Ask the Animals


A few weeks ago, I was sipping coffee on the side porch at the lake in the early morning. I could see the sun rising over the water through the trees to my left. I’d brought the dogs outside and after their usual meandering, Wally begin to sniff, then track and bark at the base of an exceptionally large pine tree.  Something had tunneled a home at the base of the tree and the terrier in him had discovered it.  Originally, Schnauzers were bred to be rat catchers.  Most days, Wally seems bred to be a pillow-top sleeper, but this particular morning his genetics took over and despite all attempts by Grizzly and neighbor-dog, Luke, Wally was not deterred nor distracted.  He was doing what God wrote in his DNA to do.  

After only a few minutes of sniffing, Grizzly lost interest as there was nothing in the hole that he could herd or rescue from the waters of the lake.  Luke, the yellow lab, saw nothing to retrieve, so he was out too.  Not Wally, his nose could not let go. 

He barked. 

And barked. 

He howled, twisting his head sideways for extra volume and effect. 

He pawed at the ground, the tree bark and then gnawed at the sides of the tree surrounding the hole.  His head and ears were moving in tandem with the creature inside that tree that only he could hear or smell or sense.  

While this went on, I sipped my coffee and watched two Canadian geese with  four baby goslings floating by our dock.  A woodpecker worked hard on another pine tree and two turtles poked their heads above the lapping lake waters, hanging out in the calm  of the slough before the morning boat traffic started up. Several birds chirped  from the branches above my head.   I was struck by the business of creation that morning.  All things in the natural world were doing what they are made to do.  Creation singing praise.  Even Wally - tracking and barking at what no other creature noticed - was fulfilling his purpose.  

I thought about what I’d written in my last post about my little Meyer Lemon tree, slowly producing fruit after years of attention.  But no tomatoes, no fresh basil (that’s in another pot), no apples (too hot to grow them here), not one other edible fruit is going to come from that tree except lemons.   

Could I be content as a lemon tree, slowly working my way up to 5 lemons (and nothing else) after three years? Can I walk away from tracking and barking if I am made to retrieve? Creation speaks that God made us to do only what we are designed to do, in certain seasons , sometimes in small quantities.  I wonder why we  compare ourselves with each other?  Why do we shame ourselves for not doing what others do or criticize them for not producing the same thing we do?   Why do we judge each other when we have different reactions to the circumstances of our lives or measure others by standards of our own? 

  Nothing else in creation does this!  

Job 12:7-10 says, “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;  or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you.  Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this?  In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” 

Clearly when I find myself measuring myself against what others are doing or tempted to judge someone for not thinking or feeling the same as I, it’s time to go outside and let the animals teach me. 

As Grizzly and Luke saunter off while Wally keeps up his barking,  neither tries to stop Wally; they let him exhaust himself doing what he was made to do and eventually when he comes around again, it’s playtime for the three of them.  Wally’s need to bark, howl, dig and paw at the hollow in the tree is between Wally and God as far as they’re are concerned. 


Shout-out to our friend, Trip Whatley, who is always ready to help at Lake Martin- even when an unknown critter and a very loud dog are involved!