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.