Sunday, March 2, 2014

Thy Servant, a Dog

Our golden retriever has never seen a day without sunshine -- even if she had to make it herself; or greeted us at the door without something she retrieved -- even if it was usually a shoe. We just learned she has lymphoma, and cannot be expected to be with us for long.

Today, during morning prayers, which she joined, as usual, I asked that "the servant of your servants --" whereupon she began thumping her tail against the floor enthusiastically, before I could finish by saying her name, and praying that she receive a blessing.

Many believe on the basis of experience that dogs are psychic. Did she "hear" her name in my mind before I said it? Or was it something more profound? All I know is that I paused and looked at my wife, who started to cry. We had shared something wonderful without an explanation.

We live in a great mystery adventure beyond our imaginations. Catholics are part of an amazing story that will never end. Not just that, but it becomes our story if we will let it. Sometimes God leaves clues for us: the thump of a sick dog's tail. "Clues" sounds too cerebral, though. St. Theresa of Avila called them "lovers games."

Ah, God is love, and our goldie gives us daily lessons in love. Of course, she's just a dog, and I don't want sentiment to drown sound theology, but I didn't start this discussion. My heart tells me there's a place for fierce little Yorkies and gentle goldies. They try so hard to understand us, and spend their short lives in loyalty to beings they can only conceive of on their terms. What humility and daring, which is the paradox of love.

"Thy Servant, a Dog," is a book written by Rudyard Kipling that attempts to capture this canine perspective. That was what popped into my mind when I mentioned our girl: "the servant of Your servants." Then I realized it is also one of the Pope's titles. In the Pope's case it is a reminder of humility. In the dog's, she is drawn up into the higher by her service.

How high? High enough for no regrets, I'll wager. High enough that our tears will be wiped away. She's forever part of our lovers games with God now.


  1. I often think that God has given us dogs to aid Him in teaching us to be better humans. May your goldie indeed be blessed, and receive abundant comfort, and may your family receive abundant consolation throughout the coming weeks and months.

  2. Our relationships with dogs is profound, poignant and unique. Of all the animals in the world only dogs have the capacity to enter into our inner lives, to look us right in the eye in an effort to understand us.

    They can also be cunning. We have a Yorkie that will deliberately wait until he sees us starting Divine Office. That's when he will start rattling his empty dish. He knows he's got us. Our other Yorkie cues on my wife taking her Bible in hand. She'll start barking and spinning around like a demoniac until my wife puts her Bible down and takes her outside or feeds her.

    Our goldie never went in for that sort of thing. There isn't a cunning bone in her body.


Moderation is On.

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