This is the sixth post in a series about life through the eyes of a wiener-dog owner
Life as an Old Dog
I’m not sure when it happened. I’m not really sure how it happened, but my puppy has become an older dog. How can I tell? Boomer’s hair on his face has turned white. He has begun to like shorter walks and he gets short of breath, occasionally. He has started going to bed earlier, too; and finally, he gets cramps sometimes. The first one he got scared me. He was sitting with me and started yelping and having a hard time standing up. I was afraid he had hurt his back or was having some kind of major physical attack (well, if you’ve ever had a cramp, you might argue that it is a major physical attack). I set him down on the ground and he walked it off. Now, I have gotten used to them, and I have also realized that he needs a little more special care. Boomer is nearly ten years old now, and according to people who know about such things, that is equal to being seventy years old for you or me. While there is very little in the world that is more lovable than a puppy, and most anyone looking to adopt a dog would choose a puppy over an older dog, I wouldn’t trade. Neither would God.
What do I mean? Well, I am getting older, too. The hair on my face is white, I like my walks a little shorter, and yes, I do occasionally get cramps (still working on the whole going to bed earlier thing… some habits die hard). It would be easy for me to feel like God would prefer someone younger, cuter, faster, and with more stamina… easy to feel like God must love the puppies more than an old dog like me. Yes, to an impartial observer, a puppy would be way more desirable than Boomer. Here’s the rub: I’m not an impartial observer; I’m Boomer’s master, and I’ve known him for just about his entire life. We’ve spent the last decade adjusting to each other… becoming more comfortable with each other. For example, for the first several years we had Boomer, he would never fall asleep when he was with us. Whether we were in the car on a long drive or sitting on the couch, he would fight off sleep, doggedly (pun intended) refusing to take his eyes off of us, even as his head grew heavier and heavier. It seemed that he was afraid that if he took his eyes off of us, we might be gone when he woke up. Now, he will snooze while he sits with us. In fact, on most nights, he’ll go put himself in bed before I go to bed. He is no longer insecure; he knows we will be there in the morning. He also used to refuse to eat when we took him to new places on vacation. He just wasn’t comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings. Now, he is fine, as long as we are with him. His sleep patterns match ours and he actually has begun to like for me to bring his food dish out of his room and into the room with us so that he can eat with us. Sure, he’s spoiled; but we spoiled him, so he is spoiled to our schedules and preferences. He barks at the mailman every day. All the houses on our street have the same type of mailbox and our houses are close together, yet he doesn’t bark when the mailman shuts the doors on either of our next-door neighbors’ mailboxes… just ours. They all sound pretty much alike to me, but he knows which house is ours and therefore, his responsibility to guard from that treacherous mailman. I guess the best way to sum it up is that we are really comfortable with each other… like a broken-in couch or pair of jeans. A new puppy would have to be house-trained, potty-trained, broken of chewing, made to learn to sleep all night, yada, yada, yada. Boomer trusts his master in a way a new puppy would never, could never do. The new guy just wouldn’t have known me long enough or know me well enough. Boomer also knows our desires and the house rules in a way that only time together can produce.
That’s the way it is with God and us. As we get older, He doesn’t wistfully stare in the pet store window at the new puppies, wishing for a newer model. He treasures our time together. He appreciates every passing year. He is more comfortable trusting us with important tasks and leaving us in charge of His house and His stuff (mailmen, beware!). Just as importantly, we are comfortable with Him. We are secure in His presence, not straining to keep our eyes open because we are afraid He’ll be gone when we wake up – or mess up. We trust Him to come through in our difficult times because we’ve seen Him come through a hundred times before. A few days ago, I was driving down the road with my mom and dad. They are both in their eighties, now. I asked them if they ever wonder if all of this God-stuff is true. Do they ever, in the darkness and quietness of the night, wonder if God is really there. As their lives are nearer to the end than to the beginning, I wondered if doubt began to creep in. My mom gave me a very scriptural answer, yet the more interesting (and immediate) answer came from my dad, who was in the back seat. Dad’s memory isn’t what it once was, and he often sits and observes conversations rather than joining in and possibly embarrassing himself by saying the wrong thing. However, he immediately just said, “nope, I’ve seen too much.” It was matter-of-fact, based on over 80 years of life, most of which has been lived with the same Master. As the years of serving God turn into decades, we become much more comfortable just sitting with God. We don’t have to be fetching or straining to pull the leash out of His hand. We don’t feel like we have to prove our worth to Him every day or else He might get rid of us. We recognize His voice more quickly and respond more obediently; and our schedules and patterns begin to revolve around Him. One day Boomer will die and there will be another puppy moving into our house, and I will love him. I don’t want that day to come quickly, though, because he won’t be Boomer. God feels the same way about you and me, old dog. One day we will pass and other pups will live in our houses and fill our places in the workplace and in God’s church. However, He isn’t in a rush for that. He treasures our older days and the comfort level we have with Him. He also knows that we may need extra care from time to time, and He isn’t just willing to give it, He enjoys those moments of sitting and holding us as we face sicknesses, surgeries, losses of loved ones, and even death.
One last thought. Boomer sleeps in the laundry room. First thing in the morning I look forward to opening that door and letting him come into the room with me. When He passes on, one of the things I will really miss will be seeing his face and wagging tail when I open that door. In some ways, it is the same with God and us. We are in this laundry room called life. When we spend time in prayer, worship, and corporate worship gatherings, it is like God opening that door and letting us move more into His presence. Here’s the difference, though: when Boomer is gone, there will be no more wagging tail and happy face to greet me. Our time together will have ended. When we pass, God will simply tear the door off of this life’s laundry room and let us into the house once and for all.