I never questioned her loyalty until that day. Since the time I purchased her, Lily, my German Shepherd, had developed endearing qualities to proclaim her loyalty. One of my favorites always remains the time she and my husband, Richard, were walking through our neighborhood. Driving past them on my way home from the grocery store, I stopped for a second to call out a hello. With that accomplished, I resumed driving home until in my rearview mirror, I noticed Lily hated my departure. She was pulling my husband up the hill in attempt to catch up with me. In order to prevent Richard from having a heart attack, I stopped and waited until both were in the car.
On that day at the doggie park, Lily wasn’t showing any loyalty. It was her favorite spot on earth, and she did not want to leave. So instead of obeying my command to come, she bolted away. For over 15 minutes, I pleaded with her to obey or at least get close enough for me to grab her collar. She was so disobedient that even went I left her alone in the park, she wouldn’t come to the gate so we could go home.
I sometimes can see myself in Lily’s behavior. I have a tendency to want my own way, to be disloyal to my friends when it suits me. Which isn’t to say I’m a back-stabbing traitor. No, it means sometimes I miss out on the joys of being a reliable friend.
Lily and I have a strong bond, yet she hurt me. I wanted her close by me, to listen to what I said, to enjoy following me. That’s what friends do. You stick close by, you listen to what your friend says, you laugh when they laugh and cry when they cry. Being a loyal friend means your relationship makes you stronger than you would be without it. You love harder, laugh louder, live richer and become more together than you could ever be by yourselves.
This isn’t for the faint of heart, much like trying to train a dog – which I sadly found out that day. Life is full of twists and turns and staying in step with someone else is not easy. We struggle to be vulnerable to another especially when the way we want to go isn’t the same as our friends. We battle with ways of feeling safe, secure and significant with another all the while trying to get our own needs met. We tend to want our hurts to be addressed rather than helping others through theirs. It is so difficult to lay your heart into someone’s hands and say, “I trust you with all of this,” and have that person do the same.
There are times in our friendships when we must heed to the other person’s instructions. Lily lacked the perspective I did. A treat was awaiting her at home, along with her dinner and an evening of warm snuggles. It was time to leave the park to enjoy some of these other delights.
Proverbs 18: 24 tells us, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Friendships never just happen – they are forged. They are knit together by leaning into each other, by staying close, by experiencing life’s bitter and sweet moments together. And it means standing by one another even when disappointment sets in.
I eventually got a leash on Lily and we went home to an enjoyable evening. Despite her unfaithfulness, I remained loyal to her, but I learned to create a fulfilling friendship, sometimes you have to work at it – sometimes you have to chase after it. It’s worth it, because being close to another human being matters like nothing else in the world.