by Dale Reeves
According to nationaldaycalendar.com, among other celebrations today, August 26 is “National Dog Day.” This day has been set aside for celebrating “man’s best friend” since 2004. Pet and Family Lifestyle expert Colleen Paige chose this day because it was August 26 when her family adopted her sheltie when she was ten years old. While this day encourages dog ownership of all breeds, the National Dog Day Foundation aims to bring to the forefront the need for rescuing dogs. Their goal is to rescue 10,000 dogs every year. According to the National Pet Owners Survey, 85 million Americans own at least one pooch.
Whether mixed or purebred, dogs provide companionship and security, and they can help to keep us healthy, both physically and mentally. The American Heart Association reports that dogs can help a person healing from a cardiac event. So, while our pets figuratively can melt our hearts, they can also literally save them. Dogs have also proven to help improve our moods and help ease anxiety. Frontiers in Psychology published a study showing that even small interactions with dogs can release oxytocin, a hormone that helps us fight pain and relieve stress. Of course, on the other side of that coin, sometimes our dogs can drive us crazy as well!
Traits Worth Emulating
Even though every now and then our lovable pets do some things to get them put back in the doghouse, there are many traits they have that are worth celebrating today.
This one’s at the top of the list. A great dog is a loyal dog to its master. No doubt you’ve seen some of those heartbreaking photos of a dog who stayed loyal to the end, lying down next to a serviceman’s casket or grave. A loyal canine knows its master’s (or masters) voice. When my wife and I have gone out somewhere, then return home and pull into the garage, our schnauzer Daisy knows it’s us. Even though she is losing her hearing now at the age of thirteen, she recognizes the sound of the garage door opening, our cars pulling in, and our voices calling out, “We’re home, girl!”
Proverbs 20:6 tells us, “Many will say they are loyal friends, but who can find one who is truly reliable?” (NLT).
Did you know that dogs can use their sense of smell to detect how humans are feeling? Studies show that they recognize feelings of stress and fear as well as happier emotions in those they love. When someone is having a bad day, we would do well to emulate our dogs’ behavior—sit close by them, sit in silence if necessary, and nuzzle them gently. Because dogs don’t have to overcome any feelings of guilt or unforgiveness, they freely give out unconditional love.
“Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude” (1 Peter 3:8, NLT).
To a dog the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face is pure ecstasy. They thrive on attention when their loved ones pet them. When they’re happy, they dance and wag their entire body. There is nothing better to them than running and romping and chasing their favorite toy with their master. They delight in the simple joy of a nice walk in beautiful weather. If you want to really see your dog get excited, pull out some Frosty Paws ice cream from your freezer, and watch your pet go to town. And at the end of a hard workout of play, they relish the gift of a well-deserved nap.
“So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life” (Ecclesiastes 8:15, NLT).
Dogs are fiercely protective of their owner and his territory. You may have a good watchdog at your house, or perhaps you have a coward. We’ve often said that our Daisy would run away with a stranger if he had a treat in his hand. But she has always had a special affinity for babies. As each of our four grandchildren were in the drooling, baby-talk stage, Daisy has always wanted to sit right there with them, sensing the need to protect them from being stepped on. And then as they get older and they start stealing her toys and chasing her around the house, she typically runs away or hides under the kitchen table.
Our God never runs away when he sees trouble confronting us. “But the Master never lets us down. He’ll stick by you and protect you from evil” (2 Thessalonians 3:3, The Message).
A study conducted by some psychologists a few years ago revealed that dogs are capable of learning the same amount of words and commands as a two-year-old child. The average dog can understand about 165 words. Our Daisy was so smart that my wife had to take her to obedience training twice, because she thought she could outsmart us! According to the American Kennel Club, “Explosives-detection dogs can smell as little as a trillionth of a gram of TNT or another explosive. . . . A tracking dog can tell which direction someone is moving in from smelling just five of their footprints. This sense of smell gives dogs remarkable insights into their environment.”
We would do well to heed the words of wise King Solomon: “Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them” (Proverbs 4:5, NIV).
Dog people often joke that while dogs care more about their masters, cats care only about themselves. I’m sure most cat owners would argue with this assessment. Service dogs help their disabled handlers through tasks such as guiding them around obstacles while walking; alerting them to noises such as alarms, sirens, or oncoming traffic; retrieving water bottles, medication, or dropped objects; and diffusing anxiety attacks. May we seek to be as devoted to serving our Master as dogs are to theirs.
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:10, 11, NIV).
Pastor Adam Hamilton believes that great dogs paint a wonderful picture of God’s “hesed” love (his loving-kindness). Click here to check out this video.
Extra Cuddles Today
According to the website thereisadayforthat.com, here are six suggested ways for celebrating this special day with your pooch:
- Make a donation to a pet shelter, helping to fill up their must-have items such as food, treats, paper towels, or money.
- Spoil your dog by taking an extra-long walk, giving tummy rubs, and lots of extra praise today.
- Sign your dog up for an obedience, agility, or behavioral class, which can also be a gift to others your dog is around consistently.
- Stretch your dog’s mental abilities by teaching him or her a new trick or a new game.
- If you have kids, grandkids, or you’re a child a heart, today is a great day for snapping fun pictures with your dog and sharing them wherever you share your photos. (Our Daisy especially enjoys pics of her in Halloween costumes!)
- Perhaps the best gift you can give your dog today is some extra cuddles. It will benefit you and show your pooch how much you really care about him or her.
Although there are a few exceptions, dogs are creatures that remind us of God’s creativity, his goodness, his grace, his comfort, and his unconditional love. He wants us to enjoy the abundant life he provides as much as a dog shows his love for his master with a tail-wagging exuberance that says, “I couldn’t wait for you to get home. Let’s play!”