This is our big lug, Jackson. He's almost nine years old, and beginning to feel the effects of too much standing around with tennis balls in his mouth, lazying on various pieces of furniture, following Beve around. Just a couple days ago, I made an appointment with the vet--pretty sure Jackson has arthritis in his hips. He kind of lumbers when he walks, and after jumping in my baby brother's face when he arrived for his visit, we noticed that he could hardly get up and down. Our now-deceased beloved lab, Jemima, also had bad hips so for years we had a daily routine of giving her a pill, while Jackson sniffed at it and walked away. Jackson's a pretty finicky dog; he doesn't like wet grass, doesn't like nuts or crackers or about half the leftovers our other dogs snap up quickly. And if Jackson doesn't like something, he seems to know before he even tastes it. He'll jump for it, but let the pecan (or whatever) bounce off his solidly closed nuzzle. So I'm not looking forward to having to stuff a pill down his gullet every day, which I didn't have to do with Jemima, who was happy to chew it.
Today, though, when E was outside with both dogs, she grabbed Jackson's tennis balls and threw them across the yard. Jackson planted on his right leg, then yelped. And hasn't put any weight on it since. It's really, really unusual for him to yelp in pain--in fact, none of us can remember him doing it before. This is a dog who's plowed straight into walls without stopping, who's squeezed his 110 lbs through the deck railing without so much as a whimper. So that yelp, which Beve heard from in the kitchen, was very telling. Even more so is his continuing not to put any weight on the bad wheel. Very worrisome, I should say. Now he's laying on the family room floor, with Jamaica (the wild Springer), trying to rouse him into playfulness. Beve just walked to my car to get the pet bed out of it, and poor Jackson struggled to lift his body up without that important stabilizing back leg. I'm telling you, it's really hard to watch.
I hate having things happen to my pets. Watching Jemima get sicker and sicker a few years ago was the hardest thing I did that year. Not as hard as a person I love being sick, but dang hard. We love our pets, we really do. Their eyes stare at us with a giant question mark in them, wondering why we--their people, their humans, their masters--can't do anything about it. I mean we take care of everything else, after all. We who feed and water them, brush them, clean out their ears and clean up their poop, take them for walks, pet them, love them. But things happen. They grow old, get hurt, get run over by cars that we can't stop (the first dog my family had when I was a child died this way), and we must watch it. Their eyes ask me why we don't fix this too. And all we can do is stare back and say we're sorry.
Or take them to the vet (which we'll definitely do), where sometimes unpleasant things happen to them. When Jemima first had a lump on her leg, the one that was cancer, I took her to the vet, and she didn't come home for a couple days, and when she did, she was wearing one of those funnel collar so she wouldn't lick at the incision on her leg. And...she was stinking mad at me--who was her person, but had taken her to the vet, where such pain was inflicted upon her. To walk past me in a room, she'd make a giant circle so she wouldn't have to get near me. Or she'd back in beside me and face the other direction, still wanting me to pet her, but not wanting to see my face as I did.
I don't know if Jackson will react the same way Jemima did, because Jackson isn't attached to me as Jemima was. But he might very well react that way to Beve. Still, there's something in him that wonders why we can't fix this. Why we let this happen to him and aren't making it right. Or aren't fixing it in his timeline--and when we do, it might well mean, some pain will come along with the 'fixing.'
When I put it that way, it's easy to see how like Jackson or Jemima we actually are with God. We expect his 'healing', or fixing to come in our time, at our pace...and without pain. And why on earth did He hurt us to begin with? I mean, it had to have been His fault, wasn't it? But what if our human aches and pains, the human hurts we get from bumping around in this old fallen world, what if He's exactly as close, exactly as involved in them as I am with my pets? What if He's aching about the pain I inflict on myself, or fall into by virtue of aging on this planet? And maybe, just maybe the pain we go through is actually part of His cosmic, healing plan. Maybe not in this world, but in the end--with Him.