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Some of my stories are published in:
A Cup of Comfort Devotional for Mothers and Daughters (Adams Media, 2009)
Chicken Soup: What I Learned from the Dog (2009)
Love is a Flame (Bethany House, 2010)
Extraordinary answers to Prayer (Guideposts, 2010)
Love is a Verb (Bethany House, 2011)
Big Dreams from Small Spaces (Group Publishing, 2012)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Dog's Life

I'm in San Diego this week, visiting my daughter and granddaughter. (Son-in-law is on a business trip and will be home shortly)
We decide to take Tessa, the family border collie, to the dog park to run off some crazy-border-collie energy.
When we arrive, there are about 15 dogs already in the 3 acre enclosure.
As soon as we relieve Tessa of her leash, she bounds forward and tilts for the rapidly approaching pack of dogs.
Surrounded by the other  dogs, they exchange the usual greet, sniff, growls, assessment, and establishment of doggy hierarchy.
Once that's taken care of, the dogs disperse to exercise, chase balls, get pats from their owners, or mess around the big water dish under the water spigot.
Tessa apparently doesn't visit the dog park often enough because she still behaves inappropriately. She likes to run up and nip at a dog's back feet, then dart away with a kind of bratty little kid energy: "nyah, nyah, nyah, you can't catch me!"
Tessa also thinks the dogs in the next enclosure are sheep. She darts up and down the line of fences, slinks into a wolf-like stalk, holds their attention with a hypnotic stare, then drops down to the ground, only to explode into another dash.
The dogs all seem to understand where they fit in the doggy hierarchy. The labs are big and confident, the three dung-colored mutts rank somewhere in the middle, the Bernise  Mountain dog is jovial and popular, the Brittany spaniel is light-weight so she looks to the higher-ups for doggy cues. There's also a miniature pinscher running around. He really shouldn't be in this enclosure, but I hear his owner say that
he's accompanying his big brothers (two Great Danes).
A woman walks her two Yorkshire terriers just outside the enclosure They yip frantically and lunge with all their six-pound energy at the bigger dogs on the other side of the cyclone fence. Do they really think they could take on a 100-pound Bernise? Apparently so.
Shortly after we arrive, a woman follows us in with her enormous Bull Mastiff. I hear all the other dog owners murmur, "Whoa!" as he strides into the enclosure.
My daughter is so impressed, she can't resist asking, "How much does he weigh?"
The dog's owner is as nonchalant and self-assured as the dog. "Two hundred pounds."
The other 15 dogs half-heartedly run up, do the obligatory sniff, then move away.
I watch the mastiff for most of our remaining half hour in the enclosure. He's magnificent. He commands my attention and respect.
The dogs think so, too. They watch him, watch where he steps, watch where he raises his head to sniff. Even the Great Danes move out of his way.
He does not run, or bark, or play.
Just takes his leisurely promenade around the periphery of the park as if surveying the state of his kingdom.
I love the doggy civility. Once order is established, the pack operates with efficiency. For the most part, the dogs get along: no scheming, no insurrections, no murmuring or growling once the alpha's back is turned.
Yeah, yeah, I know that dogs operate by instinct, and humans are way more complicated and thus we can't expect for human society to run so smoothly.
Still, wouldn't it be nice if our cities and towns and schools and companies and churches and families got along like dog packs?
I don't want to take this analogy too far, you understand. Just that I really like the way dogs don't waste a lot of time fighting.The survival of their pack depends on each member's cooperation.

We could all take a lesson from a dog's life.

"May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mind you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 15:5)

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