Three tricks my dog taught me
I was a boy, we always seemed to have a dog around the house. Our first
was Inky, a small black terrier who liked to surprise people. Folks who
strolled by our house late at night, gazing upwards, admiring the Northern
Lights, had no idea how fast they could run until Inky showed them. Inky
brought out the best in people. Made them yell their loudest, run their
fastest, and write the most articulate letters to my parents. So Dad sold
Inky to a glue factory and brought home Lady, an Irish Setter who drooled
like a bad tap. Lady helped me get ready for school each morning. She
could wash my face in two seconds flat.
Sunday we came home from church to discover that she had eaten the soles
from our shoes. Or at least one from each pair. The preacher had talked of
patience that morning, and how tribulation helped it work, but I don’t
think Dad was listening. He gave Lady away that very afternoon, and within
a week she gave birth to twelve puppies. I kid you not. I spent that
summer asking for one of them. I also spent it barefoot. Except for
fifth grade I fell in love with the perfect companion—Mojo, a gentle
Heinz 57, with a black mask on her face and enough charm to win over the
most hardened cat lover (Phil is pictured with Mojo III). In high school I
was involved in a Communications Class debate called “The Ideal Pet:
Cats or Dogs?” and as I pointed out that God created cats to show that
not everything on earth has a purpose, a friend brought Mojo through the
door on cue. She skidded my way on the linoleum, licked my face and
refused to leave my side. Within minutes the entire class was filing by,
petting her and saying nice things. I won the debate that day, paws down.
(Note to cat lovers: comments to Phil can be addressed to General
Delivery, Gnome, Alaska).
Since our children were very small, I’ve been telling them tales
of Mojo. Of her undying devotion, of teaching her to sit and shake. Just
after they learned to say “Mama,” they began begging for a “Mojo.”
Two months ago, we finally brought home the cutest little dog this side of
shall we call him?” I asked. “How about Puddles?” said my wife. But
the kids wouldn’t hear of it. There was only one choice: Mojo. Within a
week they taught her to sit, to lay down, and to shake with the wrong paw.
And she has begun to teach us a few tricks, too. Here are just three of
Stay away from the rocking chair. Sometimes
at night, with Mojo at my feet, I read the newspaper and find myself
talking out loud. I say things like, “I wonder if our power will go out
when Y2K hits,” and she’s thinking, “I wonder if he’s gonna give
me a lick of that ice cream cone.” “I’m really concerned about the
situation in the Middle East,” I say, and she’s thinking, “I sure
wish he’d put down the paper and open up a can of tuna.” A good dog
knows that newspapers are useful for certain things, but that worry is
like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t take
Wag the right thing. I once
asked a girl, who was voted most popular girl in her entire high school,
about her secret. She said, “I listen.” From an early age her father
had told her, “Everyone on earth is at least just a little bit
lonely.” An old Spanish proverb says, “Two great talkers will not walk
far together.” A dog has so many friends because he wags his tail, not
3. Keep your head up. When Stephen came through the front door yesterday, I could tell what kind of day he’d had. A well-deserved detention had ruined tomorrow’s plans. His volleyball score had plummeted and his math marks weren’t adding up. But Mojo didn’t mind. She met him at the door with her tongue ready. She ran in circles, leaping in the air and licking his face as if it were aging cheese. Mojo didn’t care where he’d been or what he’d done. She didn’t care what anyone thought or what anyone said. She just loved him.
all need such love, don’t we? When life doesn’t make sense, when
others turn their backs, we need a forceful reminder that there’s One
who will never leave our side. One who loves us unconditionally, faithful
to the end. As Stephen stood to his feet, a bright smile lit up his face.
And I couldn’t help thinking that even a furry little creature can
reflects its Creator with undying love and devotion that gives us bright
hope and every reason to carry on.
I need some of that love right now. You see, my wife is calling. It seems Mojo II just discovered the sole of one of my Sunday shoes.
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