“But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you.” -Job 12:7





IMG_5735He spied it trotting down the road, approaching our drive—black dog, red collar— saw it reach our drive and trot right up it without a pause, as if aimed here all along.

I noticed it from the upstairs window looking out on that drive. Silly me, I tapped on the window, pushed down its sash, and (incredibly) said, “Hi!” It stopped short, looked up, and wagged and wagged its tail.

Just like that, to a dog. What made me do that?

Well, the neighbors had a black dog, were away for two weeks, and my eyes weren’t working too well then… But I think I knew it was a different dog…

I went down to it. I know: Not recommended in hot August, stray dog. And, turned out, he had no tag.

Friendly he was. A gentleman dog. Welcomed a petting and a hand holding his collar, panted a dog smile, looking up to me all the while like he’d known me all his young life. Sat just like that, snap, when I quietly said, “Sit.”

I guessed he belonged at one of those houses back in the direction from which he’d come. I’d seen a black Lab with red collar like this… But why was he so skinny?

We gave him water, a handful of cat food. He gobbled greedily, poor ribs sticking out. Then Husband got the truck, and I helped now-leashed Mr. Dog up past the high running board and into the cab with a rear end push. He balked at sitting in the seat, maybe trained not to, curled on the floor. They took off, to look for his owner.

I waited. Time passed. What was taking so long?

At last the truck returned, turned—dog still inside, now happy on the front seat.

They’d visited seven houses, directed from one to the other. Everyone loved him, none owned him.

So there we were.

He was too nice to turn in to the warden, and maybe end up dead.  He sat,  he heeled, he jumped for joy, but not on us. We’d have to report we’d “found” him (though he found us). We’d have to look hard for his owner. Secretly I started hoping…

Leaning sideways toward him as he sat beside me, I murmured, “Could you be a seeing eye?” I thought he could.


Yes, Dog came trotting up that drive that day, and right into my heart. I never thought I’d lose my heart to a stray dog, but I did. In less than an hour—and lost it more in all the moments with him thereafter.

It was more than his pleasant personality, more than his good behavior. Exceptionally well-trained he was, but it was more than that.

We bonded, Dog and I. That was the thing. If I walked brisk, he trotted brisk, happy pink tongue hanging sideways out. If I slowed, so did he. If I stopped by a field just to stand and gaze he stopped right by me and gazed out, too. It was as if his canine heart drank in the invisible intentions of my human one and walked them out or stood them out or sat them out or lay down still if that was my desire.

That was Dog’s lesson to me. I do well to really learn it!

Bond with the Master. Mesh with His Spirit. Walk with Him, stop with Him, treasure what He treasures. BE HIS.

There I saw Obedience in its shining trueness.

I miss Dog and his trueness. We had to part, but he remains with me in the lesson he left: of how my relating with my tenderhearted Master is meant to flow and grow, so bonded.  About the obedience my Master wants: not slavish doing of dismal duty, but loving, trusting oneness with His spirit.



23 thoughts on “Obedience as a Spirit: Lesson from a Stray Dog

  1. Great word picture. How quick and confident his trust in you. Other dogs, other behaviors are suddenly in my mind…which dog am I?

  2. Well, Laurie, this dog clearly had the benefit of someone’s conscientious training before he got to us. He couldn’t naturally know how to be house trained and obey “sit” and “heel.” It took time, repetition, work, in addition to his good disposition. So, which kind of dog am I? I guess my answer would be: one still in training!

  3. Hi Sylvia, I love this post. and the pics are so cute. Such a great spirit in one that has lost something, only to gain more. Thanks for linking up
    God bless

  4. A darling post and dog story. You drew me right in. And oh! I could not help but think of my recalcitrant Standard who refuses to walk briskly *by my side.* Either he is dragging me, or else he plops his bottom in the middle of the road, refusing to budge! So much for obedience. But he’s mine, and I love him. And so it goes with the Father……He is holy, and He commands that we obey. Sin is repugnant to God. And yet, there are times when we disobey, and He still loves us. As we repent, He offers us His mercy and forgiveness.
    So, Sylvie, what happened to that sweet doggie? Did the owner turn up?

  5. I echo Lynn’s question… what happened?

    Love this story and you told it absolutely engrossingly.
    Lovely tribute and also great analogy! I’m going to send your link to another blogger who just lost her dog… so dear.

  6. Lynn, you had me laughing. Your analogy is good, too! We took the dog to the animal shelter, and I prayed for him to get a good family home. I hope he did. He really is the nicest dog I ever led on a leash. But I had a scary incident while he was with us, in which my throat started closing up (I have a lot of allergies; and though I didn’t test positive for dog dander, back when I got the test results I said to my allergist, “Oh, then I could get a dog!” he just looked at me with a hairy eyeball and replied, “It isn’t the dog. It’s what he’ll bring in on his coat!”) There were other complications, too. But it was hard for both my husband and me to say goodbye. A few days longer and we would really have been wrenched!

  7. Oh, Pam, my great sympathy to your friend. That can be as painful a loss as a family member’s death. I know how close I was getting to “Dog” in just the four days he was with us, and how hard it was to let go after even such a short time.

  8. Oh Sylvie, yes, not all people can tolerate animals in the allergy department. I’m sorry that it didn’t work out, but he did bring you joy. And he was such a lovely, friendly dog, I’m sure he found a good home….and he gave you some wonderful spiritual lessons.
    And Pam, I’m so sorry for your friend. If you’ve gotten that far in my book, the “Lists of Lament” chapter deals with the death of our other Poodle (and the true grief of that) and other deaths and losses. It amazes me how callous people can be sometimes when we lose a pet. Sad, but true. I pray you will be able to bring comfort to your friend. Actually, I know you will!

  9. Thanks, Lynn (and Sylvia). Just another blogger I know a little, but thought this would touch her. She said it did! Yes, I did read your book through and remember that. It touched me too because I still remember my dog growing up as if it were yesterday. She is often in my dreams as real as ever 🙂

  10. It’s amazing how God can teach us through his animals. I been taught more than one lesson from God through my dog, Larry. Great story.

  11. Oh, this is so sweet–and just a beautiful metaphor of our connection with our Protector, our Father. I wrote a post a few months ago about my relationship with my dog and how it reminds me of how I hope to trust and lean on Jesus. Happy to find you through #TellHisStory.

  12. What a beautiful story! As my dog was sitting at my feet this am while I was doing my devotions, I felt I need to stop and thank God for him. He is so loyal and I am thankful to have him. I love that God gives us pets! Thank you for stopping by Inking the Heart! Blessings!

  13. Hi there…you know with a title like that, you really got my attention. I’ve picked up a few strays myself in my lifetime…a couple of them never made it to the shelter…yep they stayed right here. My girls and I (daddy not so much) love animals. I absolutely loved this story..what a beautiful doggy…and I loved the analogy on obedience.

    Visiting from the link up…I actually linked to the same places you did, but this one is from Thought provoking Thursday. It was nice to meet you.

    God bless!

  14. My dogs are always teaching me how to be more like Christ. I remember the story of a little boy who lost his dog. He said to his mother, “I know why dogs don’t live as long as people. They are already good. They don’t need time to learn like we do.”

  15. Larry: I like that name for a dog, Floyd. Children and dogs are full of lessons for us, aren’t they?

  16. Jennifer, I read your post and love the analogies you bring from your relationship with your dog. There really is a good picture in doglike devotion and dependency, isn’t there? Then there’s the attitude of our cats! Quite a different picture, that! Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  17. Yes, Rachel, what a variety of warm blessings God gives us in our pets! So glad you stopped over here.

  18. Ah, Lisa Marie, you are one of those soft-hearted toward strays. I bet you have some stories to tell, too! So nice to meet you, too!

  19. Oh, yes, to be and to treasure – both so important. Wonderful story, Sylvia! Thank you so much for sharing!

Comments are now closed.