I abruptly stopped typing on my computer keyboard when I suddenly heard the distant boom just outside my window. The rumble wasn’t a loud clamor, but a quiet growl that seemed to echo all around me. The weak roll of thunder still made me smile, though. Of course, I considered the ever-changing and tumultuous weather patterns of the Midwest before I decided to return to Kansas last August. Thunderstorms were one of the main things I missed while I was living for the last eleven years in the deserts of Southern California.
I love thunderstorms. I love the feeling of being safe and warm inside while thunder clashes, lightening radiates, and rain cascades around my home. I love witnessing the powerful effects of a storm that makes me realize the universe is even bigger than what I normally perceive. Then, once the skies clear, I can smile at the approaching sunshine and realize that no storm last forever. God’s great hope will always shine through the darkest and most violent times. And then, when the storm…
A louder blast of thunder interrupted my thoughts, but it was the sudden howl and bark of our three dogs that made me jump. Oh, my gosh, I had forgotten to consider how the dogs might react to this flash thunderstorm. I hadn’t had a pet in nearly twenty years. Moving into my brother and sister-in-law’s house last year had made me somewhat responsible for Tony and Mary’s three small, yippee, hyper, and anxious dogs when my family…my human family…was not at home. I didn’t really mind; the dogs and I had bonded over the last several months. I found great joy at times cuddling with the three mutts who always seemed to be starved for attention even though they usually dictate the happenings of the household.
I looked away from my computer and turned around in my chair. Now, all three dogs were lined up, side by side, in the doorway to my room. The dogs huddled closely together as they looked at me with huge, frightened, dark eyes.
“Doggies,” I started to say, using my pet name for the animals, “it’s okay! It’s just thun…”
Suddenly an even louder boom rattled the windows, shook the house, and set the three dogs off as if they just heard the gunfire that signified the start of a race. The three dogs jumped and banged into each other as they all started to run in different directions. Frisky, the youngest and smallest of the three, ran directly under my bed. Starburst and Cowboy, who are Frisky’s parents, ran in opposite circles for a moment before they both ended up hiding underneath my computer desk. They huddled together as far back against the wall as they could get.
“Come out, doggies,” I called to all three of the animals. I got down on my hands and knees and raised the blanket and sheets on my bed. “Frisky, come on, sweetie,” I cooed as I tried to coax the little brown and white fur ball out of her hidden place. “It’s okay, sweetheart, it’s only a storm. I promise you’re safe.” But Frisky did not believe me. Two dark, wide eyes glowed back at me as the next burst of thunder propelled the dog back further into the shadowy areas. I reached my hand under the bed and tried to touch the small, frightened animal. But Frisky kept moving further back until she was now squished under the far side of the bed. I found myself now lying flat out on the floor and crawling along on my belly as I tried to squeeze under the box springs. My left arm reached out to grab the dog, but I just couldn’t reach her. Finally, I gave up hoping Frisky would eventually crawl out on her own once the storm was over. However, all it took was another, even closer slap of thunder to send Frisky racing out from under the bed in a furry, blurry blob to now join her mother and father under my desk. Maybe, Frisky thought there was safety in numbers….or maybe, like all of us do, she just wanted to feel the loving warmth of her parents while she was so afraid. Now, all three dogs again resorted to climbing on top and over each other as they searched for warmth and safety.
I just smiled now as I watched the dogs slowly beginning to calm back down. I decided that I would just let the dogs stay under my desk if it helped ease their anxiety. I sat back down in front of my computer and started to work again. I couldn’t help but smile as the rain hit the windows and I rubbed my feet playfully against the soft fur of the three dogs clustered under my desk. The dogs playfully began to roll over to allow my feet to pet their bellies and backsides. We were all happy now and together…soon, however, there would be just a little too much togetherness.
The next clap of thunder sent all three dogs barking, howling, and running again. This time the dogs began to claw at my legs as they tried to jump into my lap all at the same time.
“Doggies, doggies, settle down. It’s okay. You’re safe.” But once more, the dogs refused to believe that the storm raging outside would not hurt them. The dogs continued to push their way up onto my lap. Looking down into the big eyes and furry faces, I couldn’t resist. I leaned down and, one by one, helped each dog make the leap onto my lap. There wasn’t a whole lot of room. I had two of the dogs, Starburst and Cowboy, resting against each leg, and Frisky cuddled up directly on my lap. I was just grateful in that moment that they were small dogs. I don’t know how I would have managed if the dogs were Pit Bulls or Great Danes. The dogs were lying on top of each other but for once, they didn’t seem to mind. Usually, the dogs are fighting each other for attention. I can never pet one without the other dogs knocking each other out of the way and placing their small, furry bodies underneath my outstretched hands. I have heard the dogs growl and seen them nip at each other if they think one is being favored over the other two. There have been a few times when my fingers have gotten caught between their tiny teeth as they wrestled violently for the top position of attention.
But today, as the rain hit against the window and the thunder continued to roll, the dogs didn’t seem to mind sharing the small space or me. To my absolute surprise, the dogs even began to raise their furry paws and pat each other lovingly on the back or head. They licked at each other’s faces as if trying to soothe worried brows. The dogs tried lovingly to reassure each other that they were all safely together. The comforting touches between the animals lightened the tension and soon all three dogs were breathing a little easier as they closed their eyes and began to doze.
I had to stop working on the computer then. The dogs hampered my ability to correctly type up my thoughts. But it didn’t matter, I smiled as I realized. It had been a long time since I had taken care of another living creature during a raging storm. I enjoyed this moment of feeling and delivering comfort and ease. I delighted in the warmth of the dogs’ bodies as they cradled themselves around me. I spent several minutes just relaxing, feeling warm and safe and, surprisingly, very present. My own anxiety about my work, my writing, my life, and my world slowly dissolved as I stayed right in the moment. I just sat there listening to the dogs breathing and feeling the weight of their small bodies. I idly pet the dogs as I let my mind wander. After a while, the storm began to ease. The thunder and lightning stopped. The rain became nothing more than a soft drizzle.
And I have never before experienced a more peaceful, sunnier glow after a storm….