My Eschatological Dog

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.

This entry was posted by Richard Beck. Bookmark the permalink.

12 thoughts on “My Eschatological Dog”

  1. Loved your post. Allow me to talk to myself for a moment by talking to you...

    Your relationship with Bandit is a joy window. Somehow, just looking through that frame and seeing him run about brings you joy. The very fact that he is there is a source of delight for you. And when, in addition to that, you experience him joyful to see you, contented to touch your feet, well, it's grace upon grace. Sublime. Edenic.

    Now, step through the frame of that window and feel God looking at you, having the same experience you just had. God sees you through the window and experiences joy. Somehow, just looking through that frame and seeing you run about with the dog brings Him joy. The very fact that you are is a source of delight for God. And when, in addition to that, God finds you turning to face Him and smiling back, or contented to just be together in prayer, well, it's grace upon grace. Sublime. Edenic.

    It's Kingdom come, glorious eschaton indeed. Bliss at last, and always.


  2. Feral Pastor:

    Yet, isn't God a bad owner? Anyone who let a pet starve to death would be considered negligent and might be taken to court. A good pet owner puts their pets to sleep, rather than allowing them to suffer horrific diseases or injuries. God is content to allow us to suffer. A good pet owner does their best to esure their pets can play in a safe and nurturing enviornment. God does not.

    The idea of God as a pet owner, or God using us as instruments of Its own emotions... strikes me as a little distrubing.

  3. You raise two good questions.

    The second first, re. "disturbing." It is a risky analogy to compare us to our pets. It can feel demeaning or "dehumanizing" if you will but that's not my intent. It's not intended really to compare humans to pets, so much as it's intended to take human joy (which we know) and from that discover something about God's joy.

    Re. the first, God as a bad pet owner, I'd need to elaborate the analogy to even try to address that. For example, I could add something like a child who is charged with care of the family pet, yet doesn't fulfill the responsibility, which results in suffering - both for the pet and for the Owner! But this is theodicy - a whole different topic where I'm trying to modify the analogy so that God comes out "clean" & free of blame for evil or suffering. There are lots of different ways to try and do that, different "answers" that are more (or less) satisfying intellectually.

    But the problem of suffering remains. I am a believer, but to be honest, I do not have an "answer" to the problem of suffering that is satisfying to me. It's the largest "gap" if you will, in my own theology. So I share your concern, and it does trouble me.

  4. You have a choice to believe or not believe such "stories".....and "hope" they are true.' Others choose to be responsible, period, and ignore these questions as questions that are not important.

    People argue that just the desire for such 'joy' is evidence that there must be a "God that cares", a personal God. But, that isn't enough "evidence" for some. And those who say that God doesn't have to prove himself are in the place where the "gods of this world' want them to be "submissively compliant", unquestioning, and "faithful". I find this, not just disturbing, but limiting in a very important way.

    As to your experience of dog ownership. I am glad that you have "found joy" in having this dog, but I don't think that 'dog ownership" was a necessary "evil" to get you to "experience or face you worst fears", so that you now know that dog ownership is worth the costs.....some would believe that this analogy holds true for "spirituality". And that is spiritual abuse of authoritarianism and unlimited "power" over another's life and conscience.

  5. You didn't get that sense of eschatological joy from your pet rat? Do rats come from another location in time? Dogs from God's future? Rats from Gensis 3?

    I think of Jesus' saying in Luke, "Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a dog, will give it a rat instead?...If you then who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give dogs to those who ask." Or something like that. I'm quoting from memory and I'm pretty freaking old.

  6. I used to have the same abhorrance to the thought of having children (cost, smell, distractions, work, heartache). Which is why we took a while to start our family. The irony is in what really wonderful young men our sons are growing up to be, the kind we'd choose to have as our friends.

  7. I was raised with pets and have had dogs, cats, and a rat :) As I've become an adult, I think I've been able to love them more for themselves, and the more that's happened, the more joy I've had in them (and sadness when they're sick or have died).

  8. Well, first I had to look up the definition of eschatological. Then I had to contemplate the relationship between the beginning of things (humans walking with God in Eden) and the end of things (walking with God in Heaven). Then I spent some time reflecting on joy, which is sometimes simply a respite from suffering. I think, at the end, just the walk with our God is the most readily available, most underutilized, joy I know of. I liked the idea that God delights im me and that I can have simple delight in him. I don't have a dog right now, sadly, but I do know that any dog I have ever had loved me without question, and walked gladly in the times between suffering with me.

  9. Oh, I love this. I love dogs anyway, but I love that your whole family has fallen completely in love with Bandit. And yes, I think loving a dog - and the love of a dog - is a little taste of how it's supposed to be.

  10. Interesting,

    I have used almost the same words in relating similar experiences (subtract "eschaton" and add "New Creation"). They usually happen in the morning where everything seems fresh, forgiven, redeemed. My morning prayers conclude with my mother, and Jensen the cat bounces across the morning rays with vocal joy. "There still is goodness in the world! There still is God!"

Leave a Reply