As I snapped the leash on Luna, our three-year-old bundle of Husky-shaped trouble, I told her, “If only you could be trusted not to run away and chase things, we could let you off this thing.” We live in the country so off-leash dogs are common. Those dogs, like our trusty 15-year-old flat coat retriever, Moose, want nothing more than to sniff things in their realm and know better than to chase deer or stray too far from home.
Luna gave me a look that said, “Try me,” but I knew that look. I knew it spelled another runaway dog retrieval mission so I didn’t even take it seriously. I knew that it really meant, “Try me, foolish human.”
Then I thought about loyalty. At first I thought that she lacks it. Unlike Moose, who follows me from room to room, Luna doesn’t seem particular about the humans in her life. Equally at ease in our house or at the neighbors’ up the road, it seems like she would happily opt for whatever or whoever offers the most adventure. Following her nose to wherever it takes her, she has mastered the look over her shoulder that says, “See ya, suckers!” as she runs off.
However, I was wrong. We all have loyalty in us.
Some of us, like Moose, are loyal to others. We stand by and up for other people in our lives. We wait when they ask us to and, when they need us, we are there. Not long ago, I slipped on the ice and lost my grip on Luna’s leash. Off she ran into the night as I lay in the road staring up at the stars. A moment later, a wet nose tentatively brushed against my cheek. Hot breath warmed my face as Moose sat down next to me and waited for me to get up. Luna was gone but Moose, my loyal companion, stayed with me and walked beside me as I stiffly made my way back to the barn.
Some of us, like Luna, are loyal to adventure. It’s a big world out there, and we don’t want to just sit around and watch it roll by. We don’t do it to hurt, frustrate, or exasperate others. We do it because we’re called to and, gosh darn it, it’s so much fun.
Still others are loyal to ideas and causes. At its best, this type of loyalty brings people together in a spirit of unity. It moves people to act; it aids change. It can save lives. At its worst, it tears the world apart. So many of us will defend our beliefs and what we believe to be our rights so fiercely that sometimes we can’t even see when we are infringing upon others. We declare outrage. We declare war. We declare other people are stupid. We declare we are right and they, the “other side,” are wrong. We build walls instead of bridges. We see issues in stark, simple contrasting colors instead of as complex mosaics of life and humanity.
And yet others are loyal to the commitments we make. This is like loyalty to ourselves and our word, holding us accountable. We set our mind to something and we bite down on that idea like Luna’s jaws around a hapless mouse.
We don’t let go until we’ve seen it through. Recently, I made a commitment to give up alcohol for 30 days. All the reports I’d read said that I’d experience a laundry list of health benefits including better sleep and weight loss. I’m currently on Day 35 and, though I have noticed better sleep, I did not lose any weight. I actually gained weight (dang it) but remained true to the commitment. Will I drink again? It’s a good bet that I will – in moderation – but I haven’t committed to that yet.
My next commitment is a month long dedication to stretching every day for fifteen minutes. I’m terribly inconsistent with stretching after my workouts so when a friend asked me to be her accountability partner for her exercise challenge for the month of February, I enthusiastically agreed. We will work together to remind each other of our goals and stay accountable.
Fortunately, each of us is our own complex mosaic of life and humanity, and we can experience a mixture of all types of loyalty, even ones not mentioned here. I feel like my February commitment is a cocktail of allegiance. It stirs together the loyalty I feel for my friend, to be there for her and help her succeed, my loyalty to adventure and trying something new, my devotion to a great cause – better health – and faithfulness to the commitment itself and my pledge to improve myself every day.
Join me at the end of February for a quick update on how we did!