On Sunday I held my dog as he died. Really, he was my mom’s fiancee’s dog. Without giving you too much insight into my family’s business, I can say that he has been a huge part of our lives for a long time and consequently so was Buddy. My sister was attacked by a dog when we were toddlers, so we grew up with a fear of dogs. As best as I can remember, Buddy was the first dog I ever grew to love instead of fear. When he was younger he could be aggressive with people and animals he didn’t like, but he always liked me. My mom swears he would smile when I came around.
I grew up loving that dog and I like to think of him as mine. For a few years his health has been declining in many ways. He had horrible arthritis. When he would go outside I would have to lift him across the door way. He once fell in the yard and yelped painfully until I was able to reach him and pick him up. He had his good days, especially when he was around my other, younger dog, Casey. She’d run from him and he’d give chase. She’s one of the few dogs he really liked. She was a real jerk about it.
He had his good days, but I knew for a while that I would have to start preparing for a life without Buddy. I did my best, but I still choked on tears as I drove to the vet and had to literally lean on family as he passed. The past few days have been blurry. If you aren’t a lover of dogs, that may seem like foolishness, but if you are a dog-lover, I’m sure I don’t have to explain. Watching the vet carry his lifeless body out of the room and out of my life was one of the hardest things I’ve done in a long time.
In honor of Buddy, I wanted to give you all my little “Theology of Dogs” that I’ve shared in youth groups and bars for the past few years.
John Paul II’s Theology of the Body taught me to see the invisible as revealed through the visible. This is how I view just about everything in the world. I try to see what a thing reveals about G-d when I look at it. When I see a dog, I think of G-d. (Theology of the Doggy? I’ll work on it.)
A Theology of the Doggy
A dog will love you more than he loves himself. When I get home, Casey goes nuts. She’ll spin in circles, jump on me, run around the house with a toy, eat some food, and come back to me ready to lick. She’ll run through this cycle a few times before she calms down. Every dog loves harder than most people. When Casey was a puppy, I accidentally stepped on her head once. (It’s something I’ve since learned is pretty common among new dog-owners, but I still feel bad) She walked around for a bit howling in her little puppy voice because I had just stepped on her head and that freaking hurts. I tried to console her, which was futile because of the language barrier, so I just sat on the porch trying not to cry. She came over to me and laid down on my leg. Even after going Cloverfield Monster on her, she wanted to be with me and maybe even make me feel better about it. A dog loves you no matter what. I believe G-d gave us dogs as a real example in the natural world of what his love for us looks like.
G-d loves you when you hate him. He loves you when you’re away from him. When you return to him, he goes nuts (Luke 15:11-32). When you smash his head, he takes it and tries to comfort you in your guilt. When you nail him to a cross, he prays for you and offers himself for your redemption. G-d loves you harder than anyone you can imagine and he loves you no matter what. When I’m trying to take a nap and Casey jumps on my chest and just stares at me until I let her lick my face because that’s all she wants to do, I think of Jesus becoming man and then becoming bread and wine just to have us hang out with him in a chapel for an hour because being with us is all he wants to do. I’m a dog-lover because I am a lover! A dog can always love you back.
This is the face of love. As well as the ears of love.
Then there are cats.
I believe that G-d gave us cats to show us how we treat him and how much that sucks. A cat couldn’t care much less about you. Where a dog will go out of his way to be with you, cats cannot be bothered to acknowledge when you speak to them. When you do get their attention, you’d better not pet them because they kind of hate that. Cats are snobs. They take advantage of you and don’t bother to thank you. They literally CRAP IN YOUR HOUSE AND MAKE YOU CLEAN IT UP. Crap, by the way, which is parasitic and probably eating your brain as you read this, cat-lover.
We’re sinners. Most of us spend a good deal of our lives forgetting about G-d. We hardly ever give thanks, if we do at all. When I see a cat, I remember to do an examination of conscience and pray for forgiveness from the lover whom I have mistreated.
I’m gonna go cuddle with my dog. Congrats to those of you who get to go do the same.