Wednesday, August 29, 2007

As the Dog Panteth for the Water

Tasha and I walk to the stream in our woods a couple times a day. There’s a bend in the stream where the water is deep enough for her to get in up to her shoulders. She used to sink into the water and almost sigh audibly. Then she’d get up, shake, and bound on to the next destination. She’s learned not to shake now because her back legs are iffy. She’s content to just stand in the cool water and abide.

This week the stream dried up.

This happens some summers. The water rushes in March, flows in May, and if we haven’t had significant rain, disappears in August.

A few days back, I didn't take the turn for the stream, thinking why bother if there’s no water? Tasha kept going. The stream bed is dry, all rocks and mud but she plunged in as if it were cold and flowing.

And she'll keep doing it because she has faith that someday, the water will be back.

I of little faith...she of great hope.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Grave Matter

Steve is outside, digging Tasha's grave.

No, she's fine. Really.

We're going away soon and our neighbor Rick will be house/dogsitting. Being the wise man he is, he asked where he should "put her" if she passes on while we're away. Ouch--good question. Steve and I walked around the yard, Tasha trailing us, to find a spot.

"Here's a good place for her to spend eternity," Steve said, pointing to a little grove of trees.

It occurs to me that I spent more time today dwelling on the patch of earth that will become Tasha's eternity than I have on the heaven that will be mine.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Marj on God and Dog Bathing

Marj says--My inclination is to see Maddie's rolling as a metaphor for my persistant (insistant) attraction to the things that make me smell. Seems like every time God gives me a bath, it's only a matter of time - a very short time - before I've done my level best to reinstate my previous level of ick. Fortunately, He seems to be willing to keep bathing me so that I can be tolerated in the house and even considered huggable. In spite of myself.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Racing and Rolling

Earlier this week, my friend Marj gave her chocolate lab Maddie a bath. Maddie cleans up beautifully—she has silky ears, hugging-soft fur, and a glossy sheen. Afterwards, Marj took her out for her walk to Heald Pond. To get to the water, one has to hike through an orchard of apple trees that haven’t been cultivated in ten years. Marj let Maddie off the leash and she raced away, thundering with joy.

And then the dog rolled.

She flopped onto her back, kicking her legs in the air and rubbing her sweet, shampooed back into the ground. Within thirty seconds, the bath had become a futile effort to impose cleanliness on a creature who has her own standards of perfection.

The only requirement for rolling is the smellier the spot, the better. At Heald Pond, Maddie or Tasha (another accomplished roller) can indulge in decayed apples, cow manure, skunk spillage, or the body of some dead, rotting critter.

Maddie’s refusal to contain her own God-given nature makes me think about my own efforts at holiness. I bathe myself in Bible study and good works and earnest prayer. I give myself a long sniff and pronounce my soul to be silky and hugging-soft.

But I wonder if Maddie doesn’t have it right. Would God rather see me with my head bowed and my hands folded--or would He delight in me rolling with Maddie-like in joy, kicking my feet at the sky.

Seems to me that the leash is obedience—but the roll is worship.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Luring the dog

At Tasha's age (she's almost seventeen), getting her out to walk can be a chore. The strategy is simple--wave a dog biscuit under her nose, wait for her to wake up, and then lure her out to the woods. She's eager for the 'cookie' so I give it to her after a couple of hundred of feet on the path. After she gobbles it down, her shoulders slump and her excitement dissolves, as if she's thinking the fun's done--why is she making me keep going?

After all these years, walking the path is so ingrained that she doesn't have an inkling she could turn around and just go home. So she drags a couple hundred feet behind me, her head low and her tail down. I'd think I was the worst owner in creation--but I know this is good for her. '

Sure enough, once we make the turn for the stream path, she whizzes by me like a puppy. She can't keep it up, of course, but for a few feet, she's in the moment of joy.

And, if I'm to be honest, I must admit I'm like that.

I drag myself before God because I know it's a good place for me to be. Sometimes the path seems worn and boring (trust me, I know the danger of admitting such a thing in public...zzzt...lightning bolt alert) that I'm just looking at my own feet and not at where I am. And yet, like Tasha, who out of habit trusts me to take her to a good place, God does the same for me.

Tasha's old and creaky. I'm busy and cranky. I walk Tasha because she needs it. God meets us there because I need it.

I'm ashamed when Tasha is the first one of us to lift her head and acknowledge that.