Critical Christian
keyword search
Home Page
Book: The Effective Pastor
Memorials & Celebrations
Personal Matters
Williams Connections
Methodist Connections
Betsy's Gallery
Electronic Congregation
Lent 2011 and 2012
Reviews 2011 Forward
Two Blossoms
My Mutt and Mortality

My Mutt and Mortality

    Tappy, our bichon frise, limped across the street.  She had been in hot pursuit of a leashed Habanero, had stopped abruptly when I shouted at her to cease and desist.  I assumed she had, like her master in halcyon days, pulled a hamstring. 

    Then I consulted that compendium of all human knowledge, Google, and discovered that Tappy's breed was susceptible to hip dysplasia, meaning a dislocated hip.  The right one.

    Just as guilt was getting the better of me - I mean, Tappy is after all my soulmate, and I should do whatever is necessary to keep her from suffering - she sprinted around the back yard like Usain Bolt and climbed stairs like a pro football player in an empty stadium seeking to increase endurance.

    Maybe it was a muscle pull after all and not the genealogical shadow on bichons.

    Meanwhile my human soulmate rises from a chair like... well, like the grandma she is, creakily, haltingly, and complaining.

    While down in Sydney, Australia, grandson Jack Mahoney, having undergone surgery last spring for a dislocated shoulder, props himself up on his bed on his elbow and re-dislocates the shoulder.

    I've not dislocated a knee, but I sure have complained, celebrated, and bored many of you recounting my bilateral knee surgery.

    Is Tappy suffering from a bichon susceptibility or a Howard curse?

    Whatever, my pet's malady set me to pondering once again the inevitable imperfection of this mortal life... and canine life.

    In sermons, by way of explanation, I've quoted hymnist Adelaide Proctor:

        I thank thee more that all our joy

        Is touched with pain;

        That shadows fall on brightest hours,

        That thorns remain;

        So that earth's bliss may be our guide,

        And not our chain.

    And I have preached on that text from Romans 8, how the whole creation groans in travail for the appearing of the sons of God.  The last time I addressed it was in the United Church, Chelsea, Vermont. Tappy attended. At the appropriate moment, with a two whistle summons, she ran to me at the pulpit to illustrate my children's message about trusting the Master.

    There remains a brokenness about the creation and its creatures no amount of medicine, philosophy, or technology will cure. Grover Norquist may believe taxes are not inevitable, but even he does not presume to put off death.

    If my own stenotic exhaustion didn't persuade me, or Barbara's cranky hip and shoulder, then Tappy's limp insists: life is far from perfect.

    So-- cradle your pet, cuddle your spouse, laugh at your frailty, and think as little as possible about tomorrow's problems (after, of course, prudently paying your bills, getting your annual checkup, and doing your exercise routine).

    And have another slice of peach pie, to remind you that even if a little dog limps, she's still ready to gobble down whatever is on my plate.


< Back to Essays Archive

1990 - 2017 Bob Howard