From the "My Dog is My Spiritual Director" file:
My dog, Cody, loves McDonald’s hamburgers. He loves them more than just about anything else in the whole world, including his special red blanket, his assorted friends, Fellow Traveler and me.
Cody knows where the local McDonald’s is in relation to the rest of Outer Podunk – don’t ask me how he knows, because the vet thinks he’s practically blind, but whenever we drive through downtown O.P. he perks up; starts looking out of the window, on the correct side of the street. As we near the city limits and the golden arches come into view, his body stiffens; then, as we pull into the entrance, it breaks into rippling quivers of anticipation. Nostrils a-twitch, he strains for a better view and better aroma as we give our order and pull up to the takeout window. His wide-eyed expression, and indeed his uninhibited, whole-body response as we make our transaction – as we hand the “burger lady” some pieces of paper and watch her briefly disappear only to come back with a bulging bag – is reminiscent of “St. Teresa in Ecstasy.” Sometimes Cody tries to take the bag right out of the burger lady’s hand (no easy trick with a minimum of teeth), so eager is he to taste his treasure.
It seems that, on whatever level dogs think, Cody finds this special meal a wonder – a miracle. Just the thought of it – even the sound of the word “burger” – fills him with anticipatory joy. And while he usually seems to take his other, everyday caregiving in stride, to me he almost seems to exhibit something akin to gratitude when he is finally able to indulge in the long-awaited feast.
Watching Cody in action the other evening in the drive-through lane made me think of the Eucharist; about how sometimes it’s so easy to commune in a distracted, going-through-the-motions way, or in a distant, intellectual way, instead of with a joyful, thankful heart.
As the liturgy reminds us: This is the feast!