It is Little Dog’s second birthday today.
At the moment she looks like a rather fluffy Dalmation, but in a couple of months she will be back looking like a Rastafarian Old English Sheepdog with “cords” more typical of the breed.
The Spanish Water Dog is a ” primitive breed ” which, though comparatively new to Kennel Club registration, is depicted in paintings over a thousand years ago, and thought by some to be the origins of both the Spaniel and a Poodle families. If you cross those dogs in various forms you end up with an approximation of what was known in Spain as the ” Turkish dog”, Spaniel ears and Poodle coat ,though more rustic. They probably originate in the Middle East and made their way to the Iberian peninsular via the North African coast. They are cousins to the Portuguese Water Dog made famous by President Obama’s dog, Bo.
Little Dog has been the Inspiration for more than one sermon.
She has a name, but is commonly referred to as “Little Dog” as a reminder of the Syrophonecian woman who used such creatures to model the supplicant nature of all those of us, scarcely daring to hope that we to might share in the feast, but asking for inclusion anyway. She teaches us that persistent petitioning has its reward and thus encourages us to pray in similar hope and expectation.
When preaching before Christmas on the meeting of the Virgin Mary and her cousin Elizabeth, Brother Ivo’s sermon centered on that part of the story where Elizabeth reports St John the Baptist “leaping in the womb” at the approaching Messiah.
The ancient Jews had a custom of never speaking the name of Jehovah or Yahweh: there are two words that cannot be spoken in Little Dog’s presence. They are spelt out w-a-l-k and b-a-l-l.
Imprudent use of the words launches Little Dog into paroxysm of enthusiasm, characterised by joyful leaping!
Do we contemplate the coming of the Messiah with anything like such a response? We ought to and are put to shame by our canine friends in their expressions of delight.
She is not always active.
If one is tired, ill, or despondent, one finds oneself accompanied by quiet reassuring companionship, wordless but nonetheless valued. Dogs seem to have a talent for empathy from which we all may learn. Simple presence is sometimes enough for the downcast, but often we withhold even that.
Finally there is the trusting faithfulness.
Leave Little Dog alone and on return she will be found by the front door patiently waiting her master to return. It may be hours; when Brother Ivo’s grandfather died, his dog would go to the end of street to sit patiently as he had done lunchtime and evening throughout their lives together.
Do we show such faithful patience? Do we not regard our time as the priority, our wishes pre-eminent, our needs to the for? Maybe when God leaves our petitions in abeyance there is a higher priority and we need to sit and abide our Master’s wishes, as Little Dog seems content to do.
Of course, tomorrow may be different; she may be racing around, being a playful nuisance, showing her guarding instinct by barking at every household visitor, chewing up a rubber ball under the sofa, but today she is being addressed by one of her more affectionate nicknames which is ” the Finest Dog in the Kingdom”; just maybe if he learns and follows some of the simple virtues she displays, Brother Ivo might have a sporting chance of joining her there.