Our dog got sick the other day. Very sick. The first we noticed was on Wednesday when he started yelping when anyone touched his head. By the evening he was whimpering constantly. Something was wrong. Something beyond the usual wrong.
Let me tell you some things about our dog. I am not a dog person. And that does not make me a cat person. It makes me a non-pet person. However I bought our dog for the family just over five years ago. In my usual OCD manner I had researched the kind of dog we should have, and how he would fit with our family and into our area.
Sounds complicated I know, but there were some things I wanted to be sure of. I wanted a dog that did not shed fur. I wanted a dog with a chilled temperament. Most of all I wanted a dog that I would not be ashamed to walk around the neighbourhood with. Some blokes just walk the most lame (and I don’t mean actually lame) dogs around our area. Dogs that have no right to be actual dogs, or be put on actual leads. Tiny “frou-frou” dogs that look like they started off as hamsters before a change of mind and an upgrade.
Anyway, our dog Miloh (no, I did not name him, the kids did), is a handsome chocolate brown Italian water retriever known as a Lagotto. And in the usual way after the puppy love dissipated among the kids, and the little dust that ever gets into our house settled, Miloh pretty much sees me as a poop-scooping, food-dispensing, ball-throwing god.
And he is so annoying! I mean, how can anyone get so excited when I come home from a five minute trip to the shops? It’s beyond reasonable. I keep saying I would be happy to find another family for him. No one else agrees.
By Thursday Miloh is not only yelping when you touch him, but sounds almost like he is crying – constantly. He takes to lying first under the table, then as far under the clawfoot bath as he can get. He is shaking, refusing to eat or drink, and the lawn is poo free for the first time since I can remember.
It’s amazing how much heart tenderness a sick puppy can actually eke out of a person, but I am feeling pretty cut by this stage. We all were. So we get him off to our local vet, a good running friend of mine who runs a practice that just oozes love and professionalism. A day, a general anaesthetic, and a good chunk of money later we have the verdict: Miloh had a middle ear infection that had become so bad it had perforated his ear drum. So a bunch of strong meds and three listless days later, he is coming round again.
I am not a dog person. But it struck me that God probably is. I would never create a dog. Can’t see any reason to. They’re much too cumbersome to look after. They don’t grow up and feed themselves and pick up after themselves (then again, neither do teenagers, I am learning). Yet God bothered to create them, and did so I presume, for his glory. My dog – though he doesn’t know it – barks, wags his tail, eats, jumps up at me in delight, and runs after a tennis ball at a pace I could never match, all to showcase how amazing God is.
And when he’s sick? When he’s whining and whimpering in pain? Why did that tug so much at my core? Maybe because in his pain and sickness, his groan was dialling into the groan of the creation awaiting the redemption of the sons and daughters of God. Even his dogginess has been affected by the breakdown of the creation in the light of human rebellion. He barks when he shouldn’t, he growls at little kids and – most disgustingly – he licks the floors in a, mostly vain, search for crumbs.
Yet it took his illness for me to appreciate him as a part of a groaning creation, and make me think about what it would be like for even a dog not to be affected by the cancer and stain of human sin. He’s certainly not the most important part of the creation – that’s the reserve of humans made in God’s image -, or even the part that groans the most. And I guess when I read all of the horrified (faux or otherwise) responses on peoples’ Facebook status updates about terrible stuff, it’s pretty minor. But then again, Jesus said “Consider the birds”, “Consider the lilies of the field”. He even had some cryptic things to say about dogs. And they all have something to teach us about how God works in his creation, if we have ears to hear.
Oh, and we’re now about to get some pet insurance.