The Holiness of Old Dogs

By:  Jana Greene

There is something holy about old dogs.  I can’t quote scripture to prove it, but I can see the sacredness in the eyes of my old dog, Emmie.  And I know God sees it in her too, that He placed it there.

I’m finding that God often places the holy and pure things where we least expect them.  I know that He uses my dog to make me a better person, to teach me things.

Emmie has been a good and faithful friend to me for more than fourteen years.  A Golden Retriever (with a bit of Chow-Chow) she never knew the first thing about retrieving. But being kind and loving, joyful and true?  She knows everything about that.

When I call to her, she comes to me – even though she is old and creaky probably has a million good doggie reasons why she would rather not.  She might be on her soft bed, having the dream in which she is jumping the chain-link fence like she used to.  Or a dream in which she finally catches that tormenting cat.  But, she always comes to me when I call, tail in full-wag….. counting it all joy.  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” – James 1:2

She enjoys her life, with little concern for the future.  Although it’s not easy for her to get into the back seat these days, she loves car rides.  Groaning a little as I help her hoist her achy haunches up, she seems to say, Mom, roll down the window already!  We might be going to the park, or to the vet’s office; she knows either one is a possibility.  No matter!  On the road she  is just a smiling doggie in my rearview mirror, her coat an explosion of golden fur in the wind, her slobber forming a snail-like trail down the side of my car, anxious for nothing.  “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” –   Matthew 6:25 -27 (NIV)

Emmie is an expert on affection, both the giving and receiving of.  She hasn’t yet learned that she doesn’t need to sit on top of me to be with me.  She simply cannot get close enough, even when I am trying to get things done.  Her tail wagging furiously, she is conveying that she loves me too much to contain it in a lady-like, reserved manner.  It reminds me of times that I raise my hands at church during worship, unfettered by rules, overcome with gratitude…when I just cannot get close enough, love/grace/gratitude bubbling over.   “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.” – 2 Corinthians 9:12 (NIV)

But the holiest attribute that Emmie displays might also be the most subtle.  It is the way she humbly seeks my face.  When offered a treat, her gaze is not on my hand (or the delicious bone I’m holding) … No, she is staring at the acceptance in my expression, her big, chocolate drop eyes searching to read my face.  Interestingly, the Bible reminds us to seek the face of God, not his hand and what he can offer us in the way of treats.  “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” – 1 Chron. 16:11

My sweet Emmie may not know about retrieving.  But she knows all about love, unconditionally.

Over the years….

In times of sorrow, I have buried my face in her uber-floofy coat and cried buckets of tears, and she didn’t seem to mind.  She lay perfectly still, only moving to lick my face.  Always compassionate.

In times of great joy, she has skipped circles around me, pouncing up and down as if she had a single clue as to what the celebration was all about.  Joyous oblivion.

In times of sickness or pain, she is my shadow, following me to the kitchen, the mailbox, even to the bathroom.  Endlessly loyal.

Yesterday, I bent down to kiss the top of her cone-y head like I have hundreds of times before.   I held her face up in my hands and looked into her eyes.  Heart melting, a feeling came over me of sweet reverence.  It took my breath away a little.  I’ve felt just this way before……

Where have I felt this feeling before?

And then I remembered:  standing in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.  I, as a tourist from North Carolina, standing in the sanctuary of the church, having never seen so regal a place, in the presence of magnificence….. awed and humbled.  How odd that the countenance of a loving, loyal animal would remind me of such a holy place.  The same sensation of being close to what His hand had fashioned flooded me in this realization:  Where God’s glory is manifest in the great majesty of  architecture and art, it is also manifest in the eyes of an old dog.

Holy and sacred – right where God placed it.

25 thoughts on “The Holiness of Old Dogs

  1. HaHA! I’m glad you like it! Seems we have similar taste in doggies and templates 🙂 Thank you so much for reading – enjoyed perusing your blog as well, although I must tell you….it made me want to go out an adopt about six new puppies. Aren’t they the best dogs EVER?

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  2. Gahhhhhh!!!! (Tears!!!) Sox and Emmy have been in lives for all these good years. True beauty is seen clearly in our pets’ eyes. LOVE THIS!

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  3. this is so sweet and true! we’ve been blessed to have shared our lives with two Golden girls, Samantha and Andi. ❤ i can't wait to send this to my hubby…i know his heart will just melt!

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  4. Thanks, Tif. My Emmie is napping right next to my desk. Wherever I go, she goes – especially since I had the surgery to repair my broken leg (over the past three months). I gotta tell you, being unemployed has paid in non-monetary ways galore! Like time writing, time with my kids, time with my Emmie. God is so good!

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  5. What a wonderful tribute!! I especially liked your correlation of their focused eyes. YES, may we always fix our eyes on Jesus!! Dogs keep focus so much better than we do, unless there’s a squirrel!

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  6. Amazing. As always..you put all my thoughts into words. What a beautiful, beautiful tribute to sweet Emmie..and all others like her out there. You are a blessing to us all, Jana.

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  7. Jana, such a beautiful post about a beautiful doggie. I remember many years ago when I had to take our 15 year old shihtzu gizmo to the vets for the last time. Tore my heart out for a long time. Still can’t drive by the vet in MD without tearing uo remembering that day. Thanks for helping me relive those moments and remembering the beautiful brown eyes. You have a gift. Will be praying for you and for emmie.

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  8. I’ve touched the face of God whenever I pressed my forehead against Lucy’s, my fourth Golden. I’ve watched his skip and dance just because I came home. I’ve known how he longs for my company when Bear, my first, laid her head in my lap and waited for my touch.

    Perhaps only those who’ve had a Golden as one who sticks closer than a brother can fully appreciate your insight. I hope not. I wish everyone could.

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