Everybody needs a dog in their life. Even if you can’t have one, you should make sure you have at least one friend with a dog who will let you spend time with their dog. I am a dog person. With the exception of a particular Corgi that bit me years ago, I haven’t met a canine I don’t like. I can put up with a lot from a dog because the benefits are so great. I suspect most dog owners understand what I mean. We have three dogs in our family, which was not our intention. Somehow it just worked out that way. At any rate, I hear that some folks aren’t dog people; I urge you to be cautious around them. Such people seem a bit sketchy to me.
I admit, dogs can be trying at times. Puppies are hard work. I suppose they can be expensive. Yes, high maintenance too. I know all of these aspects of dogs. We’ve dealt with chewers, mess-makers, goat-like eaters of anything-they-find-that-may-or-may-not-come-back-up-later-as-a-special-surprise, barkers, lickers, stinkers, and the like. We’ve dealt with kidney failure, heart failure, sudden blindness, ingested glass shards, countless cuts and sprains, a chronically bad back, and prescriptions that cost more than human medicines. We know about expensive. From emergency room visits to stitch up wounds after a sisterly spat to the Derby Day hat that had the top eaten out of it after one wear. We still have dogs.
Oh yeah. There’s also the parting. The first two dogs we had, one of which was our first child and a happily lone pup for two years, both died in recent years. Putting them to sleep was among the hardest things I’ve done. That is why I make house calls for animals and humans alike. My congregation knows that they can call me when they have an animal in crisis, dying, or who has just died. To date I’ve had more calls for dogs than cats, but I don’t read too much into that.
The goodness of dogs far outweighs the challenges though. Mine have always loved me unconditionally. Sure, you might say that has a lot to do with the fact that I feed them. But it’s more than that. They forgive quickly and easily, and they find their greatest joy in being with us. My dogs even engage in that bizarre ritual of going into the bathroom with me. I figure it’s only fair. I’m normally there when they go, so apparently that’s the expectation. It’s also hard to stay mad when a pup is looking up at you with big eyes and a wagging tail. What’s more, there is no tissue or handkerchief that can do a better job at wiping away tears than a canine tongue. I know people who have only survived rough patches in their lives because of the love of a dog. They are great listeners and know instinctively when we need their affection.
I used to wonder whether dogs and other animals go to heaven. I don’t wonder anymore; I’ve made up my mind that they do. God intended animals to be an important part of our lives. The story of Adam in the Book of Genesis tells how God sent the animals to Adam one by one in an attempt to find him a helper as his partner. Within that ancient story, God’s first instinct was not to create another human, but to look to animals. Ultimately, Eve was the answer, but I’m pretty sure they had the first pet in human history because Adam got attached to at least one animal while waiting for Eve to arrive. Pet is probably not the best word to use; companion is better. Our animals are companions for us along the way. Plus, although my Hebrew is a bit rusty, it seems that God put spirit in animals at creation too. If there are no dogs in heaven, who will we play fetch with?
So, if you have a dog, give it a scratch and a treat from me. Be sure to forgive your furry companion for any mistakes it makes; it forgives you. If you don’t have a dog, go find one – there are usually some at the beach or a local park who will be happy to see you. We all need someone to wag their tail at us now and then, and preferably as often as possible. I bring one of my dogs with me to my office most days for this reason. She makes me feel better and makes my guests feel better too. She’s a great ambassador and preaches about love without words constantly. If we all acted more like dogs, the world would be a better place.