Friday, June 22, 2007

Guess Who's Coming to Visit

I heard a knock and a whimpering sound. The knocking was from our neighbor Sudeep, and the whimpering from her 12-year-old shepherd mix, Buddy.

"He always makes that noise when he thinks he's going to see a friend," she explained. I lowered my head toward Buddy in greeting, and he gave me a kiss.

Sudeep dropped the leash and Buddy started wandering around, sniffing.

"He's not here any more, Buddy," I said. Duke has been gone over six weeks now, but I still miss him terribly sometimes.

Buddy padded over to the kitchen, then into the den. He followed Carol onto the patio but soon returned.

It's something like a half-mile from Sudeep's and Dave's house over to ours, and Buddy isn't a puppy any more, so I stepped outside to find Duke's old water bowl, the white one with the fake paw-print carved in the bottom. Buddy followed me with some interest. I gave it a rinse, filled it a little over half-way, and set it down in front of the stove. By this time, Buddy had lost interest, so I called him over, making a splashing sound to entice him.

Performing that simple act of service nearly brought tears to my eyes, because I hadn't done it in, well, six weeks, and the one for whom I did it was no longer here to appreciate it.

Thinking back on it, I suppose we could have done more for Duke, but it would have been expensive and miserable and wouldn't have extended his life more than a few weeks.

For some reason that reminded me of a conversation with my father-in-law some years back. I don't remember exactly what it was about, but I remember feeling exasperated with him. I wanted to yell at him: "If you were dying and needed an operation or something, don't you think I'd give you $30,000 to save your life? What the hell is the matter with you anyway?"

When I described this to Carol, she said, "He probably doesn't think you would."

I was amazed and astonished.

Sometimes I think my priorities are messed up because I miss the dog a lot more than I miss my father-in-law. But whereas I would have given my father-in-law $30,000 if needed (that was in 1990 dollars too), I wasn't willing to shell out $10,000 for the dog in 2007. So maybe they're not so messed up after all.

In that way perhaps I'm not unlike Thomas, the so-called doubter. Everybody remembers Thomas as the guy who doubted. But look at this:
Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."
John 11:16
Whether a man says "I believe" or "I don't believe" or "I will not believe unless", you can find out what he really thinks by watching where his feet go. Yes, Thomas had his moments of doubt -- who among us hasn't? -- but he followed Jesus to Bethany, and then to Jerusalem. His feet, and his wallet, were in the right place, even if he did make that famous comment about not believing unless he saw this and that.

Yep, Thomas is one of my heroes.

Meanwhile, Buddy was disappointed at not finding his friend Duke.

"I wish he were here too, Buddy," I told him. It was so sad, Buddy not knowing where his friend was (though he could smell him everywhere) and us not being able to communicate to him that his old playmate was gone forever.

What would be good news to Buddy? To Sudeep? How about to me?

I think one thing that would be welcome is the knowledge that the love and mutual enjoyment that we shared together will be ours again in the world to come.

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