Unleashing Courageous Faith
- Thursday, February 05, 2009
Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from Unleashing Courageous Faith: The Hidden Power of a Man's Soul by Paul Coughlin (Bethany House).
When A Dog Is More Manly
Heaven goes by favor.
If it went by merit, you would stay out
and your dog would go in.
When I joke during men's conferences that my cairn terrier, Haggis McStitch, has taught me more about what it means to be a man than most men's gatherings, I'm not really joking.
Haggis is the most popular being in our home. He's the same breed as Toto in The Wizard of Oz, though I shudder to point this out because Toto didn't represent the breed well. Like most terriers, Haggis is a mountain of a dog inside a compact body.
When we went to pick him up in Redding, California, the first dog we saw looked robust, winsome, and cuddly.
"Is this Haggis?!" my daughter screamed with delight. "He's so cuuuuuute!"
"No," said Richard, the breeder. "That's his brother, Barley. This," he said, pointing, "is Haggis."
I looked at Haggis and decided Richard had pointed at the most expensive rat in all of history. Haggis was ugly. His coarse hair was pressed down, revealing his scrawny frame. He didn't have his brother's round healthiness, or becoming face, or attractive coloring. I wanted to leave right then and there.
Rip-off, I thought. But thankfully we would find that there's far more to Haggis than meets the eye.
"He's the feistiest dog I've ever bred," Richard added. Nearly four years later, I can only say amen.
A cairn is what the Scottish call a pile of stones. Cairn terriers have been bred to kill whatever is lurking between or underneath those stones: rats, mice, weasels, ferrets. It takes a lot of guts—that's a blue-collar word for "courage"—to go into lightless holes and instantly fight whatever you ambush.
Once, after our family returned from a trip, we found small poop droppings on our living room windowsill. Then we noticed that Haggis would not leave a certain broken TV outlet alone. Then he didn't sleep for days, which etched haggard exhaustion onto his face. (This happens when a dog—or a man—is kept from what he was designed to be and do.) We finally put two and two together and lowered him into the nearby crawl space.
He immediately kicked into action, his brindled coat bristling. Within seconds he found the intruder: a foot-long rat hiding behind the paper backing of fiberglass insulation. He shook it, breaking its neck, and brought it to me.
A family has never been prouder of a four-legged beast. Haggis had rid our home of a troubling invader. We paraded him around the house on our shoulders like Alexander the Great after the Battle of the Hydaspes. Haggis ate what we ate that night. We toasted him with wine, milk, and tap water. I considered having the rat stuffed and mounted for posterity's sake.
Actually, we think it was his third rat that year. Sometimes Sandy, my wife, makes the squishy discovery in the morning with her bare toes. Her screech could set off car alarms as she leaps through the morning air like an epileptic River Dancer. On the bright side, this is an opportunity to teach our children biology.
They also learn criminology as we form a crude circle around the little carcass that's always lying on its side. We proceed to analyze the whole scene—like on CSI, but without HD-grade makeup, flaming egos, or withering sarcasm.
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