Pets are earthly angels, gifts from God to inspire us and bring us joy, wonder and pure love.
Posted in , Jul 31, 2015
In my years at Guideposts I’ve found that people derive comfort, inspiration and a deepening of their faith and relationship with God through prayer, church, Bible study, meditation, reading daily devotionals and…their pets. Their pets? Quite so, and I think you know what I’m talking about. People are incredibly inspired by their pets. They see them as earthly angels sent to be our spiritual companions, gifts from God to bring us joy and moments of wonder and pure, blissful love.
As many of you know, I have my own angel--Millie, our magnificent eight-year-old golden retriever. In April she had her spleen removed; she was having episodes of blood loss. I remember a flawless spring day a few weeks later, perfect for hiking, perfect for Millie, who was feeling much better now that that nasty spleen was gone, when Dr. M. told me my golden girl, sitting patiently by my side, tail swishing because she knew Dr. M. would give her a treat, had three to six months to live based on the splenic biopsy results. I knew that had been a possibility, even a probability. Dr. M. was very gentle and understanding. She’d recently put her own dog down, a Lab, who died of the same kind of cancer, hemangiosarcoma. I could see a sadness in her eyes still. She was young and pregnant, and she’d hoped for her dog and baby to meet. I don’t like to use the word hate. But at that moment I hated cancer, hated it more than anything.
“How will I know?” I asked, trying not to choke on that hate.
“She’ll tell you. Pick the three things she loves most. When she stops doing two of them, it’s probably time.”
That was almost impossible to imagine. Millie is bursting with love, like no other dog I have ever had. I can barely make it down the block without her wanting to say hello to someone, to curl and wag her tail and smile. She loves babies and toddlers the most—they are right at her level--and all children, for that matter. She is a celebrity in our Manhattan neighborhood. Doormen greet her, deli owners give her turkey—not scraps, mind you, but the best cuts from the slicing machine. Tourists snap her picture and pose with her. Even the homeless want to share their food and give her a hug. We have to keep her away from the lunchtime soup kitchen down the block at St. John’s because she’ll get right in line for a bologna sandwich. And the friars will give her one too, happily. She spreads joy wherever she goes, as if she were put on earth for that sole purpose. It was almost as hard to imagine the world without Millie as it was to imagine my life without her. Eight years. Too short. I’ve said before that the sadness of loving our dogs is that we outlive all but the last one. But this was so unfair. I’d never faced losing a dog so young. That’s why I hated cancer. It wasn’t just a disease, it was a thief.
Because so many of you have prayed so hard for Millie and ask so often about her, I’m grateful to report that Julee and I haven’t lost Millie yet. I am almost afraid to say that nearly four months after her diagnosis she is as healthy as ever, knowing that there is probably a malignant time bomb somewhere in her body, ticking away. Your prayers are helping it to tick more slowly, I believe, and possibly, miraculously, to stopping it ticking altogether. She’s also on a polysaccharopeptide (PSP) supplement being tested at the University of Pennsylvania. It’s derived from the mushroom Coriolus versicolor. That may be helping too. The research is promising.
Sometimes Julee will ask, “Do you think she’s pretending to feel this good? That’s she’s just trying to please us, afraid to worry us?”
Yes, Millie is a brave and incredibly perceptive dog. Honestly, she understands me better than most people do, and she knows how much I love her. It is well known that dogs will sometimes pretend to feel better than they do so as not to disappoint the people they live to please. But I don’t let myself think Millie’s putting up a front. I let myself think that love is keeping her healthy and alive, one day at a time, her love of life, our love for her, your loving prayers and the love of a God who cares about all his creatures. Every single day my dog inspires me with her sheer, blissful love of life, a life she will never stop loving. There’s a funny old expression I used to hear around my family that said something was so old that it was around “when God’s dog was a puppy.” I think of Millie as God’s dog. I’d just like her to be our puppy for as long as He can spare her.
Millie inspires me every day. How does your pet inspire you? Post comments and pictures below.