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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

    Unconditional Love

    Susan Bantz
    Susan Bantz
    The Rev. Susan Bantz serves as Chaplain at Lutheran Living Senior Campus. This is her second time living in Muscatine, where she shares a home with her two Chinese Crested dogs, Affie and Reggie, and tries to find time to read after all the chores are done.

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    If you’ve read the little bio the accompanies this, you know that I have two dogs, Affie and Reggie. I never really thought I was a dog person, but my first dog, Maci, cured me of that misconception. Maci was a beagle mix we rescued from the Muscatine Humane Shelter and she was a lover from the first. We don’t know if she was mistreated in her first home, but she was certainly starved for affection! My son, about 10 at the time, adored her and she returned that love in spades. They played and snuggled and laughed together, racing around the way that boys and their dogs do. She came to us at a time when things were difficult in our family and Maci provided my son with someone he could talk to about what was going on. She listened without comment, without judgment, without anything other than undivided attention and unconditional love. It was something he desperately needed and one of the reasons I loved her so much.

    My son was away at college when Maci died. We both grieved her loss deeply, but understood that life goes on. We loved her and she loved us; it was a simple as that. So when the opportunity came to adopt other dogs, we did. Affie and Reggie are a lot smaller than Maci—only 7.5 lbs. each!—but what they lack in size, they make up for in love. Affie came from a lively and loving family, full of activity, tumbling puppies, and children. Reggie, by contrast, was a show dog who was kept alone in a concrete kennel and had no idea how to walk on grass or play like normal dogs do. I watched them go from not knowing one another at all to learning to love each other, bit by bit, day by day. Affie taught Reggie how to play and Reggie gifted Affie with his precious squeaky toys. They have been inseparable ever since.

    The compassion the dogs show to one another is heart-warming, but it pales in comparison to the love they show to us. Every morning I leave for work, knowing that Reggie and Affie are here to snuggle with my father, giving him a reason to stay alert and someone to talk to. They are there to greet me (loudly!) whenever I come home. Dad and I spend our evenings cuddled up with these warm balls of flesh and bone who calm and relax us from the day’s worries. At night, they comfort us and keep us warm. Somehow the dogs always know when we are in need of a little extra love. And they give it unconditionally.

    Unconditional love is a rare commodity. It is difficult for people to give; we always seem to want something in return. Dogs do a much better job of it. They listen. They don’t talk back. They don’t argue or offer solutions. They just love.

    Is it any wonder that “dog” is “God” spelled backwards?

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