I have a dog named Tod. I have dogs besides him, but today I want to tell you about Tod. Tod is an acronym for The Outside Dog, which is where he lived before we moved to Canada. He is smarter than any other dog I have known. I have watched him figure out dozens of things about the world; things which you would expect to be beyond canine canny. He is the most gentle creature you have ever met when he wants his head stroked, which is often. He is a delight to watch romp and play. I have almost never seen a living thing have more fun than Tod blazing his way boisterously through the wilderness or tearing shamelessly around the backyard. I love my dog.
Despite all that, I have a confession to make to you. My dog Tod is a pretty distasteful creature in most respects. For instance, despite his superior level of canine intelligence, he doesn’t listen very well at all. Oh, he gives plenty of signs to show he knows what I’ve asked of him. When I have his attention, I have never had to try more than twice to teach him any trick. But normally, whatever the command, he will openly acknowledge that I have spoken to him, and then proceed to do whatever he wants regardless.
If left to his own devices, he barks incessantly at any thing that moves. He also bites. Not me, thankfully, but often people I happen to like. Several friends and relatives have left my house nursing sore ankles or calves. He even bit my pastor on at least one occasion. If I don’t keep him in the yard, he will chase cyclists down the street and bite them too.
Keeping him in the yard is a never ending battle. No fence I could possibly afford would do any good. 8 foot of chain link is no match for his catlike climbing abilities. Keeping him tied up when outdoors is a kind of cruelty that I can’t bring myself to indulge in. The invisible fence and shock collar works pretty well, but it breaks frequently. If it is broken for more than a day or two he will figure it out. With nothing to hold him back, he will launch himself out into the world to see what mischief he can get into. I think he fancies himself a little hunter of some sort. At least he’s always rolling in something nasty to mask his scent.
Through my experiences as the owner of this rotten little dog, I have learned something from him. He has given me a sense of my place in the universe. As Tod belongs to me, so I belong to God. For I have bitten my share of people that God was no doubt fond of. I think I have even snapped at a pastor or two. I don’t stay in the yard very well, and I’m all the time rolling in things I shouldn’t. In any given situation, I am most likely to do whatever I want, without stopping to think what has been asked of me. I try to do better than all that, I really do, but I often fail.
Yet God loves me, as I love my dog Tod, and more. I feed my dog well; very well. I house him as comfortably as a dog could possibly ask for. I scratch his ears frequently which he adores. I take him for long tramps through the wilderness which he also adores. I give him tasty treats and chew toys. I put up and mend the invisible fence so he doesn’t get himself into trouble with animal control. I take care of his every little need, because I love him. In these same ways, and more, God takes care of me. Despite my distasteful traits, of which I have many, I am a loved creature. I am so loved that God sent His Son Jesus to die in my place, which is more than I think I would do for my dog.