June 13

The everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. —Genesis 9:16

I was looking something up in my Bible concordance when my eyes fell upon the word Dog. Since dogs are a special fondness of mine, and since my Belgian shepherd Shep was at that moment at my feet (a not unusual place for her to be), I was intrigued. "Ah, Shep," I said aloud, "let's see what the Bible has to say about you and your kind." I thought I'd find some loving pictures; I even had an idea that a scraggly dog was in the crowd following Jesus. Not so.

The concordance read: "Dog—canine mammal." Underneath it continued "Described as," and then began a discouraging list, everything from "Carnivorous" to "Dangerous" and "Unclean." There followed another grouping of some thirty-two entries under the heading "Figurative of." I decided to look them all up; it consumed an afternoon. A discouraging afternoon, for I found what I took to be a pack of fierce dogs circling around David (Psalm 22:16), troublesome dogs making a racket (Psalm 59:6), dogs returning to eat their own vomit (Proverbs 26:11)—everything vile. Even in the New Testament, Luke told of a dog that licked the sores of a dying beggar named Lazarus (Luke 16:21). The only half-pleasing moments were a passage from Job in which the dogs were presumably entrusted with a flock of sheep (Job 30:1), and in Ecclesiastes, where the preacher says, "a living dog is better than a dead lion" (Ecclesiastes 9:4). That was true, but it wasn't what I had hoped to find.

Next to Dog in the concordance was Doleful, which I was feeling, and then came Dominion, which gave me a charge. "Listen to this, Shep. ‘And God said, Let us make man in our image, and let them have dominion over—' " I didn't hesitate to add, " ‘the dogs.' And you know how good I am to you. As a matter of fact, I just might take you to the cathedral when they have the next blessing of the animals."

Shep didn't disagree and I felt mollified. "Let's go out for a walk," I said. She was ready.

What is really important, Father, is that You created all living things, and left it to us humans to look out for our animal friends.

—Van Varner