Zoe, A Prayer Answered

Shortly after my husband and I separated in 2007, a close friend of my son’s gave us a priceless gift – a sweet little dog named Zoe.

We had lost our black lab of fourteen years months earlier and I felt like my heart would be broken forever after her passing. My children had been bucking for a new dog for some time, but knowing more change was coming and still feeling heartbroken over the loss of our dog, Allie, I stood firmly against it. 

And then Zoe came along. 
Zoe was a Christmas gift that year to my son’s friend’s family. They had never owned a dog before and with two active boys, found it difficult to be available for Zoe as much as she needed. They were contemplating the best solution for Zoe, while my family’s life was changing dramatically. 

Although she was a gift to my son, a second grader, Zoe quickly became “my” dog, following me everywhere and leaving behind her nights in a crate for the warmth of my bed. One of her places was burrowed under the covers at the bottom of the bed. And one of her favorite things to do when she got there was to lick my feet. 

I was just a little put off by this behavior. It felt weird. It tickled. I started to put socks on at night, to stop the licking. It worked.

Six-plus years later, Zoe still wants to “clean my feet.” I have been building a daily yoga practice, and she has been on the mat every morning with me, faithfully licking my feet whenever she can. This week, in a lightbulb moment, I realized, she has been licking my feet in answer to a prayer from many years ago.

When I was a practicing Catholic, one of the annual rituals involved our parish pastor washing the feet of twelve parishioners, a “reenactment” of the last supper, where Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. For many years, I wanted to be one of those twelve chosen to have my feet washed. In the beginning, the pastor invited people to serve this role, but as the years went by he began asking for volunteers. I wanted so badly to be one of those people! And yet every time I imagined being there and having him wash my feet, I saw myself dissolving into wrenching sobs. I did not understand why, but that certainly wasn’t the experience I wanted to have in front of my fellow parishioners!

I was taught since I was old enough to remember that I was born with something called “original sin.” Every week as we prepared for Communion, we were reminded of this with the words “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the words and I shall be healed.” This teaching that I was inherently sinful, separate and unworthy, combined with my experience of choosing to have an abortion, informed my subconscious mind week after week of my unworthiness. So even when my pastor asked for volunteers, and even though in my heart I desperately wanted that healing, I did not speak. The words “I am not worthy to receive you” reverberated over and again in my head. 

For many reasons, including this one, I no longer subscribe to the traditions of the Catholic Church. But the feeling I had, that desire to receive that healing gesture, remained. Just this week my sweet little Zoe reminded of the prayer I once felt so strongly in my body — the desire to have my feet washed by Jesus. And as I look at her now, persistent in her desire to wash my feet, I realize she is answering that prayer I made so many years ago. She tells me that I am loved and worthy. And now, I am finally ready to accept and allow that into my life.

Animals have so much to teach us. I am thankful to have received one of Zoe’s lessons this week. I hope you readers of this blog are content today in knowing that you, too, are worthy and you are loved, no matter what your past. I believe Jesus lived to teach us about love and forgiveness and would be the first person to remind us all that we are inherently good.



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