Monday, January 30, 2017

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” ― Josh Billings



           There can surely be no question that most dogs are better Christians than most people who claim to be.  This is because dogs are capable of unconditional love and forgiveness that boggles the mind.  You can leave a dog out in the snow and ice for three days with no water and no food and the second you let it back in, its tail is wagging, it is so excited to see you, and it loves you instantly.  That is not the result you would get if, say, you left your mother-in-law out in the same conditions.  Most dogs' loyalty and patience is unsurpassed by human equivalents.  Therefore, there are thousands of stories of dogs whose loyalty, bravery, and love for humans is exceptional.  There is a famous dog in Japan (statue and everything) that continued to wait for its master every day at a train station for nine years past the master's death until the dog itself died.  Stories of dogs saving humans from fires, and other disasters are legion.  Some of these famous dogs have had books and movies done about them, and some have had critics spend years trying to disprove their stories.  One wonders about the motivation of those who spend so much time trying to harm the memories of wonderful dogs.  Still, we who call ourselves Christians have much to learn from dogs like these who are still loved by so many.  One of the most famous is Greyfriars Bobby in Scotland (see picture at the right).  There are critics, of course, but I still love the story.   “In 1850 a gardener called John Gray, together with his wife Jess and son John, arrived in Edinburgh. Unable to find work as a gardener he avoided the workhouse by joining the Edinburgh Police Force as a night watchman.   To keep him company through the long winter nights John took on a partner, a diminutive Skye Terrier, his ‘watchdog’ called Bobby.  Together John and Bobby became a familiar sight trudging through the old cobbled streets of Edinburgh.  Through thick and thin, winter and summer, they were faithful friends.  The years on the streets appear to have taken their toll on John, as he was treated by the Police Surgeon for tuberculosis.  John eventually died of the disease on the 15th February 1858 and was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard. Bobby soon touched the hearts of the local residents when he refused to leave his master's grave, even in the worst weather conditions.  The gardener and keeper of Greyfriars tried on many occasions to evict Bobby from the Kirkyard.  In the end he gave up and provided a shelter for Bobby by placing sacking beneath two tablestones at the side of John Gray’s grave.  Bobby’s fame spread throughout Edinburgh.  It is reported that almost on a daily basis the crowds would gather at the entrance of the Kirkyard waiting for the one o'clock gun that would signal the appearance of Bobby leaving the grave for his midday meal.  Bobby would follow William Dow, a local joiner and cabinet maker to the same Coffee House that he had frequented with his now dead master, where he was given a meal.  In 1867 a new bylaw was passed that required all dogs to be licensed in the city or they would be destroyed.  Sir William Chambers (The Lord Provost of Edinburgh) decided to pay Bobby's licence and presented him with a collar with a brass inscription 'Greyfriars Bobby from the Lord Provost 1867 licensed'.  This can be seen at the Museum of Edinburgh.  The kind folk of Edinburgh took good care of Bobby, but still he remained loyal to his master.  For fourteen years the dead man's faithful dog kept constant watch and guard over the grave until his own death in 1872.”  If you have a human who loves you that much, you are blessed indeed.  
            Less well known, but a story that I love is about a guide dog for the blind who helped his owner escape from one of the worst tragedies of our time.  “Omar Eduardo Rivera is a blind computer technician who uses a guide dog. On September 11, 2001, Rivera was working on the 71st floor of the World Trade Center when a terrorist plane hit the building above him. His dog, Dorado, was under Rivera's desk, as usual. As the building evacuation began, Rivera smelled the smoke and heard the chaos in the stairwell. He took the Labrador retriever's leash off, so the dog could escape (an act of love returned by the dog).  Dorado ignored Rivera's order to go ahead, and escorted his master down 70 flights of stairs. They were separated by the rush of the crowd for a few minutes, but Dorado found his way back to Rivera and continued down the stairs. They reached the ground about an hour after they began the descent, only a few minutes before the building collapsed.”   Of course there are stories about humans who have done and shown similar love, but my point is that we can learn a lot about how we respond to Christ’s love from dogs who have never known Him.  In my own little world of fantasy, Jesus had a dog, but no one ever wrote about that dog.  Just sayin’ our non-human friends can teach us much about loving one another as Christ loved us.

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