Such perfect love

Published 8:37 pm Saturday, April 23, 2011

Among other things, this month marked the second year since I had to have my beloved dog, Inky, put to sleep. Some of you probably remember reading about that in this column; I received so many calls, emails and even letters of support after telling you about it, that it felt as if I was able to share the burden of my loss with a host of other people.

Two years later, the pain is gone, but I still occasionally surprise myself by thinking she’s going to come up to meet me at the door when I get home or walk up and nuzzle my hand as I relax in my chair. In those moments, the loss is fresh again, but I also find myself drawn to the idea of getting another canine companion.

With the exception of four years at college — when I could visit my dog at home here in Suffolk on various holidays — these two years are the longest I’ve been without a dog in my home.

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Of course, I have a wife now, which I didn’t the last time I was dogless, and in many ways that’s better even than having a dog — dogs can’t cook, for instance, and Annette is better about sharing the bed. But there’s something about the relationship between a person and his dog that transcends even the sacred institution of marriage.

I love my wife completely, and she loves me, too, but I know she understands what I’m getting at here (or at least I hope she does, now that I read through it again). There’s a connection between dog and man that I believe can teach us about the true nature of love. Inky, for example, loved me unconditionally, even when I didn’t deserve it. My wife loves me, too, but I have a feeling — based on my own knowledge of my flawed self — that it’s sometimes an act of sheer will for her to do so.

I’ve always thought that a dog’s unconditional love was an exemplar of God’s love for us. Dogs choose to love their masters, just as God chooses to love us, and then dogs choose to forget that they ever had a choice in the matter. Once you’ve bonded with your dog, it’s forever.

Similarly, once God decided to love us, there was no changing the matter. He was committed to the relationship to the point of His death on a cross at the hands of us sinners.

Of course, that’s where the analogy falls apart, because God’s love is so much greater than that of a dog or even a longsuffering and saintly wife. And even as I write these words, I am struck by how unimaginably wonderful it is to be loved that way and to know it, how comforting it is to know that in the end such love could not be contained behind a stone rolled in front of a tomb, how glorious it is to be sure that I am loved by a risen Savior.

Have a Happy Easter. I pray that you, too, experience the knowledge of this love.