I first encountered Samuel the dachshund when I was eating at an outdoor café with my friends Heather and Mike, friends and supporters from Christ Lutheran Church. I first noticed Samuel (the name that he would later be known by) looking up at me, with large soulful eyes and ears like the wings of a brown swan. Within minutes of our meeting, the dog had climbed into my lap, where he eyed my plate and also me. Mike said, “He’s yours now.” Heather said, “You have a new dog.” I looked around asking who may own him, but no answer came. The waiters had never seen him before, but he settled comfortably in my lap.
I took him home. I plastered the neighborhood with posters and went online and listed him in each of the shelter websites. No response. The dog was unknown. My wife was not pleased with my homecoming surprise and I promised to call the Dachshund Rescue organization, which I did. They called back and left a message that they would take him for adoption. But I couldn’t call back. The eyes had me.
When I reached out to stroke his brown fur, he turned on his back in a submissive swoon and put the full power of the big doe eyes on me. His ears splayed out like a blanket and his eyes rolled up in canine ecstasy. I felt a heat burning inside my heart — of a great love for this little creature who walks so lowly upon the earth and asks only to be close to me and in my presence.
I named him Sammy after the little boy next door who usually kicks several balls over the fence in a day. The two Samuels like each other, and the dog Sammy will roll over and swoon for the boy Sammy, too. When the dog Sammy does something he knows is wrong I call him Samuel, more quietly and a little stern.
He is a good friend to Mushu, my son’s Pekinese (who is now ours since my boy moved into marriage). A Chinese emperor’s dog swoons or submits for none, and treats my wife like his servant. He barks and barks in a Chinese accent when he is hungry.
My Samuel has made me see so much more deeply into God’s nature. My little dachshund reveres me and loves me because that is his nature. I feel so protective of him and so defensive I would run in front of a truck to rescue him, no doubt. This dog worships me as I worship my God, and Jesus Christ. Mutuality of love of the human lover, me, and the love of the creature, Samuel, for his human is similarly experienced between Jesus Christ, my Lord, and me. Jesus, who demonstrated his love for me by going to the cross to show how much I am loved, wholly and utterly.
I look at my flock and know that our Father loves each of us with an amazing intensity and pray that my friends know this, know that the maker of the universe holds each of us so tightly and hope that in our lives that we live out this gift. It is love, not obligation that calls us.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Colin Brown is pastor Boardman’s Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on Locust Road.