All About the Ride – A Doggie’s Guide to Truly Living

Emmie Greene
Emmie Greene

For the last post in this series of “Seven Little Action Words,” I have resurrected this piece about my dog, Emmie. I simply cannot think of anyone who embraced life (and trust, for that matter) with such unconditional zeal. She is in Heaven now (yep, I am 100% sure that animals go to Heaven when they pass on) but she has left this world with the legacy of her “rally-ability.” She was a trooper, and really…so am I. I pray this peek into her spirit blesses you today and helps you channel YOUR inner Golden Retriever.

By: Jana Greene

Living.

I took Emmie the Elderly Golden Retriever to the vet this morning. It’s only for a nail-trim, I told her when she balked a bit about getting into the back-seat. It was cold outside, and her old bones don’t like the cold. Finally she did her best to jump into the car, her posterior getting a little boost from me.

Along the way,  I rolled down the window so that my rear view mirror was filled with the vision of Emmie’s face behind me – full splendor, tufts of golden fur and a wide smile of teeth and gums (okay, mostly gums) and eyes squinting in the cold sunlight. She had forgotten that there was a destination involved. She was all about the ride.

When we arrived at the vet’s office, she remembered, of course. The last time we’d been here, she was extremely sick. She had suddenly developed a violent gastrointestinal issue and fever, and lost an alarming amount of weight as a result. At fifty-two pounds, she seemed all ribs and misery and the vet was not hopeful for her recovery. She was tested for all manner of parasites and disease, only to come up empty.

“She is nearly fourteen years old,” the Vet had said. As this that explained everything.

“I know,” I said in return, trying not to bawl. I know that some day, it will explain everything. But not that day.

Some people think it’s ridiculous to pray for dogs, but I disagree. As it happened, Emmie’s illness went away as suddenly as it had begun, and she rallied mystifying vigor. Within days of special food and treats, extra rubbing and loving, she perked right up. Once again, she was my shadow, following me around from room to room as I worked around the house even though it meant constant motion and achy joints. That girl is a trooper.

So, the last time we were at the vet’s office, Emmie had been poked and prodded, her old bones jostled about. She has a pretty good memory for an old lady. I had to coax her out of the car with extra-syrupy sweet talk and skritches behind the ears. She walked slowly to the door, like I’m not buying it, Mom, but I’ll follow you because I love you.

We went into the Dog Door, because our vet has a Cat Section and a Dog Section and ideally, never the twain should meet. Emmie has two brothers that just happen to be cats, cool characters the total opposite of her loopy, goofy, people-pleasingness. Two feline brothers who she is still adjusting to after five years of grafting into the family. So I think she especially appreciates the Dog Door. I know I do.

Upon setting paw inside, she developed the shakes – all over. Nervy, full-body shakes that shiver her bones (which I am pleased to report, are getting some meat on them finally). I’m too old for this crap, she is thinking.

I whispered comforts to her. But she doesn’t speak the King’s English, so she’s still not buying it.

A very nice lady in scrubs covered with a collage of cats came out to gather her. She took her leash and gently encouraged Emmie to follow. Emmie declined by digging her dragon-lady nails into the tile until ever so slowly, she disappeared into the grooming room. She turned around before the door was closed and looked at me with giant, chocolate drop eyes slightly milky with age to say, “You’re giving me to a stranger wearing cat-covered scrubs?”

But one of the amazing things about Emmie is her rally-ability. Within minutes, she was finished, neatly tapping her new mani-pedi on the same tiles she had tried digging into and with the same semi-toothless grin she displays with her head out the window.  Emmie the Elderly Golden Retriever inspires me with her trust.

She just wants to be wherever I am. When I shut the door and she happens to be on the other side of it, she lays against the crack like a live draft-catcher, just to be as close as possible to her master – no matter what.

Emmie the Elderly Dog reminds me about trust and unconditional love a lot these days. I have a tendency to dig in when having to face an old obstacle; I have a pretty good memory, too.  Oh, no. I’ve been here before! Or simply, I’m too old for this crap.

But do I want to be as close as possible to The Master, no matter what? He always takes me gently by the lead. That’s the only way to keep rallying, in my experience. To live.

Okay, Father. I’m not seeing the point in this, but I’ll follow you because I love you. And God whispers comforts, too, when I listen.

I want so badly to be loopy and goofy with God-pleasingness, following Him around even though it requires constant motion (and achy-ness of the soul, on occasion) – a Trooper. Sometimes I try to have my own way – to be a cool character grafted awkwardly into a family that takes some adjusting to. But other times, I can channel my inner Golden Retriever, with the Father’s help. Those are the best times, spiritually.

All about the ride.

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.