Magazine Article

It Could Be a Dog’s Life

Chantal & Gerald Klingbeil
It Could Be a Dog’s Life

Our little town is nestled on the outskirts of the Saxon Forest, close to Hamburg, Germany, which means that we can enjoy long walks in the forest. On our walks we regularly meet people walking their dogs. The dogs are generally not on a leash and run in front of their owners sniffing and generally enjoying themselves.

While the dogs may be enjoying their walk, things can look different from other people’s perspectives. It can be quite nerve-rattling to have large dogs barreling toward you. As ex-dog owners (our elderly dog Amelia passed away a year before our move from Maryland to Germany), we remember when a younger Amelia got out of the backyard and our frustrated attempts to catch her as she ran down the road enjoying her newfound freedom. We ran after her yelling her name as we desperately tried to catch her before she reached a busy four-lane road. Amelia added to our frustration by letting us get within a few feet before dashing just out of reach, thinking that this was all a wonderful game. Would these dog owners be able to intervene, or were we facing a potential dog attack or some overfriendly jumping and licking assault?

We have discovered that we have nothing to worry about. Invariably, as soon as a dog in the forest becomes aware of us, he will stop and stare. This is the decisive moment. We can almost see what the dog is thinking: Ah, people—here I have a potential threat! Are they friend or foe? Most dogs we know from past experiences will either start barking or rush toward us to investigate. But the dogs we meet on our walks in the woods do neither. As soon as the dog becomes aware of our presence, he immediately turns around and looks for his owner and then, without being called, rushes back to the owner’s side and looks up at the owner expectantly (we suspect waiting for a treat). The dog will remain at the owner’s side until we have safely passed. What remarkable behavior! We know that this is not natural and that both owner and dog have obviously spent considerable time in dog training school. It has set us thinking.

A Different Approach

What would it look like if we adopted these dogs’ approach to life? Perhaps instead of wishing our lives to be some beautiful Instagram post, we would be open to the many evidences of God’s love in the here and now. We would see life as a humble walk with our God (Micah 6:8), and when faced with a new potentially threatening situation or transition, we wouldn’t have to start worrying (Matt. 6:25). We wouldn’t have to list all the potential bad outcomes that could come from a perceived threat. Instead of focusing on the problem, we would immediately run to God’s side (2 Chron. 20:12) and not cower there, but our eyes would be on Him expectantly (Ps. 123:2). We would open our mouths wide (Ps. 81:10) to be ready for the treat that we know is coming. And with our focus fully on our God, we would be able to wait patiently (James 5:7). None of this comes naturally, but this sort of “obedience schooling,” not with an owner but with a loving heavenly Father, is definitely something we want to enroll in.

Chantal & Gerald Klingbeil

Chantal J. Klingbeil, Ph.D., and Gerald A. Klingbeil, D.Litt., have served the Adventist Church for nearly three decades interna-tionally as professors, TV host, editor, and associate director. They now live close to the beautiful city of Hamburg, Germany, and serve in the Hanseatic Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.