On this first day of Spring, I reflect on my late friend Jack.
Jack was a dachshund that joined our family in 2004. Mom and Dad left to buy pet supplies and I was left home alone with this small brown dog. After a few minutes, he timidly came to my room to join me for The X-Files. I knew I’d like him. After a few days, he got used to us and our house. After a few weeks, he’d push my door open and wake me up in the morning and greet me when I came home. After a few months, he was family. After a few years, he was a much a part of my life as Mom and Dad. Unless you were a complete stranger (in which case he’d bark at you until you went away), he had a sweet way about him. And in his own dog way, I suppose, he was thoughtful. And he probably thought we were weird.
I remember well his floppy ears, his stumpy feet, his rusty smell, his yawn, his alertness when peanut butter or cheese or treats or the possibility of going outside came up, his goofy rolling about on the floor to scratch his back, hearing him bark through Mom’s window when I’d get out of the car, how he would maintain eye contact, sit on his hind legs, steal my seat, and would for no apparent reason come visit me in the guest room.
Scratch that. I know the reason. He loved me. He loved his family. God, I loved him. I loved him right up through those sad sacred days when he became ill beyond repair and we had to let him go on the first day of Spring. My brother crafted a fine wooden box, and I took up a shovel and buried a little piece of my heart by a forest stream, facing east. I’m still not entirely over it. Perhaps I’m over the pain, but I will never be over the parting. This, I will submit, is part of that longing for New Creation, a tension that acknowledged or not, lies in the molecules of every man, woman, and beast. A tension that will only cease in Kingdom Come.
Greater thinkers and theologians than I have spoken to this longing for a world put right, especially as it relates to these creatures in our care. Here are but a handful of such thoughts that were sent to me during last year’s goodbyes.
For what it’s worth, I believe that God loves all of his creation, and that in some way he uses us, when we are at our best, to redeem his creatures. When we love our pets we invite them into God’s kingdom, and his blessings trickle down to them. I don’t know what the new earth will look like, but I know that God is in the business of restoration. I think he has plans for all of the things he has so lovingly made. – Rev. Isaac Hopper
I doubt not that the Father of All has a tender regard for even his lowest creatures, and that, in consequence of this, he will make them large amends for all they suffer while under this present bondage [of corruption, due to human sin]. – John Wesley, “On the General Deliverance”
Perhaps my favorite is this prayer of St. Basil of Caesarea (329 – 379 A.D.), which came in an email from Ryan Bailey…
O God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, our brothers the animals to whom Thou gavest the earth as their home in common with us.
We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to Thee in song has been a groan of travail.
May we realize that they live not for us alone, but for themselves and for Thee and that they love the sweetness of life even as we, and serve Thee better in their place than we in ours.
For those, O Lord, the humble beasts, that bear with us the burden and heat of day, and offer their guileless lives for the well-being of mankind; and for the wild creatures, whom Thou hast made wise, strong, and beautiful, we supplicate for them Thy great tenderness of heart, for Thou hast promised to save both man and beast, and great is Thy loving kindness, O Master, Saviour of the world.
Jack loved the sweetness of life, as we do. I believe he’ll taste it again, as we will.
See you again, buddy.