Church of Dog


Rev. Charlo 

“My dog is my shepherd. I shall not want. He pulleth me to strange poop in green pastures. He leadeth me to temptation where he finds the meat morsel in the garbage. He delivereth me from myself.”

Isn’t it interesting that dogs seem mostly happy to lead their humans around to see what nature used to look like? The weeds and grasses, the pooping in the bushes, the smell of rain about to arrive, the look of the clouds as they scud across the sky. I raise my head from my iphone long enough to consider this. And then it’s back to a different reality, one that is probably less real than the one my dog is leading me through.

That’s because dogs have something to share; a command of the world that we do not. Their senses are more acute. When God gave Man a larger brain, it didn’t come with a very good set of senses. As a result, we build and build and text and text, but rely on small animals to place us in the world we were born into, and out of the ones we create.

With the loss of religion and our burgeoning unconscious disrespect for nature, it is our dogs who connect us. We are pulled back into nature out of our technology centers by a little scout, a pilot.

He leadeth me into my own neighborhood daily, and bringeth me such neighbors as haven’t seen me in a while.

“I’m just looking at the changes in the neighborhood,” says Alyssa.

“How nice,” I say, and my dog Charlo noses her leg.

“Yes, it changes from day to day with what we do, and season to season with what God does,” she goes on. “I love what they’ve done to their front garden, these people. I don’t know their name.”

“Mary,” I reply.

“Yes, that Mary, she’s done a great job here. Look at those flowers. Did Madeleine go to college, I haven’t seen her around.”

“Yes. We’re empty nesters now,” I reply. “And this weekend Maria is away in Florida.“

“Oh, you should come visit, I know that Browning would be happy to see you.”

“Would be delighted to.”

This doesn’t happen when you have no dog to walk.

And, walking the dog brings other non-dog-walking acolytes out. An elderly lady with a mini-leaf blower in one hand walks out her front door and spies us.  “Hi pooch. What’s her name. Oh she’s a cutie. Oh, sorry, boy? Well no wonder he’s so standoffish. He’s got to show who’s the boss.” Then she recedes to her doorway and blows the four leaves that have accumulated on her welcome mat far out into the street, like somehow nature is impinging on her humanity.

I don’t mean to over idealize other creatures, just to say that they are closer to the actual world—the one we are born into and die out of– than we are.  Charlo has his biases. It is tribal I am sure. He always greets the poodles with a nice wet nose, but the German Shepherds can be a block away and he will strain at the leash, growl, bark and attempt to viciously attack while being held by this thin nylon woven thing between us.  The same is true for Pit Bulls.  Some ancient wrong by warring dog tribes that has never been righted still rankles him, and so suspicions and paranoia reign.

You see, they are only a little above us, these dogs. Not leagues. But if we’re to understand our own humanity, they are a necessity.

“He restoreth my soul. He guideth me in the paths of righteousness. Even though I walk through the street of careless garbage, I will fear no evil, just wrap your leash more tightly around my left hand and tug more often.–‘Don’t eat that Charlo, that’s disgusting.’”