"Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7
The press release from the SPCA came early last December as an ice storm was barreling toward Tyler.
It said something about how desperate the agency was for "immediate temporary foster parents" because people dropped litters of puppies off when bad weather was on its way.
Then the press release went on to say that there were 5-month-old puppies that needed to be socialized so they could be adopted. There was a line about black puppies being harder to adopt.
"What's wrong with black puppies?" I asked. A quick Google search informed me that black dogs are less likely to be rescued out of a shelter because their facial expressions might not be as obvious as those of lighter dogs, and there is children's literature about mean, black dogs.
I forwarded the release to my husband, Mark, who quickly replied by email, "Do whatever you want to do." I like that about him.
The next night, he didn't like anything about me. Due to the difference in our work schedules, he was the one who drove through the sleet to the shelter. He was the one who got the puppy and had to suffer the smell, when out of fright, she had an accident all over the crate.
This puppy was thin, stinky and ugly. She had what looked like dandruff and bite marks all over her face.
In contrast, our other rescue dog, Sandy, may be the most beautiful dog you would ever see. And Buffy, a Border terrier, looks like a cute teddy bear. It never occurred to me that we would have an ugly child.
But after a couple of baths and a change in food, she began to smell better. She followed the other dogs' examples and became potty-trained in a few days. She was smart and eager to please. But we were temporary foster parents.
At church one Sunday, the preacher talked about love and how much we all needed to have more of it. I'm sure he was talking about people, but I kept thinking about the black puppy.
"There's something important I need to tell you," I told Mark over lunch. He got that scared look men get when they think women are going to share bad news. "After that sermon, if we don't have enough love to keep the puppy, we are pitiful. Can we keep her permanently?"
He made a sound that was something between a chuckle and a sigh of relief.
"Oh, I already knew we were keeping her. I thought you had something more serious to talk about."
We first named her Bandit after the dog in the "Jonny Quest" cartoon. But we realized it was more fitting because she stole our hearts.
The pockmarks on her face from the ticks are gone. She has filled out and has a beautiful white patch on her chest. She has symmetrical white marks on the back of each paw that make her seem to dance when she's running. She's a happy, sweet dog who has taught me that love is a condition of the heart, and we are always capable of growing more of it.
"We love because He first loved us." 1 John 4:19