I've been a Saint Bernard fan since I was a little kid. Coco is my fifth. She's getting old, about 10 (that's 70 in dog years). It is rare for Saint Bernards to live this long and I will truly miss her when she is gone.
I have come to the conclusion that dogs and all animals have souls and will be part of the new heaven and earth. Like us, God has created them, thus they deserve respect and love. Yes, we stand alone in being in God's complete image, but animals are unique in their own right and bear some ressemblence to the character of God. This view wasn't always true in Christian history. Some, with more dualistic ways of thinking, saw animals as the nasty beast that were part of this evil world. I will stop at that but to say that I loved the image created by Lewis of a dog flying up a water fall going into the new earth. My dog coco has taught me many powerful lessons about life and I wanted to share a few. I'm sure I'm not the first to do so.
1) Coco does not hide her emotions and couldn't care less about what other people think when she expresses them. She greets me like she hasn't seen me in a decade, if only I went to the store. She is not embarrassed to wear her emotions on her sleeves. She doesn't care if she looks silly or vulnerable.
2) She is not bashful about how much she enjoys the good things God has given her, like meat, and meat, more meat, ear rubs and cool toilet water.
3) She loves all people unconditionally. She loves even strangers. She loves me even if I yell at her . . . for getting in the garbage . . . looking for meat. She loves me and runs to me for comfort even if I'm the one who caused her pain, like stepping on her tail. Her forgiveness is complete and instant.
4) She understands that I still love her, even if she has rolled in poop. I will help clean her up, I will fuss at her, but then I will love her exactly the same because I know that is the nature of dogs . . . rolling in poop. She knows that I know it is dog's nature to want to smell bad.
5) Because of # 4, she does not carry guilt. Once she is cleaned up, she knows that I love her the same.
6) She has no predetermined way to behave according to her age. She behaves accordingly to how she feels. She is 70 years old now, and behaves exactly the same as when she was 5 years old (dog years). She runs, jumps and plays like an attacker (nipping but not biting). She plays, "catch me if you can" the same way she did as a pup.
7) She never pretends anything she is not. She is scared of thunder, fireworks and gunfire and she makes no pretense to be brave.
8) She loves company. If you work outside, she must be in physical touch at all times. She sleeps against our bedroom door only because we don't allow her to sleep in our bedroom, or our bed.
9) She assumes that she is equal to us. So she is puzzled when we tell her that she can't sleep on the leather couch, while we sit on it all the time. She is puzzled each night when we put her out of our bedroom and she whines to come back into our bedroom with the first noise we make. After 3650 nights, she is still surprised the we will not allow her to sleep in the same room where we sleep. She has an eternal hope that she is our peer.