Finally, the idea of sharing space presented itself in a little story I read recently in a Zig Ziglar book called Conversations with My Dog. It's right at the outset of the book, on page one. Now that the seedlings are planted and some garden soil is scattered in for good measure, I'm ready to sit down, have a glass of tea and enjoy the story again:
A number of years ago, my older brother...had a dog named Old Bullet. He was a wonderful old dog of mixed heritage, questionable morals, and a penchant for disappearing a day or two at a time. Nevertheless, deep down he had a heart of gold and was loyal to my brother and his family. In his own way he had strong core values, was sensitive, and was a delight to have around. It wasn't until he was in the declining years of his life that I realized Old Bullet was quite a philosopher and carried on some rather extended conversations with my brother. I was privileged to be in on one of them and heard Old Bullet uttering some words of pain and disappointment.
It seemed that a stray cat had wandered into the yard and my brother had taken her in, fed her, and made her feel welcome. Old Bullet was out for a walk when the newcomer arrived and was somewhat upset when he returned to discover the new addition. He immediately recognized that he was considerably larger than the cat, and being the gentleman he was he didn't take out his anger and frustration on her but instead went directly to the person who could do something about it. With a mournful face and sadness in his voice, Old Bullet said to my brother, "I can't believe you've done this! I've been a faithful dog, a good companion to you and your family. I've protected your interests and run off some big rats and squirrels, not to mention stray dogs that were up to no good. I've never had o go to the vet for anything; I've eaten very little, and most of that was scraps. And yet you take in a complete stranger. Did you really think I would not be upset about this? After all, I've been here several years, and I never once considered going to someone else's place except maybe for a short visit to one of my lady friends, and yet you take in this other animal--a cat at that! I know it's your place and you don't have to explain, but in light of our relationship I would feel better if you did."
My brother, because of his pastoral background and experience in dealing with disgruntled church members who could be quite cantankerous, had a ready explanation for Old Bullet. He said, "First of all, let me remind you that when I took you in years ago you were skin and bones and weren't much good for anything except eating and sleeping. Yet I never complained or expected much from you except your loyalty and an occasional tail-wagging expression of appreciation. It's true you've been a loyal and good companion, and I believe I've been more than fair with you. I've never raised my hand in anger against you; I've never spoken harshly to you except on one occasion when you chased a car and I was afraid you'd get hurt. Not only that, Old Bullet, but to be candid, you have lost a step or two these last couple of years, I even thought I detected signs of loneliness in your countenance during those times when you were lying on the front porch watching traffic pass without so much as lifting your head. I thought it might be nice for you to have a companion. Actually, this little cat is no threat to you. You'll always be first in my heart and you and I still have some god years together, so let's make our little friend welcome. Who knows...you might develop a relationship that will give you much joy and delight. I can tell you this--she'll take the heat off you in the rat-catching department because she can go into smaller places than you can."
With that, Old Bullet was contented and the case was closed.