Dogs are mentioned more
than a dozen times in
the Bible. St. Francis of
Assisi talked to the animals
and even tamed a
wolf because he believed they were
creatures of God, like us.
And of course "dog" is "God" spelled
backward. What do we mean when we
say that? It's just a cute saying—something
we direct toward other dog lovers.
Even the most fanatical dog lovers,
however, would probably not confuse
their canines with the Almighty. But I
did have a spiritual enlightening once
that was inspired by my dog. Never
mind cats, now. That's another story.
God made dogs for us to have as
companions and helpers, and for the
immeasurable pleasure and happiness
they give us. Perhaps it's a stretch to
think that dogs were also meant to
teach us about God's love. With all that
dogs mean to us, is that too much to
There are over 74 million owned
dogs in the United States. Thirty-nine
percent of American households own at
least one dog. Over $45 billion will be
spent on pets this year in the United
States alone. That's double the amount
of 10 years ago. According to the American
Veterinary Medical Association,
74 percent of dog owners consider their
pet as a child or family member.
Obviously, there is something very
human about dogs. Is there something
very Godlike about us? With all that
God created, would it be unreasonable
to think that God also made dogs to
teach us about his love for us? It seems
to me like something God would do.
I was cozying up in bed with Rick
Warren's latest book at the time—The
Purpose Driven® Life: What on Earth Am
I Here For? He might not be happy to
know that I wasn't so much inspired by
his words as I was by the dog sitting
there watching me. I can only hope that Warren doesn't misconstrue this to
be unflattering. Actually, his words did get through to me, but not without
the help of my dog, Ashley, a Chow-Saint Bernard mix.
I happened to be reading that our
purpose is to make God smile. I had
been taught by the classic Baltimore
Catechism that God made us "to know
Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in
this world, and to be happy with Him
forever in the next." Not a word about
smiling. So I stopped and glanced over
at my dog, who was on the end of the
bed, watching me read as though it
were the most fascinating thing she
had ever seen.
This was so amusing to me that I
involuntarily, unconsciously smiled.
Ashley made me smile. Is that how God
feels when we turn our eyes and hearts
toward him? We wait to hear God's
silent words to us, watching for a sign
that he's there, that he listens, that he
cares. Skeptics might say that the dog
was hoping for a treat, but I know better.
In that instant I knew something
very important: We make God smile.
Dogs depend on us for everything.
They yearn to bring us pleasure and to
feel that we love them. Is that not how
God wants us to be toward him? Can
we say we love God as much as our
dogs love us?
With the love I feel for God—and
my dog—as well as the love and companionship
they give me, I couldn't
help but dig deeper into this new
Dogs want to be close to us.
They will curl up at our feet
even if the bare, hard floor is
not as comfortable as their favorite
cushion. They jump up when they see
us because they want to be as close to
our faces as they can get.
Is that not how it is when we kneel
to pray? We can pray while seated or
even lying down, but sometimes it
seems better on bended knee. We do
this to make us feel closer to God. Does
this make God smile? I think so.
Dogs try so hard with head-twisting,
to understand words we speak
to them in a language that is not their
own. Their faces are so amusing when
they are trying to understand what we
are saying. We are creatures of a totally
different species, as we are to God.
If God's words were easy to understand,
there wouldn't be 38,000 different
denominations all based on the
Bible (World Christian Encyclopedia,
2001). Yet dogs do learn to recognize
some of our words out of sheer desire
to understand us. They learn commands
first, then they recognize when
it's time for a walk or where the snacks
Do we try to listen to God telling us
what he wants us to do? Do we learn
God's commands first and then long to
go deeper in our understanding? When
we try to hear God, does God smile? I
Our motives and values are
beyond a dog's ability to understand.
They are puzzled that
we are upset over a chewed shoe or a
hole dug in the yard. To a dog, these are
Neither can we really understand
God—whether it's the challenges we
face, the trials God allows us to endure
or our seemingly unanswered prayers.
There are mysteries we contemplate
but may never grasp, like the Trinity or
Our dogs seem to accept our greater
wisdom even if they can't understand
our ways. Do we do that with God?
And does it make God smile when we
try to understand what cannot be
understood? I think so.
Dogs test their boundaries.
They escape from their safe
backyard to run wild for a
while—not because they don't love us,
but just to have some fun. Isn't that
how we are sometimes with God? And
after a while, after the fun is over and
the cold sets in and we're hungry, do we
not long for God? Do we not come
limping and weak, filthy and tearful, to
scratch at the door, asking for readmittance
to the warmth of God's love?
Scripture assures us that God will
always forgive us and welcome us
home. And does God smile when the
prodigal comes home? I think so.
Dogs are overjoyed to see us
whether we have been away
for a few days or only a few
hours. We may leave something of ourselves
to comfort our dogs to let them
know we will be back in time—a concept
they cannot fathom. Jesus said to
partake in the Last Supper in remembrance
of him. It is God's way of being
with us still until he comes again.
Does God smile when we receive
Holy Communion and hold him in our hearts while we wait to be with
him forever? I think so.
Dogs belong to us. We own
them. We call them "our"
dogs. And we belong to God
because he has made us his own. We are
told that God cares for us so much as
to number the hairs on our heads. God
has our names in his book. God knew
us before we were born. He has watched
over and guided us throughout the history
We belong to God and we did nothing
to deserve this. Does God smile on
us just because we're his? I think so.
Dogs come when we call them.
It is the most important command
we teach our pets—for
their own good, to protect them from
harm. Do we respond when God calls?
Are we ready to do God's will—whatever
he asks, whenever he asks? Are we
ready to be with God in heaven whenever
that call may come?
God told us to be ready. Would it
not make God smile if we come willingly
when he calls? I think so.
According to The New York
Times, researchers in San Diego
found that subjects were able
to match pictures of dog owners with
their pets more often than not. We
dress them up in silly clothes and fix
their hair to please our taste and mimic
our appearance—at least, a great number
of us do. But most of us tend to
choose a dog breed that is of a nature
and personality most like our own.
Is this what God meant when he
said we are made in his image and likeness?
Is this why so often our depiction
of God in art resembles what we consider
the best in human form, with a
halo over our head and eyes turned
upward to heaven? Does it make God
smile to see us trying to be like him? I
Dogs freak out over silly things.
We know that their fears are
unfounded—that they are perfectly
safe—but dogs don't seem to
know that. Bring something big, new
and strange into the house and you
will have something to laugh at for
quite a while.
When there is a storm, our dog may
cry and cower under the bed or try to
climb onto our lap, regardless of
whether he can actually fit there. God
has told us not to fear because he is
with us always. God expected the apostles
to know this, and he expects that
of us, too. When we freak out over
things, does God smile? I think so.
Dogs notoriously find
their way home when
lost. Books have been
written and movies have been made
of near-miraculous treks these animals
have made over treacherous miles. Sporadically,
such events in real life appear
in the news.
No matter how far we stray, we can
always find our way back to God. He
made us that way. And when we find our
way home, does God smile? I think so.
As a nation, we spend a
fortune on our pets. We
shower them with gifts
and loving care, feeding them special
foods and rewarding them with treats
and toys. We give to our dogs because we
love them and want them to be happy.
God gives things to us, too, often
much more than we really need. God
blesses us in ways we may not know,
understand or appreciate. Do we thank
God or do we whimper for the next
toy? He may say yes, no, later or maybe.
But does God smile when he blesses
us? I think so.
Dogs are famous for giving
their lives to protect
us. Whether it is the trusty
Saint Bernard in the snowy Alps, the
sleek and speedy Dalmatian fearlessly
charging into a burning building or
the brave police dogs who aid our officers
in keeping our streets safe: It is the
nature of the dog to give his own life,
if need be, for us.
It could be required that we become
martyrs for God's sake, and we hope to
have the courage to honor God this
way. On a more regular basis, we find
ourselves asked to make little sacrifices
for the glory of God. Whether it is giving
scarcely available money to the
poor or volunteering at a homeless
shelter, food pantry or hospital—we
It might only be giving up a favorite
TV show to pray a Rosary for world
peace or for the souls in purgatory.
Does God smile at our sacrifices?
Oh yes, I think so.
Phyllis Schomaker is a retired freelance writer who
has coauthored and edited books for Publications
International, mostly on self-help and little-known
facts about the government. A mother of four and
grandmother of nine, she lives in Barnett, Missouri.