Dogs are not people. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story that I am going to relate (my apologies to Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol .)
Dogs are not people, but we act as if they are; We call them our fur babies and count them as members of our family. We dress them up in people clothes and feed them people food and sometimes even carry them around in purses or packs.
Not that there is anything wrong with that, as Jerry Seinfeld would say. I myself am not immune from seeing my dogs as family, but re-creating dogs in our own image does them, and us, an injustice. It diminishes the wonder and mystery that two entirely different species would share their lives together.
Last month I was enjoying the coolness of Maine with my two dogs, Jack and Kelsey. There had been a thunderstorm, and it was still drizzling when we went out. Kelsey followed the trail of the ever elusive chipmunk, frequently seen but never captured. Jack was on the trail of something bigger and led me to a large impression left in the wildflowers lining the yard.
Something big had slept here last night. A deer? A moose? My dogs didn't have the language to tell me or, more to the point, I didn't have the capacity to speak their language, but they showed me their finds by leading me to each place.
I don't think it is a coincidence, to use that well-worn phrase, that dog is God spelled backwards. God wants so much to show us this world that he created, but we want to limit God, contain God.
Over fifty years ago, J. B. Phillips wrote a book whose title says it all, Your God Is Too Small . It's been said that God made humanity in his own image and that we have been trying to return the compliment ever since. It is nothing new to want to reduce God to something that we can carry around with us in our back pocket. But to do so reduces the wonder and majesty of God's relationship with us.
God chose to clothe himself in humanity, to be one of us, so that he could lead the way, saying, "Look, you're missing this path. Or, did you notice this wonderful impression over here that was left last night? What do you think it is? What do you think it could mean?"
That is just one step from saying, "Did you notice the wonderful impression I have left on your heart? What do you think it could mean?"
Dogs are not people. And people are not God. Let dogs be dogs and God be God and see what wonderful things can come out of their story.
The Rev. Cynthia Taylor is the pastor of Church of the Holy Comforter, an Episcopal congregation in Martinez.