This morning as many mornings I returned from a walk through the woods with my Golden Retriever, Holly. When I began to drive in the direction of one of our places we got to “work,” Holly quivered in anticipation. She knew the directions to each place that we went. Her quivering and low whining would increase at every turn that brought us closer to our destination.
This morning was glorious. A golden light shimmered over the woods and a lovely fresh golden mist rose up from the forest floor. Hardly able to control herself she managed to obey my command to “wait” as I gathered our equipment, put on her leash and opened the door. When I said the magic word, “okay,” she bounded off the seat and into the heel position. We always practiced a little heeling before I turned her loose just as a matter of discipline. Her gaze never left me until we stopped and I released her leash. She would leap in front of me leaping higher and higher until I gave her the bumper. Goldens are seldom happy without something in their mouths to carry.
Then began an exhilaration in the heart of man and beast that it would be hard to supersede. Off she raced into the woods, her silky tail flagged in the air showing its pale golden underside, like a deer in flight. She disappeared into the woods. In a moment she would return running like a bullet. Oh how fast she was flying! Held earthbound, it seemed, only by her love for me who was so earthbound physically! Off she would go again and my heart soared as high as she sped. I was riding her in spirit, we were flying at the speed of light barely touching the earth, propelled by a joy that was uncontainable!
Back to me she flew, coming to an abrupt stop at my feet holding up her bumper in her mouth. As glorious as was her physical freedom it only lacked the inclusion of me, the fellowship that she desired more than her wild freedom. I took the bumper and tossed it as far as I could. She flew after it almost turning head over heels skidding to a stop right upon it.
The next phase of our game came as we approached the brook which had wonderful pools and little rapids and rocky, steep banks as it sped along. Bumper in mouth she raced to a place beside the swift stream, waiting for her human friend to catch up. She tossed the bumper at my feet and we began the next step in our game. I threw the bumper as far as I could into the creek. She bolted as soon as it left my hand and leapt over the rocky bank diving into the fast moving water and swimming to the floating bumper. She grabbed it gently in her mouth and began her swim to shore. My heart swelled as I saw her perceive the best way to climb out of the creek which she had entered on unseen wings even as she swam, and in a flash she delivered the bumper to my feet, her eyes hypnotizing my gaze until we repeated the process.
I never ceased to wonder as I saw the keenness of her appraisal of the situations we confronted. It took some flash sensing on her part as the physical situations were never the same. Her determination to accomplish the purpose for which she was bred utterly amazed me. Sometimes I would forget to bring the bumper and a stick had to suffice. The current was moving fast as she hit the water where the stick had fallen, but the current had swept it away. She swam back and forth frantically searching, looking among the rocks and debris along the bank. Finally, she began to dive into the shallow water searching for that stick. She pulled up one stick from the bottom immediately rejecting it. It was not the stick that I had thrown which she knew only by the fact that it had touched my hand for the brief second before I threw it in. And, though it had submerged in water her sense of smell was so impossibly keen that the only stick that would do was the exact one that held my scent which her keen nose could detect. So she kept searching. Usually she would find the exact one and triumphantly deliver it to my feet. Sometimes the stick had disappeared forever, and it seemed she could not give up and I would have to call her repeatedly to tell her to call off the search. She came obediently to my feet looking at me with questioning eyes. I had to respond with another stick trying to convince her that she had not failed.
As our time came to an end and she heeled back to my car my heart was soaring. I kept thinking of the joy of life that she showed to me. Just the unadulterated joy of being alive and having a body that followed her spirit into wonderful feats. I kept thinking of the harmony she had with her surroundings. The beauty of the woods; the changing form of the stream; the great diversity of the shapes and colors of the wonders of the season. And most of all the obedience and desire of this animal for communion with me.
Most people think of “worship” as singing songs in a church or meeting, and that is sometimes true. Yet, I had never encountered a worship that brought me to my knees and overwhelmed me with the wonder of the Creator who had let me be a part of it, and let me see so gloriously some of His attributes revealed in His creation, as I have had in my adventures with this little dog. Oh my God, how great thou art!