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lyricLast night a new member joined our family. Her name is musical. We didn’t choose it; her previous family did. But we think it fits and she’ll live up to it.

Her name is Lyric.

We adopted Lyric through the agency of DRAW Rescue.

The picture above shows black and white Lyric at her first meeting with her new sister, Foxy. (We didn’t name Foxy either; she joined our family when we “rescued” her from a California shelter six years ago.)

The two girls are getting along quite well their first full day together, but those of you with more than one pet know that it takes a little bit of time to sort things out when a new member joins the family.

Lyric is our third consecutive rescue pet. Although she’s younger than the others who came to us in the past, adopting a rescue dog isn’t the same thing as getting a puppy. You don’t enjoy the same cuddly acceptance. Many rescued dogs are quite wary of human beings—especially men.

It takes time and patience to bond. To let them know that they’re safe and they are now in their “forever home.” Some, like Lyric, benefit from interim stays with gracious foster parents. But their move to your home is still just part of their unstable life until the day when they “forget” about all the previous transitions and just know they are home.

C.S. Lewis talks about this longing for a home in Till We Have Faces. Psyche is describing her desire to find that place where she truly belongs.

Somewhere else there must be more of it. Everything seemed to be saying, Psyche come! But I couldn’t (not yet) come and I didn’t know where I was to come to. It almost hurt me. I felt like a bird in a cage when the other birds of its kind are flying home. . . .”

The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing— to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from . . . my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back.”

Although the myth he’s retelling in this book has nothing to do with adopting pets, the following passage also relates (by dramatic extension) to the situation of “rescued” animals who join you with a legacy of previous relationships (not all of them good).

“Where shall we ever be safe if we’re not safe here? This is my home, Maia. And you won’t understand the wonder and glory of my adventure unless you listen to the bad part.

If you are in a position to share your home with a pet, I probably don’t need to tell you there are many, very many of them who need homes today. If you’re up to the extra challenge of adopting a rescued animal who comes with often unknown “baggage,” just contact one of your local rescue agencies.

These organizations are almost always run by volunteers who are motivated solely by their compassion for these innocent creatures who can no longer be cared for by their owners or—more tragically, have been discarded by those who should have cared for them. (Some, of course, are strays who were never in a human family.) I’m proud to say my nephew and his wife provide a foster home for rescued dogs in Seattle.

Whatever their background . . . the “bad part” of their story, you can be instrumental in “rehabilitating” them. And, trust me, they will reward you with more love than you could ever imagine.

Now, even if you’re not prepared to take in one of these lovely creatures, you can still help. Your local rescue organizations and shelters welcome any contributions you make—either in kind or in cash. You can check your phonebook for local rescues. Or, check out one of these websites which can connect you to many of these groups.

Adopt a Pet

Petfinder

Rescue Me (Dogs)

This column turned into more than I intended it to be. Originally I set out to simply celebrate Lyric’s entrance to our family. Now I realize that her blessing just may encourage the adoption of another cat or dog. And that would be a wonderful thing indeed.

In closing, let’s consider another passage from C.S. Lewis, the creator of Narnia. In a letter he wrote in 1955, he mentions the importance of home.

As Dr. [Samuel] Johnson said, “To be happy at home is the end of all human endeavour.” (1st to be happy to prepare for being happy in our own real home hereafter; 2nd in the meantime to be happy in our houses.)

These words remind us that the happiness we know in our earthly homes is only a foretaste of the joy we can know when we ultimately take our place in the eternal home prepared for us by our Creator.

Perhaps on that day we’ll be welcomed not only by our loved ones who have preceded us, but also by the pets we have loved during this mortal life. That would certainly be a magnificent thing . . . but that’s a discussion for another day.

Wasp Wars

October 20, 2012 — 18 Comments

This fall I’ve entered into combat with some of fallen nature’s most ferocious and merciless creatures. Thus far, they are winning the war.

A couple months ago my castle (i.e. home) was invaded by a ruthless tribe of wasps or hornets (the latter is a subset of the species, as are yellow jackets, so they are all members of a single horrific animal family).

They found a small, un-caulked opening into our attic . . . strategically placed just above our front door. I’m sure they had thousands of alternative bastions in the forest that surrounds our house but, being wasps, they knew this was the precise location from which they could wreak the most violent havoc.

The initial fray was brief. I sprayed copious amounts of wasp insecticide into the crevice, in the hope of encouraging them to nest elsewhere. It appeared to act as an attractant. After it failed and added more recruits to their number, I donned armor and climbed a ladder after dusk when they had settled in for the night, and noiselessly attempted to close the space with insect-proof sealant.

Alas, their sentinels were vigilant. They swarmed me, and pushed me off of the ladder causing me to land on my back and crash my head on the ground. Unfortunately, my long sleeved armor did not include a concussion proof helmet. Like a craven coward I lifted my bruised body from the rocky ground (nope, we haven’t planted a lawn yet) . . . and I ran for my life. All the while I was thanking God that I was only standing on the third rung.

Aside from my bruises, they had only inflicted a single piercing wound—on my index finger. Of course, being predators, wasps carry a very nasty venom, and for the next week it failed to heal as the poison festered, despite diligent attention from my corpsman-wife.

I’m waiting patiently for winter now, when they are partially dormant and “hibernating.” When the queen wakes up in the spring, she’ll find herself sealed in a crypt. (At least, that’s what I’m hoping.)

Wasps in Narnia

C.S. Lewis, being a lover of the outdoors, was well acquainted with the hazard posed by wasps. In The Chronicles of Narnia,

When the Pevensie children are drawn back to Narnia for a second time, it is a jarring and initially frightening experience. As we read in Prince Caspian:

It was an empty, sleepy, country station and there was hardly anyone on the platform except themselves. Suddenly Lucy gave a sharp little cry, like someone who has been stung by a wasp. “What’s up, Lu?” said Edmund—and then suddenly broke off and made a noise like “Ow!”

“What on earth—” began Peter, and then he too suddenly changed what he had been going to say. Instead, he said, “Susan, let go! What are you doing? Where are you dragging me to?”

“I’m not touching you,” said Susan. “Someone is pulling me. Oh—oh—oh—stop it!” Everyone noticed that all the others’ faces had gone very white.

“I felt just the same,” said Edmund in a breathless voice. “As if I were being dragged along. A most frightful pulling—ugh! It’s beginning again.”

“Me too,” said Lucy. “Oh, I can’t bear it.”

“Look sharp!” shouted Edmund. “All catch hands and keep together. This is magic—I can tell by the feeling. Quick!”

“Yes,” said Susan. “Hold hands. Oh, I do wish it would stop—oh!” Next moment the luggage, the seat, the platform, and the station had completely vanished.

The four children, holding hands and panting, found themselves standing in a woody place—such a woody place that branches were sticking into them and there was hardly room to move. They all rubbed their eyes and took a deep breath. “Oh, Peter!” exclaimed Lucy. “Do you think we can possibly have got back to Narnia?”

Later, Edmund offers some wise advice in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. He alludes to the deceptive natural and inherent ninja skills possessed by the killers.

“We must all show great constancy,” Caspian was saying. “A dragon has just flown over the tree-tops and lighted on the beach. Yes, I am afraid it is between us and the ship. And arrows are no use against dragons. And they’re not at all afraid of fire.”

“With your Majesty’s leave—” began Reepicheep.

“No, Reepicheep,” said the King very firmly, “you are not to attempt a single combat with it. And unless you promise to obey me in this matter I’ll have you tied up. We must just keep close watch and, as soon as it is light, go down to the beach and give it battle. . . .”

“Perhaps it will go away,” said Lucy.

“It’ll be worse if it does,” said Edmund, “because then we shan’t know where it is. If there’s a wasp in the room I like to be able to see it.”

Back to My Own Campaign

Just as I became resigned to my strategy with the vicious intruders, I became aware of a second army of insect brigands. This multitude had invaded the crawlspace under my home, through some weakness in the screens guarding my ventilation openings.

Noting that I would not require a ladder to engage them in combat I foolishly thought, oh how you will rue the day you trespassed in my domain!

I purchased a new screen to cover the entire opening, but their guards remained vigilant even during the night and before I could even begin the project, they swarmed and had me fleeing across our back lawn (yes, we do have some grass). Running recklessly in the dark I naturally stumbled and still bear some significant bruises. These would be bad enough, but two of the villains stabbed me with their poisonous stingers before I secured myself in the house.

With the aid of my faithful border collie, I discovered an infiltrator who insidiously snuck into the castle proper clinging to my pants. I immediately dropped my leggings and proceeded to stomp on them for several minutes. I was thorough, walking repeatedly over every part of the crumpled clothing. Naturally, he survived. I did manage to rewrap him in the trousers and see to his demise.

I am reconsidering my strategy now, and leaning towards placing commercial wasp traps directly outside the vent when the vermin reawaken in the spring. I’m also contemplating periodically banging a hammer near their hidden nest to disturb their rest during their hibernation. I haven’t determined yet whether this would be effective, as it is when interrogating terrorists, or whether it would simply be sadistic.

Trying to learn their weaknesses (they don’t have any) I did learn one reason why wasps are so aggressive and merciless. They are almost all female! While queens alone reproduce, and they keep a few males handy for their sole role of mating and dying, the rest of the army consists of “asexual female workers.” These perform community duties such as building the hive, gathering food, feeding the young, and protecting the colony!

Now, lest I be unfairly accused of misogyny, let me make clear that it is not their “feminine” nature that makes them violent. Rather, it is a corruption of their natural maternal instincts which cause them to guard their nest so belligerently that all rationally minded people desire their utter annihilation.

And, Once Again, to Narnia

The final book in the Chronicles has been my favorite ever since I first read the series forty years ago. I gained an even greater appreciation for The Last Battle when I read this description of the heavenly Narnia into which all of Aslan’s faithful were ushered.

Tirian had thought—or he would have thought if he had time to think at all—that they were inside a little thatched stable, about twelve feet long and six feet wide. In reality they stood on grass, the deep blue sky was overhead, and the air which blew gently on their faces was that of a day in early summer. Not far away from them rose a grove of trees, thickly leaved, but under every leaf there peeped out the gold or faint yellow or purple or glowing red of fruits such as no one has seen in our world. The fruit made Tirian feel that it must be autumn but there was something in the feel of the air that told him it could not be later than June.

They all moved toward the trees. Everyone raised his hand to pick the fruit he best liked the look of, and then everyone paused for a second. This fruit was so beautiful that each felt “It can’t be meant for me . . . surely we’re not allowed to pluck it.”

“It’s all right,” said Peter. “I know what we’re all thinking. But I’m sure, quite sure, we needn’t. I’ve a feeling we’ve got to the country where everything is allowed.”

“Here goes, then!” said Eustace. And they all began to eat. What was the fruit like? Unfortunately no one can describe a taste. All I can say is that, compared with those fruits, the freshest grapefruit you’ve ever eaten was dull, and the juiciest orange was dry, and the most melting pear was hard and woody, and the sweetest wild strawberry was sour. And there were no seeds or stones, and no wasps.

Despite our repeated failings, the victory will ultimately be won by our divine Champion!

One Glorious View

December 15, 2011 — 1 Comment

This is what brought us home to Washington State, at the end of our military career. This is the amazing view of the Olympic Mountain range we enjoy from our back door. Despite living most of my life in California, and having resided in nearly every region of the U.S. (not to mention several overseas locales) . . . this is what has always come to mind whenever someone said “God’s country.”

Lush green forests and abundant wildlife. Rushing rivers and magnificent mountain peaks. (In the center of our view, in fact, is a double peak called “The Brothers.”)

As C.S. Lewis wrote in The Horse and His Boy: “Onward and Upward! To Narnia and the North!”

Even if I don’t receive a single Christmas present this year, living here is more than enough to make me a happy man.

Addendum:

In truth, Robert, it was proximity to your family that brought you home to the Pacific Northwest. You would have chosen to live by our children and grandchildren even if it were back there in the Mojave Desert. But, I know you are not complaining that, in God’s grace, all of your children live in lovely Washington!