Today my best canine friend, Callie, is four years old. Actually, we don’t really know when her birthday is. As a pup we adopted through the Kentucky Humane Society, her date of birth is more of a guess, so we say it’s April 1 just to easily remember it.
After losing my previous dog, Bonnie, to old age in 2008, I vowed to go a full year without a dog. I ended up going two full years. Meanwhile, I never missed a single week during those two years of going to the Humane Society or a pet store or some place where I could pet and hold dogs, eagerly awaiting the one that would eventually join our family.
By the end of those two years I had set my heart on getting a Great Dane – a female, brindle-colored Dane that I wanted to name Tigger. But on one particular June day in 2010, my wife, Linda, joined me in my weekly trip to look at pups. It was that day that we saw Callie and her sibling together. A few moments of interaction convinced me that Callie was the gentler of the two pups, so we picked her up. When Linda held her, Callie quickly fell asleep in her arms. I knew right then that my plans for a Great Dane just changed to a Labrador/Border Collie mix – a Borador.
We put down a deposit to reserve the right to adopt her in the next 24 hours and left to ponder it. We didn’t have to ponder long, though. We immediately kicked into new puppy parent mode and decided to take the plunge, purchasing all the supplies we needed for our soon-to-be family member and then adopting her the next day.
I’ve always been a dog person. I’ve had dogs most of my 57 years from even before I remember them, evidenced only by family photos of young childhood before my memory of such things kicked in. I’ll always be a dog person. Those two years between Bonnie and Callie were woefully long for me and I have no intention of having such a dog-less gap again.
However, even though I’ve had a dog most of my life, I can easily say I’ve never had a relationship with a dog like I do with Callie. We are inseparable. We completely understand each other. Each of us knows what the other is thinking. I regularly shake my head in amazement that two members of very different species can live in such harmony and with such a love for each other. It is no less than amazing.
We often point to our pets (especially dogs) as incredible examples of unconditional love. It’s sad that we have to point to animals instead of people for that at times, but it’s common to do so. The extreme greeting that awaits me at the front door when I get home from work (or even from a short trip to the store) – the constant presence by my side wherever I go – the nuzzling up against me – the eagerness to walk, jog, or go for a ride in the car – the joy of playing – the security of routines – the eagerness to please – the good morning, evening and any other time kisses – even crawling under my side of our bed to sleep as close as physically possible to me – this is a human/canine relationship that tops all others in my past. I cannot imagine one closer. When hugging her, I frequently refer to her as my little furry bundle of well-being.
I don’t know if there will be animals in heaven or not. I believe that this world will one day undergo a radical transformation and that God will re-create in its place a new heaven and a new earth. I believe His perfect original world certainly included all kinds of animals. He chose to save his animal kingdom via Noah during the Great Flood (the biblical one – not the Hollywood version). The birth of Jesus was likely witnessed in that Bethlehem stable by animals. I see no reason to think that a perfect re-creation won’t also include all kinds of species that show the handiwork of our Creator. If and when that day comes, I know which one non-human companion I would love to have with me for eternity, and that is Callie. I know it sounds weird to say that or to think about it, but that is how I feel. As a father who enjoys seeing his children get that which makes them happy, nothing will surprise me about what my heavenly Father might do for His children.
So happy birthday, Callie. I know you don’t read and you don’t know what a birthday is. But you know what love is – both to give and to receive it – and I thank you for being such an incredible friend and companion every day.