I'm not a dog person. Nor is Jana. Neither of us grew up with dogs or pets. So we always found the dogs of our friends just plain offensive. Nothing about dog ownership seemed attractive to us. Dogs annoyed us. The smells, the hair, the slobbering, the barking, the messes they make, the jumping on you. Who would ever want to have a dog? We just didn't get it.
Then we had children. Two boys. Two boys who wanted a dog. But we just couldn't oblige.
So we tried a fish. But it's hard to love a fish. Plus, the lifespan of a fish meant that we were constantly in a state of grief. Many tears around the toilet.
So we tried to scale up to something furry. A real warm-blooded mammal. A rodent, specifically. Jana thought she was shopping for a hamster or gerbil. Instead she came home with a rat. And, as an experimental psychologist, I thought that fitting.
But our rat Oreo died within a week. Back to the tears and the Kubler-Ross Stages of Grief. So we bought another rat. And we had two good years with Chai.
But a rat is not a dog. Obviously. And after Chai died Jana and I, for the first time, started thinking about getting a dog. For the boys.
Given that we basically hated dogs we set out to find a dog that we could tolerate. It had to be an inside dog. We didn't want a dog digging up the backyard and chronically dirty. It couldn't be a toy dog. Not a freak of nature that fits in a purse. It couldn't shed because of Jana's allergies. It had to have a wonderful, submissive and friendly temperament.
This list was long because we knew we'd hate this dog. We just wanted to make it the least offensive dog it could be. Anything in the dog's favor would help it.
Still, we couldn't believe we were contemplating this action. And yet, there we were summer before last picking up Bandit from the breeder as we drove through Tennessee. We were officially dog owners.
Bandit has been a part of the family for over a year now. And everyday I look at him and declare to Jana, "I can't believe I like this dog." Yes, we are dog owners, and in some amazing act of grace we are loving it. We love Bandit. Even when he chews up the carpet, vomits, or makes a mess in the house. And, given all this, I just can't understand why I love him. This was the stuff I was dreading. This is why I didn't want a dog. But I love Bandit.
Well, this is my best explanation. Bandit's a little bit of the Day. He's a foretaste of the eschaton. I love Bandit because he's my eschatological dog.
Every morning when I take Bandit outside I love to see him run, romp and jump in the backyard. I love watching him chase squirrels, birds and bugs. I look up from my morning prayers and just smile at the sight of him. Watching Bandit run and play brings me, well, joy.
Why is that? Again, I think it's a foretaste of that final culmination when all of Creation begins to sing in unison. In Bandit I have a little taste of Eden, that memory and hope when Adam and Eve walked among and named the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Watching Bandit, watching this animal, brings me inexplicable joy. Why does watching him play make me happy? My only answer is that he's an eschatological dog.
It's the same feeling I get when he greets me at the door or falls asleep at my feet while I type away at this blog. There's a feeling, new to me, about living with an animal. And something feels right about it.
Plus, I rediscovered in Bandit those feelings I had when the boys were babies. That feeling of snuggling and cuddling. The baby-talk is back in the house. And I love that feeling. That softness in me when I care for something small, expectant and weak. I love having that softness back in my heart. I didn't know I missed it. Or needed it.
And the only explanation I have for all this is that something in the connection between me and this animal is a moment of grace. It is a feeling of something that was, perhaps, once lost, but is, definitely, the way I want it all to be. The Day. The eschaton. When all of creation, like Bandit and our family, is brought back into that place of peace, love and praise.