Saturday, August 6, 2011

Lessons from "the Beasts" at the Dog Park

What is it about the dog park that makes me so contemplative? A visit to our town's dog park this steamy summer afternoon led me to consider how much we can learn from our animal companions.

Today after lunch my husband and I took our two-year-old puggle to the dog park. An older woman arrived with her chihuahua. Other than our two dogs, the park was empty. It's one of those hot days with a just a slight breeze, where people tend to sit at the park without talking. But my husband and I, both former journalists, managed to strike up a conversation.

But now ask the beasts to teach you, and the birds of the air to tell you;
Or the reptiles on earth to instruct you, and the fish of the sea to inform you.
Which of all these does not know that the hand of God has done this?
In his hand is the soul of every living thing, and the life breath of all mankind.
The woman, let's call her Alma, told us her dog, who goes by the name Chuck Norris, had been savagely attacked a few years ago by a large dog in her neighborhood in Puerto Rico. Before then, Chuck was a trusting, friendly pup. The attacks traumatized him, especially since the dog  went after Alma after she grabbed Chuck to protect him.

Since then, Chuck Norris has been terrified of all other dogs. He has trouble leaving Alma's side. Alma is disabled; she walks with a cane and told me she often falls. Chuck stays by her side no matter what.

Alma doesn't want this tiny dog to feel the burden of protecting her. She wants him to enjoy being a dog and playing with other dogs. She took Chuck back to his trainer and they have been working together to help Chuck relax around other dogs.

Our puggle, Riley, (below) is as sweet as can be. At the dog park, she managed to get Chuck Norris to leave Alma's side and to follow her and frolic with her just a little bit. Alma was grateful. She's been taking Chuck Norris to the dog park but leaves if the dogs seem too aggressive.

We all can see how a vicious attack could make a dog wary of other dogs. But I wonder how easily we can see how a difficult childhood, a painful marriage, or a broken heart can make our neighbors wary to trust again.

I wonder if I am as gentle with the people I encounter as Alma is with the tiny little creature she cares for. I wonder if God sends us these creatures, not only so we can care for them, but also to teach us how to love one another.


  1. What a thoughtful post.

    We watched "Marty" this morning (a rainy Saturday!) and really enjoyed it. What a wonderful look back at life in the 50's and
    sensitive character study. Thanks for the recommendation.


  2. Oh Sandy I am so glad you enjoyed the movie!

  3. I sure hope dogs are teaching people how to love more--especially those married/living together people of my generation who forgo kids for dogs they call their kids. One of my brothers and his wife, for example.

    But you're right, past hurts do dictate how people treat each other, unfortunately. that is, if they can't or won't let go and forgive.

  4. @Sarah: I have found it terribly difficult when close friends or family members have not found their vocation, even as adults. It is hard to see; it is hard to know what to do except pray for them. It sounds like that might be what is going on with one of your brothers.

    You are right; animals are not a replacement for bearing children. Not at all.

  5. This is a great post! And I think we all know the answer to the comment you wrote about a difficult childhood, a painful marriage, or a broken heart. Thanks for posting it on the Motivation and Inspiration meme!