Have you ever had a pet – a hamster, fish, cat, dog, bird, etc? I grew up with a range of pets that included fish, dogs, salamanders and cats. Of all the pets we had, I liked dogs the best because they were the most interactive with me. Fish were detached, cats were disinterested, salamanders were skittery, but dogs could be very welcoming and engaging.
Presently, we don’t have any pets in our home so when I go to various friends’ houses, I get to enjoy their dogs. To this end, I’ve been around West Highland Terriers, a Chihuahua, Bolognese, Australian Cattle Dogs and a rescue dog. All of these dogs are very unique, fun and challenging in different ways. It’s nice to enjoy them occasionally without having to do the daily work or pay the vet bills.
I’m also seeing some interesting lessons from these dogs that God can help me to employ. For starters, each dog and each breed has very distinct qualities. The Westies are very much people dogs. When I house sit for them, they always have to be where I am: in the same room, on the couch with me, laying on the porch etc. On the other side, the Chihuahua is totally comfortable sleeping in his doggie bed no matter if people are around or not. In this lesson, I’m reminded that each of us are uniquely made, distinct and wonderfully individualistic. In Psalms 139:14, we read, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” We don’t have to be like each other to like each other.
Another lessons that I can learn from these dogs is related to the dogs who are hypoallergenic, as opposed to those who can cause allergy problems for various people. For me, the dog allergy thing isn’t a problem. But I have friends who are very allergic to dogs and it’s best if they limit their exposure to the hypoallergenic dog breeds. In this lesson, it’s important to know things about ourselves that can be problematic for us. To this end, I recognize that when I’m around critical or judgmental people a lot, I can be more critical and judgmental. It’s helpful to think about what can affect us positively and negatively, thereby managing our exposure with God’s help.
Finally, there’s a huge contrast between the dogs who grow up in a stable home versus the dogs who are rescued and have lots of trauma in their background. The dogs who have a stable upbringing are generally well acclimated to people and usually don’t nip, bight or snarl. On the other hand, the rescue dog is hypervigilant, and I have to move slowly when I’m around him or he’ll nip and rush at me with his mouth open. Of course, it’s easier to be around well-acclimated dogs. But I also know that I can be part of the healing process for the rescue dog by being patient, steady, understanding and gentle. I’d suggest that this lesson is very useful for us with people and not just dogs.
As I ponder some of these lessons that I’m learning from dogs, it causes me to appreciate that God can teach me some very good things using a plethora of contexts. This makes me smile and very grateful that God is our ultimate teacher!