Wanderlust, according to the dictionary, is a strong desire to travel we usually associate with humans. But I have a dog with wanderlust. Bernie is a long-haired dachshund, 15 pounds, young and full of life.

A dog with wanderlust

I have known him since he was a pup. My good friend Elaine adopted him as an 8-week-old puppy and found him to be precocious and incorrigible. And too cute for his own good. There is a neighborhood joke that it’s a good thing he’s cute, else he’d be dead.

…the chase was on

The first time I kept him, near disaster ensued. He was tiny, not full-grown. And quick. I was used to a bigger – and slower – dog. After a walk one day, he slipped past my leg through a minuscule crack in a storm door. And the chase was on!

I tried to keep him in sight while at the same time calling every available neighbor for help. He ignored “high value” treats and took me on a crazy tour of the neighborhood, through backyards and wooded areas. It looked like a cartoon, I’m sure.

Just when we thought we had him cornered he escaped into the bamboo forest a neighbor lost control of years before. Two of my braver friends followed him. After several minutes, they emerged, one of them holding the tiny fugitive. I don’t know if his luck ran out or if he just grew tired of the game. It was supper time, after all.

This was his first adventure, but not his last. His exploits grew to epic proportions. I’m not sure if it was the constant pursuit, or finding yet another chewed up treasure. But Elaine had enough. She loved him, but she needed a break.

A new pack

That is when he joined my little pack. My older dog, Daisy, made it clear from the beginning that she was in charge, and Bernie accepted this placement with only a bit of protest. His interests tended more toward exploration than leadership.

He challenged me from the beginning. His favorite hobbies are barking, digging, and chewing. He has eaten so many of my lip balms, I buy them in bulk. But it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with him. He’s playful and funny. And when he crawls in my lap and snuggles against me, it’s easy to forget his latest transgression.

It took a while. But I finally found a harness I trusted, a leash with a solid clasp, and an Air Tag for his collar. The field trips became less common, and I silently congratulated myself on keeping Bernie contained. And I got complacent.

The price of complacency

A few days ago, I planned to meet my brother, Myron, at my parent’s home. My Dad passed away in January, and we are in the tedious process of getting the house ready to sell. I decided to bring Bernie. What could possibly go wrong?  

I tied him outside the shed Dad used as a workshop while we sorted tools. The house is next to a wooded area that is host to wild turkeys, bunnies, and often, black bears. There were plenty of smells that were new to Bernie. For a while, he was content to sniff and bark.

And we’re off!

Note the dirt on his nose. He had been digging furiously.

Then I heard a yelp and went to investigate. He had gotten stuck under the shed and was letting the world know how unhappy he was with the situation. As I worked to free him, he wriggled out of his harness, squirted through my brother’s hands, and headed for the woods. I don’t know what he was chasing, but he was nose to the ground the whole time.

 His short legs and slim body are perfectly designed to navigate rough terrain. Meanwhile, I struggled to stay upright. And I was terrified I would never see him again. If he encountered a bear, I had no doubt he would pick a fight. And lose.

The Air Tag wasn’t a lot of help. It told us where he had been, but not where he was. After about 45 minutes of fruitless searching, we returned to the house to discuss options. I was trying to figure out how to post on the local Facebook lost dog group when Myron said, “There he is.” He was a few yards away, digging frantically, oblivious to anything other than his supposed prey. Like any good criminal, he had returned to the scene of the crime.

Foiled again!

Myron crept closer, trying not to spook him, and offered him a treat. Whether curious or hungry, or maybe both, Bernie was interested. He warily approached Myron, looking for a way to stay free and get the coveted prize. Myron saw his chance and captured him with a flying tackle.  Bernie yelped with displeasure, unhurt but indignant. 

But like often before, he surrendered with no fight and let me put his harness back on. He was filthy, tired, and very thirsty. And a few days later, he had to go to the vet to get rid of a bunch of ticks he acquired during the chase. But he lived to run another day.

Cozy and warm

Later that evening, I gave him a bath and worked the tangles out of his fur. I wrapped him in a fuzzy towel and cuddled him in my lap, thankful he was where he belonged. He was happy to be home, too.  It occurred to me that I’m not that different.

He meant no harm but …

Bernie meant no harm. He went in search of adventure. After all, he was in a new place, rife with new smells that pulled him away from me. He couldn’t see the big picture.

Bernie didn’t know that those bears he smelled could rip him limb from limb or that he could have been bitten by a snake coiled in his path. He isn’t street-smart enough to avoid being hit by a car. He doesn’t know about barbed wire, traps for vermin, or poison. And he has no idea how many dogs go missing every single year and are never found or are found too late to be rescued or saved. I know all these things. I want to protect him, not stifle him.


Lessons from a dog with wanderlust

God wants to protect me, too, not keep me from having fun. He knows the dangers that lie beyond the shiny things I pursue. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells me to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” I don’t think it’s too big a stretch to say “Don’t follow your wanderlust. Stick to His direction. Follow His roadmap.”

David fell into this trap. In his case, wanderlust lead to another kind of lust.  It lead him from the fellowship of God into the snare of adultery and murder.When he repented, he asked God for a steadfast spirit. “Create in me a clean heart, God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

Steadfast. Not wanderlust

That’s my desire, to be steadfast, to grow into a mature believer. To no longer be a child “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine.” (Ephesians 4:14 a) I’m learning not to succumb to wanderlust. Sometimes. 

 Too often, I’m like Bernie, recklessly chasing the latest puff of wind.  I overestimate my own prowess and underestimate the enemy. I’m so thankful that God doesn’t hold my sin against me. He cleans me up and holds me close.

Promised the Kingdom

But it’s so much better when I keep my eyes focused on God, not what looks good or feels good. Jesus said “Do not be afraid, little flock, because your Father has chosen to give you the Kingdom. (Luke 12:32) What more could I desire?

Scripture references are from the NASB.

Lisa Crowe

Lisa recently retired from the State of NC where she served families of children with disabilities, and now spends her time writing and serving missionaries as Partner Services Advocate for MAP Global, an international mission sending agency. She serves as Prayer Team Director for her local church and leads a Ladies Bible Study. Lisa loves to travel, read, and hike the beautiful Appalachian Mountains. She shares her Canton NC home with her two dogs Daisy and Bernie. You can connect with Lisa on Facebook or Instagram where she microblogs.

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