Holly, the much-loved terrier of friends, had her last day today.
There was a sense of heartbreak watching her lying in her basket when I visited last night. The gentle and friendly animal who had spent eleven of her fifteen years with my friends, lay unmoving in her basket. Her eyes were closed, her legs trembled, and it seemed that the medication prescribed by the vet had not worked.
Holly’s sad figure recalled the deaths of the dogs I had loved much over the years – Maeve, Paddy, Bella, a Holly of our own, and Millie. Each of them were better friends than most people I have known.
A friend who had teenage children once commented that he was glad that he had a pet dog because it meant that there was at least someone who was pleased to see him when he came home.
My friends’ dog Holly was the sort of dog who always gave you a friendly greeting. She was a dog who was always glad to welcome visitors. She was a dog who enjoyed the society of humans and who enriched the lives of those with whom she lived.
Anyone who believes in the Kingdom of Heaven and who would assert that there is no place for dogs in such a realm has not understood the moral superiority of dogs over much of humanity, (nor have they understood Saint Paul’s belief that the whole creation will receive liberation).
Anyone who does not believe in the Kingdom of Heaven and asserts that dogs are an ethically inferior species has not enjoyed the companionship of creatures like my friends’ dog.
It has been suggested that people use pets as an “emotional crutch.” Perhaps they do, perhaps the dogs I remembered with sadness as I stood and contemplated poor Holly last night were a reflection of personal inadequacy, personal insecurity.
Yet, if dogs are an emotional crutch, what are most human relationships? If one exists in a post-modern, relativist world, why are humans regarded as a superior species? One does not need to subscribe to the philosophy of Pete Singer and his ideas about speciesism to accept that dogs are significant friends for many people.
Dogs like Holly are loyal and faithful. They are not capricious, not inclined to discard those who have been friends to them.
Talking with my friends, I recounted the day I buried my dog Bella in 2015. With my eyes filled with tears, I buried her against the wall of the garden in which she had spent so many happy hours. I took a piece of stone and scratched Romans 8:21 onto the wall.
Paul wrote, “creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay.” In that spirit, may poor old Holly rest in peace and rise in glory.
As another dog-owner it occurred to me recently that dogs are one of the proofs of the existence of God. My golden lab, Eike, is now nine and a half years old and still happy to walk our average of 6-7 km a day.
A delightful companion. Long may she enjoy those walks.