Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

February 20, 2005


Oh what fun it must be to live a dog’s life these days


          When I was a boy you could get in a fist fight quickly by calling another boy “a sorry dog.” I suppose that remains true today. None of us likes being called a “low-down good for nothing” and that is what we mean by calling someone a dog.

          Centuries ago the Jews called the Gentiles dogs. I suppose the term meant the same thing it means in the schoolyard today – that the one derided has no more value than a stray dog.

          Actually there have been occasions in history when dogs had great value. Two hundred years ago, for example, the band of brothers on the Lewis and Clark Expedition enjoyed dogs for supper more than once. Though they much preferred eating elk, deer, and buffalo, dog meat was delicious after going for days eating only roots and berries.

          My own attitude toward dogs has changed over the years. As a boy my dog Bull and I were inseparable. I cried for three days when, after losing three legs, Bull had to be put to sleep. Later our boys enjoyed several dogs that were beloved by our family as the boys grew to manhood.

          Of late my favorite dog has been a Dalmatian, the marble one that sits quietly on the hearth. No dog food to buy, no dog hair here and there, no fleas, no barking – that is what I like about my Dalmatian.

          I have many friends who enjoy dogs. I have no problem with that. If you want a dog, help yourself. If you want three or four, fine. It’s your life; go for it.

          I found out the hard way that some people will choose to dislike me if they think I hate dogs. Not wanting to lose a friend over a dog, I have tried to make it known that I do not hate dogs, nor do I detest people who like dogs.

          Some people actually need a dog. A “seeing-eye dog” can be a great blessing for someone who is blind. A person living alone will often find valuable companionship, and even protection, in a good dog. I can understand why for some people a dog is often praised as “man’s best friend.”

          We all have different ways of taming our reactions. On those occasions when I am tempted to react negatively to someone’s dog, I have found it helpful to calm down and simply say to myself, “Well, isn’t that nice.”

A few examples will explain how helpful this technique is for me.

          I visit a homebound man with a Chihuahua in his lap. The whole time I am in the man’s home, the sweet little dog keeps barking at me. The man seems unable to quiet his dog and explains to me, “He just wants to protect me; as soon as you leave, he will stop barking.” During my visit the man frequently speaks to the dog, almost as much as he speaks to me. That is when I say to myself calmly, “Well, isn’t that nice.”

          In another home I am greeted by another house dog, but a very friendly one. This dog must weigh 200 pounds. He seems so glad to see me that he jumps up on me, his paws on my chest, his saliva-dripping tongue moistening my twenty-five dollar tie.

          The big dog is friendly but not obedient. My friends keep saying, “Down, Daisy, down!” but the dog ignores them. I console myself by presuming Daisy must be deaf. While I sit and talk to these friends, Daisy insists on playing with me. The man says warmly, “Preacher, I think she likes you.” That is when I say to myself, “Well, isn’t that nice.”

          Many dogs are treated like family members. I have even had my host say to me, “Pastor, don’t sit that chair; that is Lassie’s chair.” That news was a bit unnerving if I had already sat down in Lassie’s chair. Taking another seat, I tried to offer pastoral care to Lassie as well as the rest of the family. Sometimes Lassie has stuck her nose where she shouldn’t. That is when I say to myself, “Well, isn’t that nice.”

          Sometime I observe dog lovers walking their dogs. That looks like loads of fun, trying to keep a rambunctious dog on a leash as he struggles to find a convenient tree or fire hydrant. I notice the owners always look the other way when little doggy is making a deposit. That is when I give thanks for my Dalmatian on the hearth and say quietly, “Well, isn’t that nice.”

          Some of my friends enjoy kissing their dogs. It looks a little messy but I reckon it does no damage to one’s kisser. And, after all, in America we are free to kiss most anything we choose to kiss, so I am not about to complain. Last time I checked, the Bible does not forbid kissing pigs, mules, cats, or dogs. I suppose, in a way, it does imply that we should not kiss another man’s wife. Whenever I see some dear soul kissing a dog on the lips, that is when I say to myself, “Well, isn’t that nice.”

          I read that in the past 10 years the pet industry has doubled in size to $34 billion a year in revenue. Dog food, collars, tooth brushes, flea powder, vitamins, clothes, and such cost a lot of money, not to mention the veterinarian’s charges. Many dogs also enjoy the services of therapists, groomers, and walkers. Kidney transplants, MRIs, and plastic surgery are now available to dogs as well as people. Thinking about that, I can only say, “Well, isn’t that nice.”

          Ours is indeed an interesting world. Dogs are loved by folks who hate people. Dogs enjoy benefits that must cause homeless people to wish they could live a dog’s life. But bless their hearts; dogs can calm a man down. You can hardly imagine how often they have a calming effect on me when almost daily I observe a dog here and a dog there, and calmly whisper, “Well, isn’t that nice.” + + + +