Over on Beliefnet our gang of frequent fliers has been discussion the question of whether animals have souls/enjoy an afterlife. I mentioned C.S. Lewis, and how while he couldn't quite bring himself to imagine that every sentient being on the planet lives on in the life to come -- he speculated that perhaps they do as a species or Typ but not as individual creatures -- he did theorize that perhaps, just as we are called into relationship with God, made children and heirs to God's household, our love and care for our companion animals likewise transforms them and allows them to join us in eternity.
A bit of British pet sentimentality? Maybe. But if Lewis was on to something, I think our Gertie exemplifies what he meant.
I woke up this morning with an odd sensation of wet on my nose. It was because Gertie had snuggled up next to me, face to face, and was actually breathing my breath. Some mornings she actually hugs me awake. She loves us so intensely -- Fellow Traveler says that she's never experienced such a sweet, loving dog. It's hard to think back just a year and remember the filthy, feral pup shivering in the back seat of our Jeep, warily watching us...or to the really tough problem months when she was obsessively chewing up hundreds of dollars of our belongings, from seat belts to wristwatches...when we wondered if she'd ever bond with us or grow into a "good" dog.
Gertie and I just played "Foot" this morning. It's her favorite game; she begs for it by falling on her back and looking up beseechingly, feet drawn to her chest, tail barely twitching in anticipation. "Foot" involves touching each of her feet, in different sequences, and saying, "Foot!" When I change it up with "Ears!" or "Nose!" or "Tummy!" she grins. When I include my own feet, ears and nose, she snorts and wriggles in glee.
It makes me wonder if God feels a similar pleasure interacting with us, or sharing moments of spiritual intimacy with us.
I don't think one has to be a Dominican to appreciate the parallels between our relationships with our dogs (and cats) and God's relationship with us.