October 26, 2012

What Brownie Taught Me

God must love dogs—I’m convinced of that. I believe that He created this animal to become “man’s best friend” and that He placed the instincts of loyalty and faithfulness in the heart of this wonderful creature. A dog’s love is unconditional; it makes no difference to a dog about its master’s race, gender, occupation, or reputation.

A classic example of the faithfulness and loyalty of a dog is the tale of Greyfriars Bobby in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the late nineteenth century. There is a statue just outside Greyfriars church cemetery honoring the Skye terrier who stayed by his master’s grave for 14 years. Bobby knew exactly where his master, John Gray, was, and wanted to wait for him. After 14 years, the story goes, the dog died on Gray’s grave still waiting.

I experienced the loyalty of a dog at an early age. Our family dog, a rat terrier named Nancy, would rush out of her doghouse and try to bite me if I got too close to her pups. After Nancy died, we had no dog until I was 10 years old. We lived on a small farm in the beautiful hills of southern Ohio, and we owned a cow, horses, chickens, and other farm animals—but no dog!

2012 1530 page31One day, on a visit to the village some five miles from our home, my dad befriended a husband and wife who wanted to find a new home for their small dog, Brownie, because they were no longer able to care for him. The next day my father and I walked about four miles to this couple’s log cabin to meet Brownie. For both Brownie and me it was love at first sight. He was a beautiful, short-haired, mixed-breed dog with a stubby tail. I put him on a leash, and we headed to the farm. I was delighted to have a dog of my own again. I fixed a nice bed on the porch for him, fed him, and loved him. He enjoyed his new home.

As we explored our 160-acre farm, Brownie loved chasing rabbits and squirrels. For days I was the happiest farm boy you could imagine. Brownie was my constant companion. But early one morning I went to his bed, and he was not there! I walked the four miles back to the cabin where Brownie had lived, and there he was. We had a happy reunion, but I had a serious talk with him before taking him back to our farm. Only a few days later, however, Brownie went missing again. I was heartbroken.

My mother, who understood both boys and dogs quite well, explained to me that Brownie’s greatest love and loyalty were to the master who had raised him from a puppy. She also didn’t miss the opportunity to remind me of the love, loyalty, and faithfulness that we must all have toward our Master, Jesus. It was a hard lesson for me, one that I still remember after some 70 years.

Brownie was a four-legged object lesson on love, and I can’t help thinking how nice it would be if everyone were always loyal and faithful to their friends and family, just as this dog was to his master. As long as we have life, God expects us to show love, loyalty, and faithfulness to both Him and to our fellow human beings. This is the sweetest lesson I learned from Brownie. 

N. Gordon Thomas is a professor emeritus of history at Pacific Union College. This article was published October 25, 2012.