By Michael J. Weber
There have been a number of tragic stories about animal abuse in the past few weeks. Most often, the stories are about people who died and/or left numerous cats and dogs in their home unattended, with many becoming sick or dying.
These sad stories anger most of us with sensibilities toward animals. Perhaps if we looked at animals in a different way, we might prevent some of this abuse.
Someone once said that our relationship with animals mirrors our relationship with God.
I think dogs, more so than other pets, often bring out the best in us. They often show us what being human is all about, teaching us to enjoy life’s simple things.
They also offer lessons in friendship and trust and, more important, in steadfast, unconditional love. In this sense, they are gateways to the divine.
Most people have heard the one about the agnostic dyslexic who questioned: “Is there a dog?” Well, a few days with Bruno and one would find sufficient metaphors to answer in the affirmative.
Bruno was an 80-pound Weimaraner that lived eight short years with us before he had to be euthanized. He died of heart disease and bone cancer, not uncommon in large purebreds. We all have heard of owners who grieve their dogs and vice versa, but experiencing this firsthand was gut-wrenching.
Bruno’s love for us was unconditional. He turned our lives upside down. This is what I mean when I say that dogs can be gateways to the divine.
Anyone who has cared for a dog knows what it means – you lose control of your life. You eventually have “to let go and let dog!”
Borrowing from the book “Dogspell: A Dogmatic Theology on the Abounding Love of God” by Mary Ellen Ashcroft, one can find many theological metaphors in the behaviors of most dogs: the open table-fellowship (dogs don’t care whom they eat with), the “full-body wag greetings,” the getting down and dirty (touching lepers and spitting in the mud), the disrespecting of the standoffish and the well-heeled (dogs will jump on everyone) and the rushing head-long into anything. Bruno had all of these traits and more.
Bruno gave his all, no matter what the situation. Two of his major surgeries were due to football injuries on his back legs.
Bruno’s approach to life was filled with wild exuberance and joy – pulling the Thanksgiving turkey on himself, eating full bags of doughnuts, getting into lipstick. Our vet’s assistant called him the “dog that ate Grafton.”
He once chased a raccoon and got the worst of it. He never figured out opossums. He got a fishing hook stuck through his nose after messing around in the garage. He would fearlessly pick up snakes. He was constantly hiding things but was happy to show you later where he hid them (if he remembered). He would never eat alone. He would sit like a human on the couch, philosophizing with the best of us.
If you weren’t giving him enough attention, he would literally sit on whatever you were reading as if to say, “You weren’t really interested in that, were you?”
When Bruno became sick, he didn’t stop his body wags and his joy in seeing us. Even near the end, when he vomited everything because of the meds, he still tried to please, still wanted to play, even if for a few minutes before he collapsed in exhaustion.
He probably knew when it was time for him to go, but it was still hard – much harder on us than him, I suspect.
With Bruno gone, life is less vibrant; there’s less laughter, but it’s much quieter. No floppy ear noises, no four-paw prancing, no barking, no body wags.
I miss his companionship but most of all his approach to life, full of innocence, wonder and his unconditional love.
Michael J. Weber of Grafton is a design engineer and teacher.
Reprinted with permission