I was visiting family in Washington State earlier this month. My oldest sister showed me this photo her son took of his recently deceased golden labrador. Liberty was buried alongside other beloved family pets beneath the dogwood tree at my sister's house. When I complimented my nephew on his artistic eye, he modestly replied that if he takes enough shots, eventually one will be good.
I am skeptical about his statement. I think this photo is unique. It looks like a painting to me and the emotions it evokes epitomize The Prayer of the Dog from Carmen Bernos De Gasztold's book of poems: Prayers from the Ark.
The Prayer of the Dog
I keep watch!
If I am not here
who will guard their house?
Watch over their sheep?
No one but You and I
what faithfulness is.
They call me, "Good dog! Nice dog!
I take their pats
and the old bones they throw me
and I seem pleased.
They really believe they make me happy.
I take kicks too
when they come my way.
None of that matters.
I keep watch!
do not let me die
until, for them, all danger is driven away.
My nephew is the assistant pastor in a small church in a small town in Washington. There aren't many accolades or much recognition for such a position in such a place, and yet, he faithfully keeps watch over the souls in his care until, for them, all danger is driven away. Amen.
poem translated by Rumer Godden