Pepper’s Lesson

“I can totally make my own dog food,” I thought to myself confidently.  We usually feed Pepper the best dog food from Kroger; the expensive kind that has to be refrigerated.  We combine it with the dry kibble she won’t eat otherwise. She has always been a little small and slow to eat, so finding the right food has been something of a challenge.  It has been almost two years since we brought her home as a tiny pup.  When the grocery store stopped giving us her food they said they were out of stock.  

I did some internet research.  I’ve had some quinoa sitting in my pantry for a long time because the kids won’t eat it even though it is really healthy.  Sure enough, doctor google confirmed, quinoa was a good food for dogs.  I cooked especially prepared chicken with no seasonings, shredded it up, combined it with cooked quinoa, shredded carrots, squash, or sweet potatoes.  Even though the websites like the American Kennel Club insisted that a veterinarian should approve the recipe, I was sure that the food was just what Pepper needed.  I threw in a handful of grated cheese for flavor.  She loved it and ate it up.  I’ve been happily feeding her the homemade food for about a month.

Pepper has been one of the few things in my life right now that has brought me peace and joy.  My depressive symptoms have resurged and I am struggling to function.  Pepper never judges me and that is a precious gift.  She sits in my lap and licks the tears from my face.  She has been a constant source of comfort.  No wonder when I saw her squatting on the carpet with blood dripping from her bottom, I panicked.  She couldn’t die!  I had just finished telling my Bishop that I wanted to leave the church on good terms.  I had just had one of the most difficult moments of my whole life, and now the little animal that had been by my side through every trial of the past two years was vomiting and pooping blood.  Pepper couldn’t die.

I pleaded and cried to my Heavenly Father.  I wrapped her in a blanket, called the veterinarian and Ben and I rushed her to the animal hospital.  She was vomiting and bleeding and peeing everywhere and whining piteously.  They admitted her to the hospital and the tests revealed pancreatitis, a disease that is usually caused by excessive fat in the diet.  I found out that it can also be caused by mites in old dogfood that is not properly stored.  I threw away the dogfood I had made for Pepper as well as the old dry food bag just in case it had mites.

Little Pepper suffered a lot.  She was in the hospital for three days and now she is recovering at home.  Today Ben carefully measured out the prescribed dogfood and I mixed her medicine into it.  She wouldn’t eat it unless I scooped up small pieces in my hand and held them out for her to lick the food and medicine from my fingers.  As I provided Pepper this simple service, I thought of the food I had lovingly made for her.  I don’t know for sure if that caused her pancreatitis.  She might have eaten something out of the trash, or it might have been mites in her old dry dogfood.  It doesn’t matter whether I intended to hurt Pepper or not, I likely did hurt her.  In my confidence fed by online subject matter I didn’t fully understand, I decided not to consult authority.  I thought I knew of myself.  I thought I could skip the important step of checking the diet with Pepper’s veterinarian.  

The internet can make us feel like experts.  We have vast amounts of information in our pockets.  This can lead us to think we know things we don’t.  I threw away the dog food I made for Pepper because I love my dog more than I like being right.  I am now feeding her a strict diet of prescribed food until she is completely recovered which will probably be at least a month.  When faced with a big veterinarian bill and a very sick puppy, I had to face the reality of what I didn’t know.  If I continued to feed Pepper the food that made her sick, I might kill her.  She is much more important to me than my own ill advised dogfood experiments.  

God sends us experiences to teach us wisdom.  I learned a lesson about myself and my internet “research.”  I learned that an innocent mistake made with loving intent can still hurt.  Those hurts must be treated, just like Pepper’s pancreatitis had to be treated.  Sometimes it takes time.  Sometimes we have to change the way we do things.  Sometimes we have to listen to those who know more than we do.

Another lesson I learned was in the face of my eleven year old son.  When we got home today, he went in the house and brought Pepper out to me while I was still in the van.  Pepper, weak and sick with the hair shaved on one tiny leg, was still just as happy to see me as ever. She licked my face and wagged her tail as I cuddled her close. My son beamed with joy as he watched the reunion.  The love and care and patience that I show to Pepper and the unique bond between us teaches my sons about Christlike love and service better than any family home evening lesson.  As I knelt on the floor with wet stinky dogfood in my fingers feeding my sick fur baby, my sons were upstairs.  They didn’t see that quiet moment of service.  They didn’t need to because they have seen me do such acts before.  For their brothers, for them, and for anyone, or animal, who stands in need.   

I’ve spent a lot of time and energy trying to save the world online.  The truth is, the Savior has already done that.  Its my job to learn.  I keep coming back to him who is Mighty to Save.  He sees the mother in her humble role.  He sees the child and the dog.  He gives his love and his light to all those who come unto him in faith.  He doesn’t live in buildings built with hands, but in hearts crafted in the furnace of affliction.  I will sing his praises all the day long and into the night.  He will sanctify my tears and magnify my witness.  

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