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Skipped Church on Sunday? Take a Lesson from the Ministry of Dog

I've beenworking roundthe clockalmost every day for the past month,and my schedulehas obliged me toskip several consecutive Sunday church services. When Imiss them, I really...

Julia Szabo  |  Mar 7th 2011


I’ve beenworking roundthe clockalmost every day for the past month,and my schedulehas obliged me toskip several consecutive Sunday church services.

When Imiss them, I really miss them, because the pastor atmy favorite service, where live jazz is on the program and home-cooked food is on the menu,happens to bea serious dog lover.Father John Merz of Brooklyn’s Church of the Ascension speaks reverentiallyof dogs in general, and of Lola, his beloved Bernese Mountain Dog, in particular. He’s a Dogster with a priest’s collar.

But whether or not we’re faithful about church attendance, we Dogsters are blessed: If we can’t make it to our favorite house of worship – wherever and whatever it may be – once weekly, we can still learn a valuable lesson, or three, from our dogs.Dogsdon’t deliver sermons, but they do exercise a unique kind of ministryon our behalf. In doing so, they help make our lives meaningful, just as holy communion does.

I believe that, if we put ourselves in a mindfully meditative state, we can take the calming presenceour dogsso generouslygiveus,commune with it,and draw strength from it – notonly on Sunday, but all week long.

As our dogs minister to us spiritually, we minister to them in more ordinary ways. Yet just by catering toour dogs’earthly needs – walking them, cleaning up after them, and generally looking out for their welfare – we can appreciate our small but significant place in our respective communities and in the universe as a whole. In the best way, K9s remind us that we’re only human. They exercise our humanity like a muscle, drawing forth sometimes hidden reserves of responsibility, humility, compassion, and empathy.

Even the routine activitiesand household chores performed whencaring foraK9 can exalt living with dogs. We canmeditate as we walk alongside our best friends, which keeps us blissfullyin the moment. Instead of judgmentally lamenting the messy state ofcity streets, we can do our part to reduce over-poop-ulation onour sidewalks by usingany extra room inour poop bag to scoop poop someone else left behind before we toss it away.

As we scanour path for potentially hazardous substancesto steer our dogs away from, we might, say, pick up a piece of broken glass so the next dog doesn’t step in it and injure his paw, or snatch up a straypiece of chocolate (which is harmful to dogs) before some dog – our own or someone else’s – beats us toit.

If our dog makes a spectacular mess outdoors that’s difficult to clean, we can return to the scene with a bottle or pail of hot water and make the mess go away, so no one – human or canine – has to experience that sinking feeling of stepping in something gross. Thiscan go a long way to reducing resentment toward dogs, who sadly get blamed when their people make mistakes.

All of these actions are practically helpful, but they also have another benefit. Call it K9 Karma. Explains Dr. Laurie Nadel of Reiki for Pets USA:

“There is a Buddhist proverb that says, ‘When you do the right thing, the right thing happens.’ It’s like gravity … it works whether you believe it or not.”

Well, I believe it. On Saturday evening, the night before I missed another church service,something surprisingly nice happened (more about that in a later column).I can’t help wondering whether this surprisingly nice thing happened because I followed my dogs’ spiritual lead all week long.

Has your dog given you keen insight, inspired you to do something you wouldn’t have thought to do, or taught you a spirit lesson? Please share your experience in the comments!