The first surprise about our rescue puppy was that she wasn’t a puppy. “She’s about nine months old, nearly full grown,” the vet said last month, prying apart the jaws of the pup we’d named Fable. “She has all her adult teeth.”

“I knew it!” I said to my husband, Dana, when he drove her home with the news. Ever since we’d brought Fable home at the beginning of September, her small feet and delicate, lean build had made me suspect that the ‘three months old’ description on the animal adoption site where we’d found her profile was wrong.

What we hoped would grow into a medium-size dog, would remain – for life – about the same size as a Maine coon cat. I chose to look at the bright side. Less kibble! Less clean-up! But the missing information in Fable’s record also meant that she had been rejected, neglected and abandoned for much longer than we’d believed. Which explained why we often found her standing on the middle of the dining room table, licking plates; why she was so terrified of cars and people; and why she seemed to have no shut-off valve for her appetite.

“All she wants to do is scrounge whatever scraps she can get out of the compost or out of the pig’s dish or from the chickens,” Dana complained this weekend, as Fable darted around the yard just beyond his reach. “I get within ten feet of her and she runs off to see what else she can eat.”

“You are not a scrap-eating dog,” I told Fable, after Dana managed to catch her and bring her inside. “You are a well-loved, well-cared for dog. You have to change your mindset.”

Yet how often do we also — after being rejected, neglected or abandoned — hold onto an old mindset and the annoying behaviors that go with it? For those who have been mistreated, ignored and unloved, God offers a fresh start. “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person,” Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT). “The old life is gone; a new life has begun.”

Fable’s old life living on the streets, dodging cars and scrounging for food disappeared the day we drove her home and laid a blanket down for her in the corner of our kitchen. Twice each day we fill her bowls with fresh water and all the food she needs – the best we can buy. Fable now belongs to us, which is why we play with her, take her on walks and welcome her on our couch. Yet, her behaviors prove just how hard it can be to change old habits.

That is why I will continue to gather Fable on my lap and tell her that she deserves better food than scraps from the compost pile. And even though we who belong to Christ are also often tempted by our old faults and foibles, we too must remind ourselves that the old life is gone; a new life has begun.

Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine. The Christmas Cradle, the first book in her Lantern Hill Farm picture-book series, is available now. Connect at