Thursday, January 7, 2016
“If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures
from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have
men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”
Francis of Assisi
He was a bad dog.
I loved him.
As I consider how God used him in my life, he will always be a metaphor for our relationships with Him and His.
Really, it was in his DNA.
Part Poodle and Cocker Spaniel.
Short dog’s disease.
When we decided to get a dog nearly ten years ago, I wanted something more, uh, manly.
If you don’t know what I mean, I can’t explain it to you.
Growing up in the coal-mining region of Northeastern Pennsylvania, it wasn’t too cool for guys to admit, “I have a Poodle.”
I didn’t want him.
I didn’t make the trip to get him.
He was for the rest of the family.
Of course, the dog attached himself to me…immediately.
Whenever the family came home, he would run past everyone to me.
He’d lie down, roll on his back, and beg petting.
Then when I sat down, he’d pester and pester and pester until I let him jump up on my lap where he would alternate between sleeping and sitting up while staring at me nose to nose.
I fed him, took him to the vet, hung out with him, and let him take me for a walk every day anytime between 3:30 – 4:30 a.m.
Prematurely prostate, he had to, uh, go many other times during the night; usually in the last minute or two of tied games on the dope box.
He was a great watch dog; barking at fires across the street to wake us up to call the police and fire station (two in his lifetime), neighbors, critters, guests, wind shifts, leaves, and other imagined whatevers.
He bit the hand that fed him; and I have a few scars on my hands that will stay with me until we meet again.
Unfortunately, he bit others.
Lots of others.
A very kind-hearted, gentle, competent, and loving vet told us to euthanize him after our second appointment.
He would have gone to wherever dogs go by the grace of God back then if it weren’t for me.
I said to the vet, “Is that it? We just give up? If somebody bites us, we kill him? I guess forgiveness and grace and mercy and…”
I was defensive for Kopper.
I wanted to give a second chance to him.
If we don’t try to get along and just distance and divorce and destroy, what hope is there for…?
We tried dog training from one of the best in the area.
Can’t change DNA.
Dogs aren’t familiar with John 3.
He had many, many, many chances.
Finally, everything seemed to be catching up with him.
Arthritis in the legs.
Right eye glazing over.
Canine version of dementia.
Our walks had become painful. He would stop regularly and just stare off and around and turn aimlessly. Sometimes he would just stop; and on the day that my gift was returned to his maker, just before we finished our longest mile, he turned to me, stared at me for the longest time, and I could almost hear a line from Gemma to Jax just before she met her maker, “It’s time.”
My family often joked about Kopper being on the wallpaper of my cellular; prompting me to reply back, “Well, he treats me better than you do. He always wants me to pet him and always greets me with wagging tail and body gyrating before he jumps up on to my lap for a nap or long stare into my eyes face to face.”
He was a bad dog.
He bit the hand that fed him.
He bit too many others along the way.
It all caught up with him and he had to go home.
In a world that increasingly wants to divorce and distance and destroy and is losing any semblance of grace, mercy, forgiveness, and agape, I will miss him.
Kopper loved unconditionally; and never held the past against me.
I don’t experience that that much.
Hardly at all.
Less than 1% of all my relationships.
He was a bad dog; but at least there were moments when…he loved me back with such shameless and passionate and total affection that seems so rare among the so-called higher species.
God, I will miss him.
I am so tired of the lack of love in our world.
I thank God for Kopper who taught me how to love even those who have bitten the hands that feed ‘em.
When Kopper left life in my arms just after 5:00 p.m. on December 31, 2015, I felt like the Tin Man: “Now I know I have a heart; because I can feel it breaking.”
Early every morning, I would greet Kopper who was usually up and waiting, “Kopper’s a good boy!”
It wasn’t true.
Kopper was a bad dog.
I loved him.
I will miss him.
Maybe I will remember what he taught me.
Maybe I can teach others what he taught me.
“I encountered a completely unique case in my pastoral
counseling…there was a knock at my door and a ten-
year-old boy came into my room with something I had
requested from his parents. I noticed something was
amiss with the boy who is usually cheerfulness
personified. And soon it came out: he broke
down in tears…’Herr Wolf ist tod.’
Then he cried and cried…
He told me how the dog died and how everything
is lost now. He played only with the dog, each
morning the dog came to the boy’s bed and
awakened him – and now the dog was dead.
Then suddenly his wrenching crying became very quiet
and he said: ‘But I know he’s not dead at all…His
spirit is now in heaven, where it is happy…
Will I see Herr Wolf again?’
There I stood and was supposed to answer him yes or no.
‘Look, God created human beings and also animals,
and I’m sure He also loves animals. And I believe
that with God it is such that all who loved each
other on earth will remain together with God,
for to love is part of God.’
You should have seen the happy face on this boy.
‘So then I’ll see Herr Wolf again when I am dead,
then we can play together again.’
After a few minutes, he said:
‘Today I really scolded Adam and Eve;
if they had not eaten the apple,
Herr Wolf would not have died.’