You Can Learn From a Dog

Mo after he broke a toenail fetching the ball

I’ve learned a lot from the dogs who’ve shared our lives. Their love, loyalty and single-minded devotion have warmed my heart and taught me often. This week it was our Dachshund, Mo, and his OCD passion for playing fetch with a handball. Recently, fetching the ball in our unfinished basement, he brought the ball back to me and held up one paw . . . dripping blood. He had broken his nail in his obsession to fetch the ball.

I do think if I threw it 24/7, he would fetch it 24/7. We play fetch in our yard several times a week, a few times two or three times a day. Occasionally, he’s so winded he stops to just rest, chew on the ball and catch his breath. The Fall days have shortened now. It’s getting dark earlier. What amazes me is, he wants to continue to fetch in the dark. Only a rather dim porch light offers a way to see. Yet, I throw the ball into a dark part of the yard only to have him dash after it, bring it back and drop it at my feet saying in essence, “Throw it again.” I must confess I enjoy this back and forth, and I’m often laughing at his antics.

But there’s a puzzling question. How does he so quickly retrieve the ball in the dark? After all the ball is dark too, and the grass is dark! Many times I’ve wondered, “where is it?” and here he comes proudly carrying the ball. That’s where the lesson emerged. He’s focused. Laser focused. It’s the only thing on his mind. He is not distracted or deterred.    

What if we were that laser focused on tuning up our marriage? What if we let nothing distract us from building a healthy relationship with a son, daughter or grandchild? Or a special friend? Or a co-worker, or neighbor? Or someone we feel nudged to get to know better? What if we put the laser on getting our spending and budgeting under control?

What if we were laser focused on knowing God? What if building a healthy, meaningful relationship with God dominated our thinking? What if we targeted certain people or concerns with laser focused prayer? Can you image the impact? God becoming more than a name or an enigma, and our relationship with God being filled with spirit and significance could bring us, too, back for more. Seeing the results of laser focused prayer could raise our enthusiasm, too, for talking with God, even in the dark.

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian church: “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13b-14, NIV). One thing I do is how Mo fetches the ball. Laser focus could affect many things for us too.

Author: Randy J. Gauger

Follower of Jesus Christ, Mary's husband for 55 years, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, preacher, ordained American Baptist Pastor retired, writer.

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