Faith
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Lessons from Saint Teddy Bear

This dog is generously fluffy and looks very much like a one metre tall doggie version of a teddy bear.

He could be a serial killer of a canine; jumping the neighbours’ fences and making tom cats’ back fur stand on end, causing tough felines to hiss and freeze in their tracks. It’s not impossible that this dog secretly races to the nearby butcher, savagely squeezes his way in and holds the stripy apron employees ransom, pillaging the off-cuts section.

“Ah, good doggie, good doggie,” responds the trembling butcher nervously, wishing he was in outer space – anywhere – than in the sphere of a bullish, bared-teeth dog.

This teddy bear dog could – could! – go to his local lake and terrorise teams of gliding ducks, jealous of their attention and also just playful for sport.

Free Stock Photo: A Golden Retriever dog fetching a tennis ball.

We can’t judge a book by its cover, nor can we deduce an animal’s personality based on appearances.

Yet that open-minded disclaimer aside (I have to appear diplomatic, you see) let me tell you about this dog in question: he’s an absolute darling, the fluffiest white large teddy bear dog I ever did see.

I don’t know his name. We’ve never met – I’ve only walked past ‘his’ house a couple of times. We did acknowledge each other briefly as I (slowly and deliberately) ambled past the fence, gazing at his cuteness.

“Hewo!” his liquid brown eyes looked at me trustingly. “Are you my owner?” he seemed to ask.

“I wish!” I responded, not daring to pat him because like I said earlier, he could be a serial killer smooth-looking doggie who could easily rip my hand apart, akin to a shark attack.

Apart from directly walking past this unnamed, large pooch (he lives only a few houses away from me) I have seen him from my car countless times as I’ve driven past his house.

I’ve never witnessed him during work hours – maybe he uses that time to hide in his backyard, ferociously nibbling a bone.

Or he could be burying it, snoozing or pouncing on a squeaky toy.

He could even be found to be doing any of those unsavoury things mentioned earlier: that’s none of my business.

Yet from 5.30pm onwards, he is visible to anyone who travels past his house. There he is, on his hind paws, propped up on his fence.

He’s actively surveying the street, no doubt waiting for his owner to come home.

He literally stays on his back paws (for better view over the fence) and waits there for hours and hours on end, only occasionally getting back onto all fours so he has the gumption to launch back into an upright posture.

He’s waiting, waiting for his owner.

He surveys left and right, up and down his street as he waits. Waits, perhaps for a familiar car to pull up, and for the only face which really matters to him, to appear.People walk past and he greets them amicably, hopefully; but the disappointment – once he realises they are not his owner, nor do they provide access to him – registers and he’s back on the job.

At 5.30pm, then 6 pm then 6.30pm, when all the cats hungrily return to back porches after a day of roaming mischief and children put down the basketballs and footballs and walk away from mudpies and the smell of barbeques and roast chickens and sautéed garlic waft from most front doors, this dog still remains in his place. Waiting.

Often, I drive past him at 8pm and he’s still there. Just him, in the same position. No cars are in his driveway yet and evidently his owner has not yet come home. That’s irrelevant, though. The dog knows he will.

He will come back for him, he will take care of him. It will happen.

Last week, as I drove past the dog’s house at 9pm and saw my teddy bear friend predictably perched up on his hind legs, hopefully scanning left and right and just waiting to see his owner, I was sad.

This poor dog’s owner hadn’t come through for him and I was disappointed for this beautiful creature.

Then, through my sadness, came something else.

You see, at just that moment, I was thinking about faith. What does faith look like, practically? How does a person get faith and what does it look like, in action?

Then I understood. This dog had taught me something about faith which I’d never learnt in church.

Free Stock Photo: Closeup portrait of a labrador with its tongue hanging out.

The knowledge that your owner will come home, that soon you will be enjoying good things and food and warmth and provision and things that only someone greater than you (like this owner his dog) can provide.

For this dog, it’s the confidence and hope and trust that his owner will come home, whether it be 5.30pm or when it’s dark.

Then I realised, we can learn a lot about faith from a dog: they are loyal, steadfast and have their eyes on the prize (whether it’s spending time with their beloved keeper/s or a juicy hunk of meat) and frankly, and in this sense their faith is undiluted, inspirational and unwavering.

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