Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dog Day Afternoon

September 21, 2009
Dog Day Afternoon

Do dogs have emotions? That seemed like a harmless conversation for Christian friends to enjoy over lunch. While ordering salad Gretchen (names have been changed to protect the innocent) extolled the incredible smarts and heart of her pooch. “I just know that Fido (again a pseudonym) senses when I’m sad and cuddles up to comfort me. He’s so sweet.”

With deadpan delivery, I replied, “You think your dog sympathizes? You’re projecting human emotions onto an animal.”

Heads spinning like Regan in The Exorcists they intoned, “You don’t think dogs have feelings?

Awkward. “Animals don’t have a soul,” I defended, “which the Bible describes as the seat of emotions. And only humans have emotions.” I protested that this conversation put us on a theological slippery slope. We were headed to dangerous Creation vs. Evolution territory.

“Well, my dogs gets sad and happy,” said Tiffany (not her real name), “and no one can tell me otherwise.”

I countered, “Have you ever seen a cow cry over an amazing sunset?”

“Everything you attribute to emotion can be explained by instinct, trained response, or reflexes like Pavlov’s dogs,” I continued. Little did I know that I’d started something close to the Middle East Crisis at our table. To save the friendship and our appetites we agreed to change the subject. But knowing my friends like I do, I knew we would each run home to google and gather evidence for our side of the argument.

Dog lovers (and I consider myself one) don’t hate me for the following facts. But in Bible times dogs get a very bad rap. They were half-wild creatures that roamed in packs often feeding on refuse, including dead bodies. The term “dog” referred to impure people since they are considered unclean. False prophets were called dogs as well as those shut out of the kingdom of heaven.

The nicest thing mentioned about dogs in the New Testament was a conversation between Jesus and a Gentile woman who defended her need for Jesus’ healing touch as much as the Jewish people. “Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs” (Mark 7:28 NKJV). Note that she did not elevate a dog to the level of a human, but demoted herself to the low estate of a dog.

So, where am I going with this? I don’t think there’s time on a blog about a bald woman with cancer to debate this issue. Truthfully, I’d love to change up the conversation for a bit. Talking about oneself continuously just feels self indulgent. (See, I just referred to myself in the third person.) I’m not going into denial or anything. I just don’t want to become the poster-child for peritoneal cancer. I’ll continue to update you. However, would it be okay if we talked about other stuff, too?

All my friends know that I adore my dog, Winston. He’s the most brilliant and precocious canine in the universe. Every night he indulges me when he comes to bed and allows me to pet him for as long as he can endure. Then with a harrumph he moves to the end of the bed…as far out of my reach as possible. I’ve heard that a pet (specifically petting them) lowers the blood pressure. So there’s my proof. I get emotional gratification from my dog and since he’s a pack animal my grooming him proves that he’s the Alpha. But my affection for my dog doesn’t warp my Biblical basics.


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  2. Hi Lenya thank you for the dog story
    did you get another one too. i thought i read on skips fb that you were getting another one.
    i have two dogs i thought i could not love the other one as much but some how i love them both
    my puppy Kona if you say "smooch" he just kisses you he is so sweet and happy his tails wags and he smiles even on his walks. max my grandpa dog (as rick and i call him) he is half german sheppard and husky he loves people ...he barks at other dogs.
    he is great cuddler i hug him every night as stuffed animal and i think like you said it really does lower blood pressure he brings me comfort and he loves it too
    i hug him till i fall asleep or he can stand it then he bails off the bed but i love relaxing with them they are so sweet
    now kona will not cuddle as much as i try but he is such a sweetheart too. we take him to the dog beach in Huntington beach and he goes up to each dog personally and greets them he licks them runs in the water with them it is really cute. and a ton of fun.
    how old is winston? what is your new dog's name? what breed. almost one year for anniversary for your awesome son and his wife.
    i bet your are one proud mom that he did his first wedding. we love him too. we met him at ocean hills. we love levi and his family too. and of coure you and skip too.
    we are so blessed by the work God is doing in freshlife, and also ABQ God is so good.
    we go to the studies in irvine the oc study with greg laurie it has been such a blessing
    the church they hold it at is really cool too. it is on the 2nd floor and has like cushions on the ceiling prob sound proofing but looks like leather black cushions to me. it is called free church it near newport beach too (it is off jamboree and alton, a street called mcgaw. i worked so much yesterday my feet hurt. i worked from 9am til 8pm i did a business expo and was at the expo on my feet for 8 hr. they are still aching i know it will go away though. God is so good. even when we get negatives in life as i had two negative comments yesterday (which in my oppinion i was like oh boy there you go again, you know how some peeps are just that way) but all in all the good outweighted the bad. and four vendors gave me flowers that were there table decoration it was the meaning of them that really blessed me more than anything it is good to have a job that involves others i really enjoy it.
    just wanted to say hi and hope you have a blessed day
    we have a friend who said it is learning to dance in the rain...God is showing you.
    i love you and thanks for just talking too
    but again we are your friends and care too.
    so thanks again
    and be sure to let us know when you are going to be a grandma okay.

  3. Ah, thank you so much, Lenya! As a confirmed dog lover who has raised a few canines over the years, I agree with you wholeheartedly. About the strongest emotion dogs exhibit is jealousy, usually motivated by competition for food. That 'love' we think we see in our dog's eyes is SELF-love, motivated by a desire to get whatever he wants. And of course, if we think it's love, we pretty much capitulate, don't we? But there's a mutuality in it that's quite pleasant. Give Winston a ruffle for me! I miss having a dog...

  4. My mom was a farm mom and at her house there was no room for doggies in the home. ;) They belonged outside. Period. I may irritate some people for saying so, but even as much as we enjoy our dogs, I think that the philosophical drift of our culture has lot to do with our overemphasis of the outpouring of affection on to animals. Human relationships can be disappointing sometimes. There's no getting around that. But agreeing with Lenya here on the role of animals in Gods universe. I think we are to overcome our need to 'get' and still give even if we get nothing in return. If our animals might tend to delay the proper reaction on that interaction with others, there might be a problem.

    As far as IQ and what dogs know, I note that our German short hair is very sensitive to what she thinks I think about people entering the yard or house. But I also think it is by God's design that some dogs seem very high IQed but even if for the sake of companionship. Just because she seems to make some rational decisions that doesn't mean that she can possibly go to heaven. A computer can make some rational decisions too. Most importantly, the Bible says nothing whatsoever about the resurrection of animals.


  5. Dear Lenya,
    I so enjoy reading your blogs you have such a gift with writing. I need to read some of your books! So how about kittens? My son and I just got two. In my opinion they may resemble human behavior more then dogs do ( I'm not sure about emotions I do not think they really have any! ). They (cats) are self absorbed,independent,temperamental with their love and much like humans they have no idea this could be a problem! But unlike dogs and humans they show no sense of regret over bad behavior.
    As far as seeing them in heaven, I'm not really sure, but I doubt we will be thinking much about it once we are in the Lords presence. His Glory will consume us...won't it? I look forward to His return for His church and the day I see Him face to face. My prayer is that He will be pleased and that I would have been found faithful. Thank you for your example of faithfulness in your circumstances.
    You are still in my prayers and I so enjoy your blogs!
    Blessings on you. Congratulations on being a grandma!!

  6. Hello Lenya and Congrats on becoming a Granny, Grandma, Nanna and all of the above! What a wonderful blessing in times of struggle.

    I wanted to "weigh in" on the dog debate. I think that many of the folks that attend Calvary on Saturday nights have actually seen my wonderful Taz. He is a beautiful big black lab and he is trained as an emergency medical response dog and I am trained as a "certified master handler". He actually knows about 90 commands. Quite impressive I think, but does that give him a soul? I don't believe so. Now there is no denying his "soulful" eyes when he wants a tasty treat and his "mournful" glances when I'm walking out the door but these adjectives more properly describe humans if we look to the bible for our answers. I have had many a human approach me more concerned about the well being of my "poor service dog" having to "wear that vest" than why I might actually have a need for a service dog. This strange phenomenon of more concern for my dog than me has been even more noticable recently because for about the past two or three months I haven't been using Taz's services and folks seem dissappointed that he no longer accompanies me. He is a great companion but PRAISE GOD that I haven't had a seizure in 8 months and that's something to celebrate! Do I think dogs go to heaven? No I don't. This gives us all the more reason to appreciate them as the earthly companions and helpers that God intended them to be.
    My prayers are with you and I hope that Winston serves you well.

  7. Hi Lenya!

    Sorry I removed my post.....ugh! I saw all my spelling errors!! I need revise what I said too... I was up so late writing and rambled a bit!

    I was thrilled to see your studies here in NZ! We just need more! You’re so fortunate in the U.S. with all that is available to you in way of great bible studies and resources. We try to bring as many things as we can on our trips back and forth. I love your studies....and your jewelry too :~)
    Praying for you~ always~
    Big hugs!

  8. Plus doggies looove trying to keep up with your kids even when you can't! ;) (see profile pic)

    Glad also to hear that (if I heard this correctly) you will have a granddaughter. Yea! Girls are such a hoot! After many years of an all guy household and you doing so well working with so many different women and girls you certainly are due to have one of your own!

    What a blessing. :)

    Never quite understood the countries and cultures that don't value girls very highly. Has a little to do with the pet discussion I think. Drift in philosophies of prioritization and all that.

  9. so cute!! Loved your singing on Skips FB. You can change the subject whenever you want!! Hey Denise and I ran a marathon last year in Oklahoma City. (The Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon). I was wondering if you would like to run in it next year. We could meet there. In could be an amazing time of fellowship with all of our running sisters. Think about it. We would need to start training in January. Last year we used a 16 wk training schedule we found on line. Let me know!! Love you, Renee

  10. For a very sweet take on God & Dogs click on this link:

    Enjoy! ~ Karen

  11. I remember also once when I was terribly down..."Rascal" my shitsu crawled up on my chest and just lay there...

    Truly amazing. There is indeed research. Now they are training them for Veterans.

    "Man's Best Friend..." One of them below the Lord and family for sure!

  12. Hello Lenya,

    I do not know you personally, although I have heard much about you from a mutual friend, Dave G. in the L.A. area. He cannot sing your praises loud enough. (and has been for years) I did not know of your battle (was going to say bout..... but that is more suited to the common cold, or perhaps the flu)... yes battle with cancer. I will include you and your family in my prayers, as my wife just lost her dad to cancer about three weeks ago... he had colon cancer which everyone thought was in remission for seven years... oooops a daisy!

    My own mother succumbed to esophageal (sp?) cancer about ten years ago.

    So enough said, I will add you to our prayer list.

    Now on to the matter of the dogs......

    I am surprised that the issue of 'talking animals' mentioned in the Bible did not come up.

    I am able to pretty much dismiss the occasion of the speaking serpent in the Garden... because of Satan's powers.

    But I would like to hear your thoughts as to Balaam's Ass. Without giving my own self serving thoughts, I would like it (if you ever read this comment given so far out of time) if you could kind of evaluate that whole scene from your perspective on animals.

    It will be fun for you I am sure. And a nice mental distraction from other perhaps less fun cleaning house or something.

    Muchas Gracias.....

    Don Harris
    PS My brother Alex Harris, I think, knows your husband Skip.