Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dog Walks with Jesus

Our Ellie's a good dog.  She is.  She's a total sweetheart, even if she's a bit prone to moping about wanly.

Those growls and barks are entirely for show, because all she wants to do to anyone who comes near her is either 1) jump and give licky kisses or 2) cringe piteously and hide.

As a muttly mix of poodle, retriever, and mystery dog, we're not quite sure who her dad was, but I'm increasingly convinced he was a hunting dog or hound.  Why?

Because all that matters to her every morning as we walk is whatever scent she's picked up.  If she's snuffling along in pursuit of a smell, she'll blunder right past a squirrel, just yards away.  If she's tracking something, she'll completely miss the presence of a nearby fox, or a nearby deer and her faun.  Scent is everything, and it's as if all of her other senses just utterly shut down when she puts her head to the ground.

And most mornings when I walk her, I've got one idea about why we're going for a walk, and she's got another.  Her business is scent, period.  My business is making sure she does her business.

She's nicely housetrained, being a good dog and all.  But every time she gets around to doing number two, it seems to come as a surprise to her.

"That smell, it's...oh!  Sniff sniff!  And there it is again!  Sniff SNIIIIIF!  And we must be getting closer!  And OH!  It's still there!"

But as she fills her expansive canine sinuses with those fascinating esters and scent particles, the other half of her body knows this is its opportunity to be doing something else. 

Her hindquarters start to curl up and prepare to expel the organic material that I then get to clean up.  But she's still trying to move forward as her back legs lay on the brakes, and she comes to an awkward stop.  She keeps sniffing, trying to follow that scent, baffled that for some reason her forward momentum has been arrested.

"Wait...why am I stopping?  That smell!  I'm following it!  But I'm slowing down!  What's...going on?  That smell!  Oh!  Hey!  I've stopped!  What in the name of the Great Bahou is happening?"   

The other morning, watching this disconnect for the hundredth time, I found myself thinking it reminded me of Matthew 6:3.

"Let your right hand not know what your left hand is doing."  Jesus used that saying to describe how we should give to those in need.  He cautioned us not to use giving as a source of pride or power within a community, but to give for the simple joy of giving.  We seek the other's good because it is the Good, not because it will benefit us.

But that saying seems to speak deeper, to a willingness to care for others that goes so far down into us that it becomes almost reflexive.  It's our first response, our default, the habit of being that has woven its gracious furrow so deep into our being that we show compassion almost without thinking.

"Let your nose not know what your hindquarters are doing," probably wouldn't have the same ring to it, though.

Best leaving that one the way He said it.