the best: Deciding on a college. Selecting a major. Every job I have taken. Getting married. Moving across the country from my family, twice. Getting divorced. Getting remarried.Sometimes I have made great decisions and sometimes I have not, but I would not be the person I am today if I had not made each and every one of those choices along the way.

Raising children requires constant leaps of faith.From the time they are learning to walk, through the time they are learning to drive, to every time they walk out the door, we have to hope that they will be ok as we learn to let go, to trust, to drop that proverbial parenting leash.

Falling in love may be one of the ultimate examples of taking a leap of faith. Loving someone demands that we place our hearts in another human being’s hands with the hope that they do not abuse or destroy the gift of our emotions. It is human nature to want to protect ourselves from pain, but to truly love someone, we have to learn to let go of our defense mechanisms and completely and implicitly trust another human being.

With the guy who I choose to trust every single day of my life.

With the guy who I choose to trust every single day of my life.

Even going on with  my life after having had pancreatic cancer has required a huge leap of faith. I live with the uncertainty of knowing that my cancer could return with a vengeance at any moment. Yet, I would never move on and attempt new things if I did not actively work to convince myself that I will be fine. I have seen the statistics. I know fully well what could happen, but I have to live my life with assumption that I will be healthy for many years to come.

What is life without risk, without trust, without taking those leaps of faith? Each time I have taken a leap, there has been so much that could potentially be lost. The thing I always try to remember is that there is so much more that could potentially be gained. I appreciate how the newest member of our family has taught me patience all over again, and has reminded me to have faith, even when I feel overwhelmed by my circumstances. I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on how many instances in my life have required letting go and trusting that things will work out.

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Update on Willy the Rescue Dog

Just over two months ago, we adopted Willy the Australian Shepherd. I first wrote about how happy I was to have him as a new member of our family. Then all hell broke loose and he decided that he wanted to chase everything under the sun, including runners, cyclists, trains, loud trucks, and so on. My knee started to hurt from him jerking me as he took off after things. In the house, he was the dream pet, but outside, he became my little nightmare.

I admit that I had moments where I thought we had made a mistake by bringing Willy into our home. As my knee and back throbbed in pain from getting literally yanked around by my dog, I said the words aloud to my husband that I never would dare utter to anyone else, “I just don’t know if I can do it.” I hate thinking of myself as a quitter, and I did not want to give up on Willy. I looked at him with such love and wondered about his life prior to us. He was a stray when he was found. How long had he been on the streets? I knew he had lived with a foster home for about 10 weeks. How many other homes had he lived in? Had others given up on him? How many others?

I looked at Willy as I had these doubts creeping into my head and felt truly guilty. I did not want to be one in a string of new homes he got shuffled back and forth, in and out of. But, he was hurting me and, after breaking leashes twice so he could run after trains, I felt he was putting his and my life in danger. He loved to run and I so desperately wanted him to be my running partner. I had seen glimpses of real potential that first week, but now wondered if we would ever really be able to enjoy running as a team.

As we approached our two month anniversary together, I wondered if my husband resented having Willy in the house. An extra dog was creating more work and more expense. I had wanted the dog, after all, not him. I felt guilty every time I asked Steve to do something with or for Willy. I was the one who wanted the dog. I should be dealing with him. Then, one day, Steve sat on the love seat, scratching Willy’s ears and he said, “I really love this guy!” At that moment, my heart just melted. I knew I was carrying the burden of most of Willy’s ill behavior. But I knew that Willy was now really, truly, officially part of our family. I could not give up on him.

A Boy & his Dog

A Boy & his Dog

We have made so much progress in such a short period of time. He now rarely lunges at a runner or cyclist. He still gets excited for trains, but not in the same frenzy he once had. He is actually fun to run with now. There is no better feeling that coming home to his unbridled enthusiasm and excitement. No one has ever been so genuinely happy to see me every single time I walk in the door as Willy has been. The lady from the dog rescue had talked about different phases that you go through with a rescue dog, and the trainer talked about “3 days, 3 weeks and 3 months.” The first three days are the adjustment to a new home. The next three weeks are the honeymoon period and the three month mark is when you really see what your dog is like. I felt like we had skipped right over the “honeymoon period”. However, as we are working towards the three-month mark, we are seeing what a truly awesome dog Willy is and we are so glad we have him in our home and in our family.

Willy smiling on Section 16

Willy smiling on Section 16

Willy has acquired several nicknames along the way. There is Boxcar Willy (because he chased trains), Shotgun Willy (Because he always wants to ride shotgun in the car), his mobster name Tiny Ears Willy (because Peyton thinks he has tiny ears), and when his hair gets crazy, I call him Willy Idol (you have to be a child of the 80s to understand that one). We suspect he lived in a McDonald’s dumpster previously because he refuses fruits and veggies but loves to eat ice cream and french fries. He has a sense of humor and likes to steal gloves and socks. He loves to be chased.

Willy is, without a doubt, a full-fledged member of our family. I am so glad I did not give up in those really difficult weeks. Any adopted animal is going to have some issues. Our commitment to training and loving him seems to be really doing the trick. Willy is in his forever home, where he will be loved now and always.

Greta & Willy playing

Greta & Willy playing