It so happens that my oldest childhood girlfriend, a widow, lost her beloved dog two days ago. The vet says she was poisoned, but my friend has no idea how, since they are always together. My friend remains heartbroken. Her family and friends have been so kind and caring, offering comfort as she mourns her sweet canine companion of many years.
Then last night on NBC’s “Chicago Med” (one of a trinity of interlocking Chicago-based shows from Dick Wolf of “Law and Order” fame) the episode “Disorder” aired. One of the storylines was about a girl whose dog Boomer bit her for no reason. While the ER guard takes care of the dog, he notices that the pet is friendly to all except one person that he barked at. The guard cannot figure it out.
Boomer’s owner, however, has other symptoms that lead to a diagnosis of cancer by the end of the show. The doctor tells her that some dogs can detect cancer, so that when Boomer bit her and barked at the patient in the ER — it was because the dog was trying to alert people.
Two of the medical staff ponder this phenomenon, and one of them tells a story about why dogs are so special to humanity. It made me think of my friend and of my sister, whose dog also died recently, and of all my pet-owner friends on Facebook who share their grief when they experience the loss of a beloved animal.
“In the beginning all creation spoke the same language until Adam and Eve disobeyed God. Then a language chasm grew between them and the animals. But then, at the last moment, a dog jumped across that chasm to be with Adam and Eve.”
It was as if the dog was the one animal of creation that could communicate with people but also mediate mercy and comfort between them and God.
I call this kind of reflection “canine theology,” and this particular storyline in a television show that we might not otherwise pay attention to, a sign of divine comfort and mercy at the pain of loss.