Let’s take a pause. We need some levity. We need some warm, fuzzy comfort in the midst of a debate leaving many Americans feeling angry and divided more than ever.
Bring on The Westminster Dog Show!!!
This coming February 10 and 11, the oldest sporting event in the United States will be televised. I try never to miss it on television. The Westminster Dog Show will take over Madison Square Garden in New York where 2,360 dogs are competing for the coveted “Best in Show”award. They start competing in untelevised breed shows first, the winner of each breed going to the final rings of their specialty such as sporting group, guard group, toy group, and so on. That is what you will see on February 10 and 11. The final winner over the seven groups becomes an immediate darling of the media and advertising, grinning (yes, they smile) and growling on television shows starting early on the next morning’s network news.
I got to thinking this past week about the presence of dogs in our lives and I wondered if Jesus played with dogs when he was a boy. I can’t think of a child who doesn’t love dogs, or doesn’t run up to them or want to play with them. A number of times I have encountered toddlers who can barely say any words but when Finn and I appear they point to our rascal of a cocker spaniel and shout, “Doggie, doggie!” reaching to pull his “doggie” ears. I can picture young Jesus running with his pals on the Nazarene streets with a dog nipping at their heels and then falling on to the dusty hillside and Jesus reaching for the dog in a playful tumble. According to Henri Daniel Rops in his classic, Daily Life in the Time of Jesus, dogs existed in Palestine as street cleaners picking up carrion and wasted food. They were lean, almost always hungry beggars which made them nearly domesticated. An article in Anthropological Archaelology explains that drawings carved on rocks in Saudi Arabia are most likely of the Canaan, now the national dog of Israel. These drawings are somewhere around 8,000 years old establishing that the breed could have roamed the streets where Jesus lived.
The Canaan is now an accepted breed of the American Kennel Association and will gracefully run around the circumference as one of 204 breeds in final competition. It is fun to observe these animals on their best behavior. While I abhor the cutting of ears and docking of tails for show purposes, and I am not a fan of extraordinary show cuts like frothy bouffants, I can see the basic chassis, so to speak, under all that makeup and fuss. Some dogs have fur, some have hair, some have neither like the Chinese Crested who can actually get sunburned! Some breeds come in varieties like long haired, wire haired or short haired or single color, varied color, or all color but black, like the cocker spaniel. (I know. It seems unfair that this breed gets three chances for the trophy, one for each of the color requirements!) And get ready for extraordinary breed names too like, Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen, or the Shiba Inu, or Nederlandse Kooikerhondje (to be a contender next year.)
Sometimes we are too adult to engage in play; we are too worried about non-essentials. A dog –or a pet – can help us be more childlike, more open to surprise. Do you think Jesus may have noticed this in the animals, especially dogs, he encountered as a child?
Has there ever been a pet in your life whose very existence taught you something of openness to others or to enjoy the present moment as one of God’s gifts of grace and joy?