Several of my daughters’ friends work part-time at a fast food restaurant. Others fold shirts at retail clothing stores. We know a girl who dishes up ice cream, and a boy who repairs television sets.
My three teenage daughters work at a dog kennel.
They hoist 40-pound bags of dog food on their shoulders and lug poo buckets across the yard to hurl the contents into a dumpster. They hose down kennels and bathe breeds ranging from Labs and Boxers to Malamutes and Yorkies. They wash food bowls, launder blankets, and dispense medications.
At the end of their shift, the girls come home exhausted but excited to discuss the antics of each dog, referring to them by name as affectionately and familiarly as they would speak of good friends. They describe endearing traits such as the way Berlin, a Great Dane, leans heavily against them while they hose down the concrete path, and how nearly blind Gator, a gray miniature poodle, will turn in circles, moving a little closer each time they call his name until they scoop him up in their arms and he wiggles with delight.
They talk about three-legged Hazel, a beagle mix who doesn’t let her handicap slow her down while she romps around the yard.
The girls love Lily and Teddy, two Australian Shepherds who race across the yard, thrilled to see them. When the girls have time to sit down, Cayenne, a brown husky mix, hops onto the bench and sticks her muzzle under my daughters’ arms, nosing for extra attention.
People leave their dogs in kennels because they’re heading out of town, which means my girls may work a shift on holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and Spring Break. They often work weekends, including some Sunday mornings.
They request Sundays off, but sometimes my girls are the only workers available. Those days, I remind them that doctors and nurses and veterinarians and parents and anyone who cares for people or pets has a special job.
Someone needs to make the sacrifice to feed, water, and let the dogs out for a romp to stretch their legs. Someone needs to scratch the dogs behind their ears and reassure them that they are safe and loved.
“This morning,” I’ll remind them, “that someone is you.”
On those days, the girls wonder if they’d be better off scooping ice cream or folding T-shirts.
But when they come home, kicking off muddy boots and peeling off jackets covered in dog hair, they know they’ve worked hard. Hauling buckets of poo to the dumpster is hardly glamorous, but they love the pets in their care.
At the dinner table, we hear more stories of sly Shelby, a brown mixed breed who escapes from her cage, and Bailey, the tiny Dachshund puppy who slept in a cardboard box in the front office. They tell me about Gilligan, the tubby puggle dropped off for doggie daycare every single day, whose entire body waggles when he greets the girls.
As I set out plates to feed my hungry daughters, I’m grateful they find joy in this otherwise hard, thankless job. They delight in those dogs and call each by name. In a small way, they reflect the heart of their heavenly Father, whose eye is not only on the sparrow, but also on the three-legged beagle who lumbers across the yard, and on the neglected Great Pyrenees rescue dog with mats in his fur, and on three teenage girls who gave up their Christmas morning to haul dog poo to the dumpster.
His eye is on every person who wakes up and goes to work at a hard, thankless job. He delights in us all, and calls each of us by name.
Image by Sophie Kroeker. Used with permission.