A friend shared his picture on Facebook. He had shaggy hair with sad eyes. I fell in love immediately.
“This little guy needs a home!” The caption read. “Anyone interested? He is a sweet, sweet boy and very friendly.”
After a back and forth in the comments section, I, a poor seminary student who relied on coasting when gas was low, said yes to taking in a dog. From then on out, it was Bowie and me facing the world.
It came at a time when nothing was making sense around me. Belief systems and institutions I thought the world of were not the spaces I thought they were.
First year of seminary was complete, and it felt as if my understanding of God, the world and faith were shattered in a million tiny pieces around me. It did not make sense to pick them up and recreate them; leaving them at my feet would cut me.
As a TCK (third culture kid) who moved a lot, I never got to hold onto too many things. So, letting go of yet more things that brought comfort and familiarity just felt like more pain than I could handle. But I said yes to him and yes to letting go.
Bowie did not care what my current understanding of atonement theology was, nor did he really mind my inadequate understanding of biblical Greek. He did not judge how late I turned in papers. Whenever there was an inkling of something new I might have learned, Bowie heard it first.
Bowie was the first to hear me say out oud, “I think maybe God is bigger than this one faith I’ve been taught.”
Bowie heard my sermons for class; he stayed up late with me reading for Christian ethics, heard me memorize and regurgitate church history dates and councils. And, in the middle of all of this, whenever I would get caught up in the grades, the politics of Baptist life and seminary, he was at my side, his small wet nose booping my foot, reminding me of the bigger world around me. This small reminder to stop and take a break because it was time to go for a walk and maybe drink some water.
Early in our time together, I read a study behind dogs and cars – two theories stuck out to me.
One was that sticking their heads out the window and letting it all hit their faces causes a sensory overload equivalent to a roller coaster. All the smells outside hitting them at once.
The second was that perhaps the anthropologists say it is equivalent to running with their pack toward shelter and food. Either way, they love it.
The first time Bowie went on a car ride with the windows down was in spring. My final class of the week let out early, I didn’t have to work either of my jobs, and I got home in time to take him for a ride.
So, we climbed into my old ’98 Mustang and drove. He was having a spiritual experience, and I was lucky to miss the Atlanta traffic. While we drove, Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You” played, and it was all too much even then.
The two of us faced the road ahead with each other. Whatever the world presented us, we belonged to each other. We went on countless other drives after that, but that one remains my favorite memory.
In March, the vet said it was his time for Bowie to die. Every dog owner knows it will happen eventually; in fact, we willingly break our own hearts the day we say yes to their being in our lives. But it still didn’t feel right.
Much like those early days of deconstructing and reimagining a bigger God, it was time to let go. In the days leading up to “that day,” loved ones told me the experience would be hard but holy.
Holding him in his last moments, allowing him to smell me one last time, wet nose and all fading into the beyond, indeed was hard and holy.
This week marks four months without my little heartbeat at my feet. And I must confess that I miss his gentle reminders to pause.
My loss is not new, and many know and have experienced this loss. And to you, reader, I send peace.
And to you who have not, I too send peace, hoping you know companionship like that of God’s love manifested in a vulnerable being whose life and happiness belong to you and yours to them.
Each time I think and grieve Bowie, I also give thanks for the companion I had by my side as I deconstructed a world and faith, all held by the grace of a furry one.
Bowie reminded me that we need each other. You and I need one another in times of great joy and times of great destruction.
In days when the world around you does not make sense and faith feels like a million tiny pieces on the ground, here is your gentle reminder that it’s time for a walk and maybe some water.