It’s been a week since we had Jack euthanized. The pain of loss is slowly subsiding.
Ever since last Saturday I’ve been trying to get my mind back to the routines of earth, thanks to our Sheltie, Ranger.
Nancy often tells me I’m a man of routines. She’s right. With Jack gone, the routines have changed a bit, but they are routines nonetheless. I get up at 5:00. I make the morning coffee, prepare food for Brudder the cat, check my e-mail, read a chapter or two from the NIV posted on Bible Gateway's internet page, take a peek at the Gazette’s web page, and read a couple of op-eds from the Real Clear Politics website, one politically left and the other right (Paul Krugman and Victor Davis Hanson, for example). Then, by 6 o’clock, Ranger and I are out the door for our morning walk. We spent the next thirty minutes or so wrapped up in our respective worlds. Like me, Ranger is a creature of habit. Each morning, he turns right as soon as we get to the north side of 12th and Rural. I don’t have to gently tug on his leash or issue a command. He just seems to know what to do and when to do it. When we get to the university he makes his way over to the fountain, circles around it, and heads back home. The only interruptions to the routine are the frequent stops to pick up the scent of some wildflower or a beagle who’d passed by earlier.
While Ranger is engrossed in his routine, I’m winding my way through my own little world. I don’t spend any time wondering about local issues. There’ll be plenty of time later in the day for that. As I followed Ranger around this past week I’ve given a bit of thought to my buddy, Jack. Where is he right now? Has he become nothing more than a bunch of disconnected atoms? Was he ever even conscious of his own existence? I’ve concluded that he’s cavorting around paradise right now. I don’t have any great philosophical or theological reasoning to bolster me. It just seems right. Jack did alright in this life. In fact, he did a lot better than some of this world’s’s high and mighty. If they can claim paradise, so can he.
If there are any professional theologians reading this they’re probably apoplectic right now. “You blockhead!” “Did you ever see your dog pray?” Did he ever discuss eschatology with you? Did he ever read Tillich or Altizer? I have to admit I never did see Jack pray, nor did we ever discuss theology. He never read theology because he had far better things to do with his time, like chasing squirrels or barking when the doorbell rang. Jack led a pretty simple life. He never did bite the hand that fed him, which is more than I can say about some of the theologians and self-appointed gatekeepers I’ve met in my time. About the only time I’ve seen some high-degreed theologians pray is when they crave public attention and adoration. I’ve heard them at public coronations of politicians or important civic events. While the rest of us are silently praying they’d shut up, they’re droning on with meaningless phrases like, “Oh thou ground of all being.” If I read Holy Writ correctly, their words just bounce off heaven as if it were impenetrable brass.
A dog’s mortality or eternal destiny is one thing; human mortality is something else. Most of us are floundering around, trying to find our way back home. Jesus recognized this and simplified things. “Come unto me if you’re weary and burdened,” he said. Unfortunately, these same paragons of public virtue are about as much help with people as they are with dogs. They prefer slamming doors to opening them. Jesus was right about them – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”
Now, it’s not my place to deny them a mansion or a doghouse in the sky, but I think it would be poetic justice for these paragons of public virtue to see Jack and Balaam’s donkey, along with humanity’s riff-raff, social misfits, and the rest of the welcoming committee inside the pearly gates.