“I love because I love,” wrote St. Bernard of Clairvaux. “I love in order
that I may love.” How appropriate that the
mystic shares a name with a dog breed.
As a Christian, I know that love is a gift to
be given with no thought of reward. But I
confess I’ve tended to love those who love me
back and are kind to me—an inferior variety
of love that Jesus relegated to “tax collectors.”
I’ve always admired dogs because they love
with abandon, not expectation.
That is, until I met Rosa. We arrived at the
shelter, amazed that this cute puppy wasn’t
adopted at its last event. Yet here she was:
four white paws and a natural dark-chocolate
eyeliner that made her look inexpressibly soulful.
“Why did her sister get adopted and not
her?” I asked. The woman who runs the place
speculated that it was because this pup did
not scamper up to people with a plea to “love
me” on her face.
Indeed, she ignored us. She preferred to
munch on the phone books in the shelter
office. I sat on the floor and waited. Eventually,
she crawled into my lap and began chewing on
the buttons of my coat. I was besotted.
Rosa quickly proved herself the smartest
dog I’ve ever had. For example, a dog confronted
with two tennis balls will usually puzzle
over which one to choose and switch back
and forth. Rosa takes one in her mouth and
uses it as a tool to push the second along. If she
had language and opposable thumbs, she’d
be holding my leash.