Canine Case In Point
Spiritual Lessons from the Dog
By Laura J. Bagby
I am an auntie again—but not to a new niece or a
new nephew. I am auntie to man's best friend, one particular dog
Fruppy is my former roommate's caramel-colored Lhasa apso. I
was there when she bought the dog. I helped to name him Frappuccino
because he looks a lot like the cold coffee drink. But Fruppy—or
Frupper, as I usually call him—doesn't know his real name.
He just sits and stares at you as if to say, "Now, who exactly
OK, so he isn't the smartest dog in the world. I used to tell
Frupper we only keep him because he is cute.
And boy does he know that he is cute! He unabashedly wags his
tail energetically to get a pet and a kind word from just about
anyone, especially one of the neighborhood kids. Almost always,
he gets lavish praise.
If only he could be as good at home! Bless his heart, he really
does try, but sometimes Frupper forgets himself. Frupper can be
relentlessly demanding. He will get into one of those moods when
he will bark out orders in a hoarse string of syllables, like
some continuous vocal gymnastics, and I could swear that his canine
vocals span three octaves he sounds so upset. And all because
a light wasn't left on—now really, is that something to
get upset about? That's hardly worth a doggie in distress display
One day, while trying to remedy this constant barking problem,
I dashed out to the grocery store. While in the checkout line,
my eyes landed on a book about dog training. It was one of those
overpriced booklets stashed in amongst your daily horoscope and
books on baby names. That's it! I thought. Obedience
training is the answer. I grabbed the booklet, bought it,
and promptly read it. Of course, I reasoned. The
problem is Frupper thinks he is the alpha male. He thinks that
HE is in control. We had better remedy that, I thought. And
So I tried to talk with authority and make Frupper look me in
the eye. It would work for a while until the dog got distracted
or forgot or simply dug in his heels (something he is very good
at) in audacious disobedience. Why won't this dog obey? Why is
this so hard?
If only Frupper could see himself the way that I see him.
Then the day arrives when the dog goes to the groomers, and this
once poofy pooch with armloads of fur is a little, bitty skinny
shorn dog with huge eyeballs. With a beret and a big, fat cigar,
he would look more like an Italian Chihuahua than his Tibetan
relatives. Interestingly, when he comes back practically scalped,
Frupper is the sweetest, most gentle dog around. He is so humble.
The first time he got groomed, I thought, Did they give us
the wrong dog? I wondered if Frupper was the object of some
switched at birth snafu—no barking, no demanding, just a
sweet demeanor from a teeny doggy. And that's when I saw a nugget
of biblical truth.
Before, when Frupper is bushy, he sees himself more highly than
he ought. Like Samson in the Bible, Frupper equates his strength
and identity with his fur. He is very self-absorbed and not a
bit humble with his lion mane. He will prance and bat those eyeballs
like he is the cat's meow… well, something like that. But
once the outward shell is gone and he is exposed, he is humble.
It is as if he realizes that he is just a skinny little dog.
Sometimes God has to shave us, so to speak. We go through points
in life where we are not invincible, where we are no longer cute
or youthful looking, where what we relied on or prided ourselves
in gets suddenly taken away. To the world we are bald, and we
feel it. We see ourselves as others see us and we shut up. We
look at ourselves squarely in the mirror and feel a sense of remorse.
Is this what I really look like? we ask ourselves.
It’s never fun when the spotlight fades. It’s never
fun when we are no longer top dog. However, it is a necessary
part of our Christian growth. The Bible tells us not to think
of ourselves more highly than we ought (Romans 12:3). There are
times when we will chafe as Frupper does under the discipline
of the Lord. But as Job 5:17 says, “Blessed is the man whom
God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.”
And again in Hebrews 12:6, it says, “The Lord disciplines
those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”
There are times when we desire to be the alpha in the household
just as Frupper does, yet there can only be one alpha in our lives,
and that is God, who calls Himself “the Alpha and the Omega.”
Our cuteness and our own talents can get us only so far in this
life. If we wish not to have wizened spirits, we must recognize
our neediness as sinners in need of grace and rely on His power
and majesty, willingly placing ourselves in the leash of God’s
authority, ready to heel at the very moment of God’s command.
Laura your comments.
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