That Robe of Righteousness
I enjoy jogging. Especially in the early morning. I have a small dog, named Pingo. He loves to go running with me. We run on back streets where Pingo can run loose and free like the wind. He doesn’t mind a leash, but if he can run free, well that just tickles him pink! When he knows I’m going running he starts speeding around the house, to the front door, to me, back and forth! If I’m ever a little tired he perks me right up. I love Pingo and Pingo loves me. “My beloved is mine and I am his.” When he looks up at me I feel I can read his mind. He loves to play-fight with a towel or the blanket when I’m making my bed. He sleeps right next to me, curled up at my back. That’s his spot. The kitty better not trespass.
We go out in the wee hours of the morning when the traffic is negligible and the dew is still on the roses. Even still Pingo must wear a reflective vest. I call it his coat of many colors, or his robe of righteousness. Mine is a breastplate of righteousness. His is like mine, with a little adjustment made by tying the shoulder straps into a knot to make it fit his conformation. Pingo can’t put it on himself. That’s just impossible and ridiculous to imagine. He neither has the know-how nor the dexterity. I must do it for him. He even struggles to not have it put on. He dodges his head away from the hole, this way and that, because he doesn’t understand its vital importance. He’s got a lot of wildness in him, which I don’t ever see going way, not in this lifetime. He is not used to putting his head into a hole, even if its a coat of many colors. But patiently, with some finesse and good timing, I get it over his head and Velcro the straps on. Maybe the vest is a little uncomfortable, maybe a tad restrictive, but once its on, he doesn’t even notice it. Our vests are identical─bright orange with a yellow-green reflective stripe around the middle. We kind of look like father and son, kind of. I stand much taller than Pingo and he is small, furry, perpetually smelly no matter when he got a bath, and runs on all fours. While I jog in straight lines, he is very undisciplined, darting here and there, chasing a bird or some sound, checking out a place to mark, and doing his “duties,” sometimes running next to me. I often look down at him. He’s so funny to watch while he runs with his tail wagging like an American flag on the 4th of July, and his ears flapping like he’s taxiing to take off. Sometimes his tongue hangs out, but always his eyes are wide open and looking to live life to the fullest! So we go along in the dark, our breaths the only sound.
But why do I make Him wear that vest? Because its best; its for his protection. Because it reflects light, it makes him really stand out. He shines and drivers can see him better if one comes along. Usually by the end of our circuit, people start leaving for work. Drivers can pose a real danger because Pingo isn’t trained yet to stay right beside me. Because of the robe of righteousness, drivers know not to hurt him or they and I will feel sorry for a long time.
Another reason for the robe of righteousness is so drivers will understand that he is mine. “They must be together,” is the immediate message called to mind, a response by concerned drivers and police patrollers. If Pingo were to do something wrong, like make a car stop or swerve, he wouldn’t take the heat, I would. The policemen wouldn’t call the dog-catcher, they would stop me and warn me or whatever needs to happen. I’m the reason he isn’t safe. My training would be up for judgment, not his wildness. He has an owner, a caretaker. I take the blame, I am accountable. I will take the ticket and pay the fine, if need be. So, I watch him closely, always alert to prevent trouble.
And I allow all this because he loves me and I love him, and because he is only a dog. If he doesn’t listen to my commands and warnings, then that is an issue to be dealt with. Pingo and I will have to do some “IT,” an acronym they used on us in Navy boot camp for “Intensive Training”─not real fun. But my justice is always mingled with mercy and Pingo never stops trusting me. Maybe some sterner corrections will be necessary in the future, but I will always wait until he can take it and still be able to trust in me. As with humans, even so with the animals, trust is earned.
So as long as Pingo will be my friend and dog, and submit to that restrictive coat of many colors, we will go running, and talking, and eating, and sleeping together. And he shows me no intimation that he desires to ever have it any differently.