My dog made me late for church last week.
OK, not late. But thanks to him, I only had time for one cup of coffee before I left. It still felt like a hardship at the time, though.
Scotty is a West Highland White Terror (SIC). He’s every bit the cute, gentle, sweet and affectionate little pooch we wanted when we chose the breed. But he’s also just as excitable, headstrong and stubborn as the stereotypical terrier.
His enthusiasm frequently gets the better of him and he misbehaves. Mostly he barks when he shouldn’t. Sometimes he pees where he shouldn’t. But quite often, it’s his stomach that gets him into trouble.
He sneaks into the strawberry patch and has a forbidden feast, or he gives into temptation and scarfs down a belly full of petunias from the planters on the deck. And inevitably, he pays for it during the night with a significant case of indigestion, resulting in a smelly puddle of puke in his kennel.
That’s what happened last Sunday.
It was then up to his master to clean up the kennel and give the funky little furball a bath.
No fan of this process, Scotty scurried in vain to the other side of the tub to avoid the water and – I have to admit – the wrath of The Bald One.
There was no wrath this time, though. I’ve learned that tough love will get you nowhere with this dog. He’s not untrainable, but he is who he is and that can’t be changed fundamentally – particularly not through explosive blasts of negative reinforcement. Still, I sometimes slip and, (shamefully) fuelled more by vengeance than rehabilitation, am less than gentle in the cleaning up of his messes.
Not this time, though. He was so scared, vulnerable and pitiful that my heart went out to him. I only wanted to clean him up and make sure he knew I wasn’t holding a grudge.
At the start of the bath, there was no sign he needed one – other than the vomitastic odour he emitted, of course. His coat looked nice and white, to my eyes.
The bathwater told a different story, though. By the time I was done pre-rinsing, shampooing and post-rinsing, it was decidedly brown. And when I dried Scotty off and turned him loose, his relief at being finished (and I think, being clean – but I could be projecting here) was obvious. He was several shades whiter and quite a bit more handsome.
‘Oh, yeah. That’s what a white dog looks like,’ I said to him. ‘Yesterday, you were a West Highland Beige Terrier, I guess.’
How often are we like Scotty?
We put aside our better judgement, give into our base instincts and eat the forbidden fruit (or flowers) and get ourselves into a mess we’re powerless to conceal or clean up – by ourselves, at least.
Often we forget or refuse to seek Help, and we stay filthy. And the longer we avoid the issue, the more the grime sticks to us. Eventually, it hardens and appears to become part of our once-shiny coats. Removing days- (or decades-) old filth is by no means impossible for our Master, but the longer we delay dealing with it, the more painful the process is for us.
And for Him.
But when we do finally turn to God, He comes along, patiently washes away our grime, lovingly dries us off and turns us loose – knowing full well that we’ll probably mess up again tomorrow (or later today) and He’ll have to do it again.
And like Scotty, we’re often oblivious of just how dirty the water was before God pulled the plug and let the nasty, grimy bathwater drain away.
Thank God we have a far better Master than Scotty does.
Peace be with you.
- Scotty was a mere pup of 10 months when this photo was taken, but even then, he was no fan of baths.