God and Puppy Love

Our live in grandchild teamed up with my husband and pressured us into acquiring an adorable Cavalier King Charles spaniel puppy. Yesterday a Cavalier was pictured in a N.Y. Times Business section story reporting that there are 44.8 million pet dogs in America. Their owners help to support a $38 billion pet business. In an earlier incarnation I have been heard to deplore such a waste of resources while praising the sensible no-dog policy of China. What was I thinking? Becoming besotted with our first dog has opened my eyes to many things. I may have written a lot about the power of experience to change "notional" into "real" assent, but life with our dog Sunny proves the case. Animals are not soulless machines, Mr.Descartes, and lively nature is not neutral but a God given creation. I can now "really" understand what the pet therapy folks in my psychology department were aiming at. As good primates we humans need to touch and groom each other, and puppies like it. The N.Y. Times story referred to the Cavalier as a "love sponge" and a "licking monster." Older children and grandchildren eventually resist being hugged and kissed, but dogs have snuggled up with homo sapiens for eons and can’t get enough mutual affection. Of course Sunny sleeps in our bed and has never been known to wince at baby talk. No wonder getting a dog is a proven strategy for warding off geriatric depression and dementia. This family love affair has provoked some religious musings for me as well. How excellently dogs practice "the sacrament of the present moment." In their single mindedness they joyfully express their love. If you leave the house for an hour and return, Sunny celebrates as though it were the resurrection. Every day is a new day for her to be glad in. She does not have guilt over not writing her book or over sleeping too much to fulfill her vocation as a dog. My napping with her I can now be seen as getting in touch with my canine nature. But alas, there remains a barrier between woman and dog. Without sharing words even the most intense love is limited. Loving your dog lets you understand simultaneously the power of nonverbal communion and the need for language in full mutual understanding. Now we understand why Adam needed a partner like himself and why pagan myths and religions include talking animals. Finally, as you adore your dog and bump up against the obstacle between you, a new meaning to the Incarnation is glimpsed. The desire to be truly and completely united in love and share one nature becomes vividly felt. So this is why God became human. Today is the first Sunday of Advent and it looks like we may be getting ready for Christmas around here. Sidney Callahan
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10 years ago
Thanks for writing this, it made me pause to think as well as smile. As a Christian AND a cav owner, this resonated with me. 'Love sponge'? You're not kidding. When my Cavaliers wake me up in the morning it's the attack of the Killer Cavs.... licky licky everywhere. : ) Enjoy your Cavalier.

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