When our son’s dog Echo came to live with us, it had been eighteen years since our last dog died. I hadn’t recovered yet, but I said, “Sure. Bring him.” I’m glad he did. Echo has been a tremendous blessing!
A well-trained dog is a gift from God. He knew we would domesticate the wolf and find in this pack animal our most faithful pets and loyal companions. Maybe that’s why he created the breed as he did.
Dogs are often nicer than people. Unfortunately, that’s true. They place the welfare of the pack/family ahead of their individual considerations. They greet and welcome when parts of the pack come straggling home. This isn’t about the individual. It’s about the family, the unit.
Every time our son returns, Echo is beside himself with joy. When someone nears home, he rises and shoves his snout between the blinds to look out the window. I have no idea how he knows they’re coming five minutes ahead of time. Even though he hobbles in pain, still he gets up wagging and snorting as he awaits their arrival, so he can greet them.
Once a group of us embraced, one weeping with a broken heart. I felt a nudge at my knee and looked down to see that Echo had curved himself around our cluster, pressing his head tight at one end and his tail at the other, hugging all of us at once. He joined us in our grief.
When I’m lonely, sad, or overwhelmed, he materializes at my elbow, licking it or nudging with his nose. Then he presses his head against my leg in a hug. He’s more attuned to my feelings than I am. I get busy, buried in my work, or overwhelmed. He notices my feelings when I do not.
Echo is our neighborhood emissary of peace. People stop to ask about him. Kids crawl on him and love to pet him. All the while he sits patiently, wagging or licking as needed. Everyone knows his name, the kids shouting when they see him coming.
He’s now almost fifteen and has outlived the life expectancy of a Siberian Husky by many years. Since Christmas I have moved my home office to the first floor of our house, so he doesn’t try to climb the stairs to get to me. And climb he will. He is a faithful companion.
Earlier this week his hips gave out. He fell down the stairs and then couldn’t climb back up. Later he couldn’t get out the door. Once we helped him out, he couldn’t stay on his feet in the snow. His growing health problems and pain had won the battle.
It broke our hearts. We’d known this was coming.
The sad fact is, a dog can’t live forever. They come, and they love us, and they leave, breaking our hearts over them, because no human being ever loves us so selflessly and unconditionally.
They’re downright Christlike, the way they love. We feel better just knowing the dog is near, standing between us and come what may. This dog has reminded me of Jesus. If only we could all be more dog-like.
And now he’s gone.
Thank you, God, for this undeserved gift, a creature you made that modeled selflessness like you. Fill in the gaps he leaves with an awareness that you are far more present and even more loving. Thank you for using him to bless our lives. Thank you, son, for lending him to us for these final years.
Do good dogs go to heaven? Theologians bicker over the immaterial and battle over the division of soul and spirit and whether there actually is such a divide twixt the two. Since no one can actually see either with the naked eye, I ask, why not?
The God who created creatures to bless us and to populate his earth can do whatever he wants. The new heaven and new earth feature lions and lambs, however metaphorical, residing together. It isn’t written to the contrary. So, why not?
If any dog would be there, it would be Echo. I won’t be at all surprised to see him standing by Jesus already watching for my arrival. His tail will be wagging.