Saturday, December 29, 2007
Mourning the passing of a loyal companion
Our dog Angie died last night.
In the grand scheme of ebola and eternity, the death of a dog may not seem important, but to the hearts in this home it is the final crushing blow of 2007. Angie was nearly 12 years old, which is a long life for a large dog in the toxic environment of a tropical jungle. Over the last year she had slowed down considerably, but in the last few weeks she could barely walk and finally she was unable to even stand without help. It was time for her to go, but that does not make it much easier.
Angie was Scott’s idea. In 1997 we had three children age 4 and under . . . So adding a dog to the mix was far from my mind. But he saw a notice in one of the first little grocery stores frequented by foreigners in Kampala (for such luxuries as ketchup and mustard) offering a 1 year old mixed yellow lab to a family because the physician owner was finishing her term in Africa and moving back to England. We searched her out and brought her home to Bundibugyo. And never regretted it. Angie stuck with us through war and evacuation. When the ADF attacked us that year and we were running for our lives, Scott took the time to get her on a leash from the line of fire on the front porch and bring her along. She was denied passage on the military helicopter that eventually airlifted our family out, but stayed with Rick Gray in Bundibugyo until we could be reunited. She was never very fond of soldiers after that.
Over the decade she killed her share of snakes and rats, once nabbing a cobra just before Julia walked by it. Our house was never broken into during her tenure, in spite of numerous thefts plaguing other mission houses. When Scott traveled and I was here alone with the kids, I had no fear sleeping at night, knowing she would alarm me to any dangers. In 2001 we brought home another yellow lab puppy, Star. But Angie always remained the top dog, the level-headed one, the trustworthy one.
Her greatest value to all of us was that she represented home. Our kids live as outsiders in an insular culture, slightly out of step no matter where they are in Africa or America, except this little plot of ground. Angie was a force of continuity, unconditional acceptance, faithful love. She was a constant in their lives of tenuous transitions and frequent loss. Whenever we were away, they longed to be back with her, and as we would drive into the yard they would burst out of the doors of the truck to greet their beloved dogs. Her life span fills their conscious memory.
They said goodbye before they went to bed last night, sobbing and stroking. I do worry about the impact of this month on their hearts, this death following so closely upon the frightening separation from us during the worst days of the ebola epidemic. They have seen first hand the groaning of creation, the pain of the Fall (Rom 8). We talked about the New Creation, about Jesus’ words, Behold, I make all things new (Rev 21). We long for that day in a new way this morning, firmly believing that creatures like Angie will be part of that new and good world.