Like a good Franciscan, I have a Calendar of the Creatures in my head, on which the days of our furry, finned and feathered sisters and brothers of the Fourth Order are commemorated. Today marks the second anniversary of the passing into Life of my beloved Abby, and I’m going to honor her with a tribute from The Sacred Gaze, and ask Jesus and Francis to give her lots of love and treats from me.
Abby taught me most of what I know about the spiritual life, whereas most of what I taught her was on the level of “sit” and “stay.” But we loved each other, and the God I believe in does not create love like that only to allow it to be annihilated. All of creation is redeemed, and when I see Abby again, we will either have a nice long talk about that, or a nice long snuggle. Either way, it’ll be just right.
The idea that God places my faults in a larger context was something I learned when, in my prayer, my attention was continually drawn back to my dog, Abby. Abby the blessed, Abby the beloved, the late and much lamented, she was the embodiment of all that a golden retriever should be: a true lovehound. She wore her fur like a full-body halo, but she did have one bad habit: she liked to eat poop. Her poop, other dogs’ poop, cat poop—Abby was entirely undiscriminating. It took ‘dog breath’ to a whole new level, gave her occasional parasites that freaked me out, and was generally a habit I did not admire.
But it didn’t make me love her less, and if she hadn’t done it, I wouldn’t have loved her more. She was just Abby, and I loved her. And Jesus gently taught me that my metaphorical poop-eating came to much the same thing in his eyes. Yes, we’d work on those things, and they’d all be overcome, in this life or the next. But I could still be his beloved companion, as Abby had been mine.