Dogs and God and Joy

REPOSTED. Because I miss my dog, who taught me so much.

This is the kind of day where you stumble out of bed, put the coffee together, and make a soft-boiled egg for the sick dog, who should now be trying food. You make one for yourself, too. The dog watches you create her egg-and-bread, then turns up her nose at it, once you place it before her.

As you prepare your own egg, letting the lovely hot yolk drip over a piece of crumbled rye bread, you gently try to coax the pooch into eating, “you must get strong,” you say. “I can’t give you your medicine in yummy pill pockets unless you eat…”

You dip your spoon into your own breakfast, and it tastes good. The dog is watching your every move, because she is a dog, and she is very attentive. You say, “okay, I’m going to take a bite, and you take a bite…”

And she still doesn’t eat.

This depresses you. You cannot enjoy your egg while the dog is sick, but you suspect that maybe–out of mere habit–if the dog has an opportunity to eat your food, she’ll go for it.

So you put your soft-egg-and-bread mess into her bowl.

And she tentatively eats your egg, and your bread, and leaves her own untouched.

Because she loves you so much that she would rather share what is yours than have her own. Or something.

Then you get a little moist-eyed because once again your dog has shown you something mysterious and vital which must be pondered. She’d rather have communion than singularity.

That’s love. It’s also pretty good theology. I must work on that lifelong urge to be singular.

You forget about eating breakfast, and give the dog her medicine. Fresh water goes untouched.

Then you go to get a cup of coffee, so your day can begin and you find…you never turned on the pot.

When you finally do get coffee, you come into your office, click on the email and turn your attention to work. The dog lays at your feet with a thud, because she is still weak; her back legs are giving out. You open your email to the rhythmic thwacking of her tail against the desk.

The first three emails are expressing hate for your religion, your political affiliation and your stupid family and stupid life. You are surprised that none of them end in, “and your little dog, too!”

You look down at the dog, who looks back lovingly, seeming almost to smile.

And you feel nothing but gratitude, for the dog, and for your life, and for the ability to raise a cup of coffee to your lips unaided, and the ability to walk to the kitchen to get another.

It’s the sort of day when giving thanks opens a route to joy, which speeds along God’s glory.

Joy can take us far.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://chrysologus.blogspot.com Adam Rasmussen

    What a nice story.

    St. Chrysostom taught that the person who does no harm to him or herself cannot be harmed by anyone. So when someone shows hate for you and your faith, he or she is hating only him or herself.

  • http://www.iannarino.us Franciene McDonald

    Elizabeth,
    Thank you for the lovely story. I know so well how you feel. God bless you and your little dog.

  • Left Coast Conservative

    Reading this is a great way to start the day. Thank you

  • berrykeller

    What we do for our pups! Ours is acting very stressed so put him in the car for a ride and took him to see my parents. I am hoping that the mutual love train works. We have our paws and fingers crossed along with prayers for your dog. She is beautiful. As my Mom would say don’t let the turkeys get you down!

  • Kathy

    My cat, perfectly healthy, would just rather have my food than his.

    Prayers for your lovely pup. And you.

  • igout

    This sounds weird but it worked. Try some hamburger meat and if it’s been in the fridge, play a hairdryer over it to get your dog’s smeller interested.

  • Cecilia Beale

    Oh Elizabeth, what a pleasure it is to have found your blog. I am a fan who rarely comments even on blogs I love, but today I just have to say that I thank God for you, for all the gifts He has given you and especially for the sweetness of your spirit.

  • saveliberty

    What a blessing Alle is for you and your family! She is a gift, who helps you to put things in perspective.

  • Jim Hicks

    Thanks for the story about your dog.

    I was reminded of a time 15 years ago. My wife was nursing her sick mother in another state, miles away. This lasted about three months, with her coming home for two days once every other week.

    After the first ten days of our dog Jennifur missing Barb and refusing to come out from her “apartment” under our waterbed, I was desperate. She neither ate nor drank (which solved that problem!) I went to the nearby Chinese place and came home with a quart of pork fried rice. Dumped half in her bowl (right outside her “apartment” enterance. I sat at the dining room table and heard her come out from under the bed, then saw her charging down the hall. After licking my hand, she quickly returned to her dinner!

    I remember that story after so many years because I was so touched. She didn’t want Alpo. She wanted to share “people” food-comfort food. And she said “thank you” before eating. Your friend hitting the desk with her tail is her way of saying “thank you.” And I bet if she saw the nasty e-mail, she would take a bite out of their tail!

  • alexandrag

    God bless you, and your doggy, too.

  • http://www.savkobabe.blogspot.com Gayle Miller

    God bless Lizzie and Alle and keep them strong and safe and secure in the knowledge that they ARE loved!

  • angloorthodoxpapist

    thanks.wonderful(literally)post.

  • SuzyQ

    I needed this, Anchoress. My boyfriend told me last night that, though I love dogs and children emphatically and they love me back as much, I have an appalling lack of compassion – because I’m a “rigid Catholic” and a Conservative voter. There are times that my faith make me feel very lonely and willfully misunderstood.

  • Kurt

    Dittos for what alexandrag said!

    My border collie can sometimes be a picky eater, when he’s sick (and also sometimes when he’s not). One time he was sick, and I was supposed to feed him rice and boiled hamburger, but for some reason he wouldn’t touch the rice. I ended up grinding them together in the food processor–which made a horrible, sticky mess–but it fooled him and he ate it.

  • Robin

    Elizabeth, I have a 12 year old Great Pyr, Darcy. She has trouble walking due to hip/cartiledge/arth. problems. Darcy gets her meds in liver sausage a certain brand and only that brand she likes. She also gets snacks, can of sardines, tuna are her favorite. She is such a picky eater, I am grateful for whatever she will eat. I frequently cook a mixture of ground turkey/vension with good stock, zuchini, squash, carrots, green beans with lots of herbs and brown rice just to get her to eat, the funny thing is our family likes it too as it is “people tasty”. To look into her big golden brown eyes, the sweet serious face is to know love. People always say how lucky she was to be rescued by me, they have it so backwards. It is how lucky I am to have her in my life. She has brought me joy, laughter, shared my tears, taught me patience, understanding and I know the day she passes will be one of the most difficult days of my life. Along with you, I do agree that the blessing of them sharing thier life with you and you sharing with them is what makes life not just worth living, but a true treasury of awesome moments.

  • http://ranting-ricki.blogspot.com ricki

    This post reminds me why, no matter what people may argue from theology, I want to believe that dogs (and cats, and other beloved creatures) get into Heaven. There is a love, and a trust, and an acceptance that humans have forgotten.

    I hope Alle continues to eat and grow stronger.

  • http://www.franklarocca.com Frank La Rocca

    Thank you for this tender, moving post. You have such a gift for getting us to see the glorious in the mundane, and for understanding the redemptive power of personal trials, great or small.

  • a fan

    … “and your little dog too.” Seriously? I’ll pray for that unfortunate miscreant :)

    [You misread, I think. I said I was "surprised that no one had closed with 'and your little dog, too.'" No one has actively wish my dog's death. Mine and my loved ones, on the other hand... -admin]

  • http://www.noodlingonit.com Kris, in New England

    Such beautiful writing once again. Our fur family are such a blessing in our lives. Even though I’m allergic to everything with fur and can’t have any pets in my own home, I can live vicariously thru the pets of my friends. If I count them all I have about 15 cats and 7 dogs. And if even one of them is ill and I hear about it, I’m heartbroken until all is well. Their losses are mine.

    I agree with ricki in comment #16 above – our fur babies do have souls – I know this because they share so much of themselves with us and ask for so little in return.

  • melissa

    In answer to the emails of “hate for your religion, your political affiliation and your stupid family and stupid life”, I counter that with this “love for your religion. love for your political affiliation, and prayers for God’s blessings on your beautiful family and your blessed life.” message. May God continue to guide and protect you and yours, and may your sweet dog be well soon.

  • http://breadhere.blogspot.com/ Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

    Lovely… and many prayers for you, your family and your sweet dog. My own is asleep at my feet. Since I came home from the hospital, she won’t let me out of her sight. And a week ago, when I was still moaning, she’d snap to attention at the first sound.

    It is good theology indeed.

  • kate camp

    I’m so sad you had to start your day at the computer with such nastiness but thanks to you, my day began with a beautiful story. My prayers are with you and your family and your faithful, loving friend, Alle. I hope tomorrow she’ll want your egg and her own!

  • Richard Clark

    A loud “Amen!” to what Frank La Rocca wrote above. It’s posts like these that keep me coming and saying to myself, “She really is a writer, not only a blogger.” (I’ve got nothing against blogging and/or bloggers…I just love it when the writing takes me deep into things of the spirit.)

  • Pat the Protestant

    Dear Elizabeth,

    Your dog stories are a great blessing, as is your blog. I am praying for Alle (and you too).

  • http://westernchauvinist.blogspot.com Western Chauvinist

    I could have used this post this morning… such a tender example of the love and gratitude and communion of “real” life overcoming the other. Still, I thank you for posting it and lifting spirits even this late in the day.

    I’m also making a mental note of food sharing with reluctant geriatric dogs. That is brilliant!

  • Vicki the Southern Baptist

    I read your blog regularly and find your devotion to Christianity heartwarming and beautiful. and your little dog, too! God bless you for all you do.

    I still remember your “Prayer time is calling” post. Very haunting.

  • Chris

    Oh, faithful and loyal dog.

    It’s no wonder you are “god” spelled backwards.

    (Meaning no disrespect to God.)

    My nickname is “godsdog” after the parable of the Syrophoenician woman and her faith and what it means to my life.

    May it always be so.

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    Very touching. May God help her through it. I know how you feel. When my Sasha was dying and had limited appetite we coaxed her into eating with roast beef and ice cream. I bet if you wrapped a tea spoon of vanilla ice cream inside a nice slice of roast beef, she just might go for it.

  • Cynthia

    SuzyQ, I hope the devotion between Elizabeth and her dog inspires you….to find another boyfriend!

  • Candace

    Such a blessing that God made dogs – and the ingenuity of computer developers who equipped us with delete keys for the nastygrams that come our way.

  • Tammy Gruebbel

    Reading this with a cup of coffee in hand, cat on the desk, and dog at my feet–perfect timing. Wonderful to read about finding joy in the midst of it all! Thank you.

  • http://sevenoaks-jeanne.blogspot.com/ Jeanne

    Absolutely beautiful…and as I write this, my own dog, who has about a billion health issues and requires a special breakfast daily, smiles at me from under the desk. I love this post very much.

  • Melinda

    I’m so sorry that Alle is not eating and drinking well. We have walked this path before in the past with many lovely puppies and kitties who are now playing in heaven with the Lord.

    When one of my dogs got sick and would not drink, I made beef bouillion and then cooled it off and put it in her water bowl. It had enough flavor for her to want it, and got some important hydration for her along the way. You might try it, especially if you pour it out of your own cup!

    My prayers for this time for you all.

  • Jennifer

    That was awesome. And that picture is priceless. Do hope Alle is feeling better soon.

  • Roz Smith

    I do hope the lovely Alle is feeling better.

    I have used a bit of canned cat food to get an ailing dog to eat again. I’ll mix it in with their dry kibble or with cooked rice. Something about that tuna fish gone bad aroma of cat food seems to really appeal to dogs.

    Cat food is significantly higher in both protein and fat content than dog food. It is also more acidic. The acid means it shouldn’t be fed to puppies but it won’t hurt an adult dog. Indeed, the dense nutrition may even help a dog that hasn’t been eating at all regain lost weight once their digestive system can handle food again.

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