Sitting at my feet is a 25-pound companion who never thinks of herself. She was made by God to assist men and women in the acquisition of food, specifically cuisine that takes wing. Her ancestors flushed the partridges and pheasants of a field so that the hawks and falcons of the landed gentry could strike them from the air. When they fell to the ground dazed and confused, these little wonders with God-given ability to smell beyond the wildest imaginations of mere humans would dutifully scoop up the prey into soft mouths. Never thinking of these delicacies for personal consumption, they happily bounced back to the gamekeeper to deposit the prized fowl seeking only a pat on the head and the “good girl” or “good boy” they live for.
My current edition of the descendants of these companions of nobles and kings is a black and white English lady named Annie. Packed into her little frame is a big-dog heart ready to scour field or pond for the wonder of a bird or duck with an enthusiasm and reckless abandon that never quits, never doubts, and risks life and limb to find, flush, and fetch the feathered prize for the true object of her unbounded devotion and love…me.
We have shared magnificent days with special friends, specifically the like-minded man-spaniel teams of Bob Linehan and his stable of American Cockers, the more deliberate and subdued cousins to Annie’s European bloodlines. She amps up at the sight of shotgun, dog-crate, and miscellaneous training aids being loaded into my little pickup. Somehow she knows that this day is the day she longs for, the day Bob and I dedicate to our shared passion for releasing all that the Good Lord pressed into the genes of these amazing hunting partners.
Now, if she were more human, our relationship would have hit on hard times. For weeks now we have been set aside by my insane schedule. The fields of opportunity are not on our horizon these days. The burst of the chuckar from under her nose, the blast and smell of my Browning, and the all-too-rare puff of feathers collapsing the wings of the bird and reversing its trajectory from heaven to earth will have to wait. Instead, her new assignment is to simply hang out, quietly watching and waiting for any indication of need or want.
I can discern no hint of a, “Hey, I signed up to be a hunting dog, not a house pet” resentment in her. She comfortably slips into this new role. Like a sentry on post she lives preoccupied with any stirring or activity that remotely exposes an opportunity for relationship.
“Does he have something to say? I hang on every word.”
“Is he moving? What could this mean? Are we going outside to fetch a plastic counterfeit bird? How wonderful; let me get that for you, Ed.”
“Are we getting up? Going to bed? Heading for the kitchen and a treat? Whatever, I’m with you. Just let me know what you need.”
“Is he tired? Well then, let’s take a nap together. I will be here when you wake up. Ready for…whatever.”
Annie is all in to this relationship, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. Hot-wired by God to offer her all to me no matter what the cost, she sees no disappointment, feels no conflict, and knows no option but to be my dog.
I’ve often wished that I could be as good a Christian as Annie is a spaniel—this diminutive package of unsullied affection and allegiance curled at the feet. Annie, my best-dog-friend who, like only a select few exceptionally Christlike believers, lives to serve.
“If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).