Lessons About Love from An Old Stuffed Dog

There are very few things left from my childhood. No favorite books, no trinkets, no furniture. Just an old stuffed Pluto dog, a la the Disney comics, whom I named Poppa.

When he was brand new, Poppa Pluto had silky golden fur and flashing black eyes. But today he is completely bald, and his body bears the battle scars of many childhood fights with my sister. Beheaded in an early battle, he had his neck repaired by my mom, who used black embroidery thread to mend him.

As a child, I slept every night with Poppa and toted him along wherever I went. One aunt predicted that I would one day carry the old dog down the aisle when I married.

Actually, she wasn’t too far from the mark: Although he wasn’t in church that day, Poppa Pluto went on the honeymoon. Since then, he’s accompanied my husband and me on various moves during the 28 years of our marriage.

Today Poppa perches in the rocking chair in my study along with an assortment of other fuzzy beasts that friends have given me over the years: a pig, a cat, a moose, a turtle and a rather dapper stuffed chicken.

When my goddaughter comes over to have lunch with me, we often play with the animals. She usually chooses the chicken, moose and turtle as her favorites. Maybe because he doesn’t look very appealing, Poppa rarely has been carried into the living room to take part in our created scenarios featuring the various animals.

One day, though, as she was selecting animals from the chair, I picked up Poppa and offered him to her. She shot him a curious glance, no doubt taking in the baldness, the stitches, and his many battle scars.

“What happened to him?” she asked.

I explained that he had been involved in many skirmishes between my sister and me when we were little children. “He’s very old,” I added.

To my great joy, the little girl needed no further prompting to include him in the games that day. It seems she’s already learning in school that Jesus wants us to love “the least of these.”  For a little girl, this means inviting someone to play even if he looks very different from the crowd.

And here’s the best part: Before long, she had declared Poppa a wise old pooch–and even invented a voice for him with a distinguished British accent.

Fortunately, God’s love for us doesn’t hinge on the way we look. We needn’t get surgical repairs done for him to cherish us. And even a little girl knows that friendship and love don’t depend on externals. Real love means accepting people on their own terms, even if they’re scarred, bald and very old, like Poppa.

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About the Author

Lorraine is the author of “The Abbess of Andalusia: Flannery O’Connor’s Spiritual Journey.” She also has written three mysteries, most recently “Death Dons a Mask.” Her email is lorrainevmurray@yahoo.com. All of her books can be seen on her website is www.lorrainevmurray.com.

Lorraine V. Murray grew up in Miami, and graduated from Immaculata Academy High School. One of the nuns there predicted that if Lorraine went to a secular college, she would be in great danger of losing her faith. Lorraine thought that was funny, but in fact the sister’s prediction came true.

Majoring in English at the University of Florida, Lorraine bid farewell to her Catholicism when she was 19. She went on to get a Ph.D. in philosophy and became a radical feminist and atheist for over 20 years.

After teaching courses in English and philosophy on the college level, Lorraine worked as an editor in a university publications office. In her forties, the Lord called her back to her Catholic roots, and she went on to write about her conversion journey in her book “Confessions of an Ex-Feminist.”

Her recent books are "Death of a Liturgist," a fun-filled mystery featuring murder and mayhem in a Georgia parish, and "The Abbess of Andalusia," which explores Flannery O'Connor's Catholic journey. All her books can be seen at www.lorrainevmurray.com (link provided below).

Lorraine writes regular columns for the religion section of “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution” and “The Georgia Bulletin.” She lives in Decatur, Georgia, with her husband, Jef, a Tolkien artist and book illustrator. In her spare time, she bakes bread, watches hummingbirds, and chases squirrels out of her garden.

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