I’ll begin with a confession: I am not a dog person. In North Oak Cliff, this is blasphemy. From Kings Highway to Kiest Park, people cherish their dogs. They’re everywhere, part of the fabric of our neighborhoods and beloved family members in just about every home. I have admitted my lack of love for dogs to my congregation, and they are praying for me and constantly trying to convince me to be a dog lover. It makes no difference that as a paperboy, my first job, I was terrorized and bitten by all varieties of canines.
So it may surprise you that Rosie, a beagle, resides in our home. She is the sweetest, most well-behaved dog imaginable. She never barks, never begs, never wakes me up at 5 a.m. to open the door so she can answer nature’s call, as other owners tell me their dogs do. When I point out any of her faults to my wife or children, I am the one compelled to go out, not Rosie.
In this confessional mindset, I’ll also admit that Rosie has taught me a few things, even spiritual truths.
First, Rosie has taught me about unconditional love. She loves all people. Even when I seem aloof to her, a simple, friendly voice will bring her running. All is forgiven, all is grace. If love is what truly matters in the end, then Rosie, in her way, probably knows more than I do. I believe that every person should know unconditional love, but Rosie does more than believe; she puts it into practice.
Second, Rosie demonstrates what wonder looks like. In a hurried and tense world, dogs know how to be fascinated by the ordinary, by every new smell or scurrying animal (squirrel!). They’re content with the mundane. The same walk around the block is never dull, because everything is always changing. If we could recapture the wonder that dogs demonstrate, we would be blessed indeed.
Third, I am constantly reminded by Rosie that the way one treats those who are helpless and dependent is probably the best determinant of what that person is on the inside. How often have I raised my voice at her and seen the hurt in her eyes and posture, only to quickly feel that disappointment and anger turned upon myself for what the episode had revealed of my heart. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven [Matthew 19:14].” He could have said the same of every small thing, any person or animal who is needy and reliant on others for the necessities of life. May North Oak Cliff always be a place where we care for the little ones, for the children, the animals, the weak and the helpless.
As I write these final words, I hear Rosie scratching to go out. I rise from my desk, pat her head and open the door. She rushes into the backyard where everything is new.