Life Lessons – ultimately, it’s all about the heart.

Those who subscribe to this blog who happen to be “animal lovers” may find this a bit hard to believe, but it is true nevertheless.  There are millions of people in our society who never cried even a little when they watched Old Yeller die.  There are people out there who never shed a tear as the amber liquid was slowly pumped into into the veins of author John Grogan’s yellow labrador named Marley and he closed his eyes forever in the arms of his “master”.  It’s tragic, but still true.

I submit there are too many people who look at animals as mere commodities, or even as nuisances, and do so with hearts of pure stone.   More often than not, this is the mindset that permeates the cold corporate board rooms of America these days, and too often permeates the mentality of many in our nation’s ranks of law enforcement as well.  The mantra: show no emotion. Be efficient.  Do your job and do it well.  If you enter private property and encounter a pet such as Grogan’s “Marley” who wishes to protect their master’s home and property a bit aggressively – just pull your gun and take care of the problem.  Do it without emotion, and do it just because YOU CAN.  It seems this tragedy is playing out across America; for roughly every hour and a half some family dog is killed by law enforcement personnel.    See

The Life Lesson is this: such coldness towards animals, especially pets, is a symptom of a much bigger disease plaguing America and the world: Love is Waxing Cold.

I don’t mind telling you my friends – I cried when Old Yeller died.  I shed even more hot tears when Marley said goodbye, because you see, like John Grogan shared so poignantly in his bestselling book and movie – I too have loved and lost some very special, loyal canine companions similar in so many ways to “Marley” over the last three decades.  So have tens of thousands of others.

Enter, the Life Lesson.

Why is it, dear Reader, that the more incorrigible and “bad” the dog is in his behavior, the more lovable he/she eventually becomes to its master?   Old Yeller was highly skilled above all other dogs at sucking eggs and stealing meat from the smokehouse – yet he was loved all the more because of it.  Grogan’s Marley was not only highly skilled at being a “problem” in every imaginable “dog” way – but his habitual behavior was so “bad” he was kicked out of obedience school.  Yet, in spite of this, Marley was loved by his family in a powerful, and rare way.

Here is the reality: Marley was simply being a dog in every possible way – both good as well as bad.  Perhaps a part of it was because he was the runt of the litter, and not deemed as valuable from the outset.  Grogan often called Marley the “World’s Worst Dog”.  Yet, Marley was also in many ways, the very best.  Here’s how Grogan described it: “Dogs are great. Bad dogs, if you can really call them that, are perhaps the greatest of them all.”

I submit it is all a matter of EMOTION.  A “bad” dog often evokes the emotion of heated anger and frustration from their master. However, they are just following their nature and “being a dog”.  Emotion is the key – in actuality, as far as brain wave measurement is concerned, there is very little difference between the emotion of anger and the emotion of tender heartfelt love in the human brain.  The two brainwaves are very closely related as a matter of fact.  The point is, Marley and Old Yeller excelled as dogs go, exactly because they brought their best qualities to the relationship in equal measure with their natural tendencies, i.e. their “problems”.   This endeared them with a unique heart bond with their human partners.  This, then, is the great life lesson – learning about unconditional, pure love.

Grogan wrote these words: “A dog has no use for fancy cars, big homes, or designer clothes. A water logged stick will do just fine. A dog doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, clever or dull, smart or dumb. Give him your heart and he’ll give you his. How many people can you say that about? How many people can make you feel rare and pure and special? How many people can make you feel extraordinary?” 

He also wrote: “Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day. 
It is amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives and even how much closer we become with each other because of them. —- owning a dog always ended with this sadness because dogs just don’t live as long as people do.”

The reality is, life on this planet is designed by a loving Creator to be a finite commodity, and it is to be treasured as the ultimate gift.  Death comes to all – but it comes quicker to our pets.  By design, we all have to learn to say goodbye to loved ones, and tears will flow and hearts will grieve.  Yes, saying goodbye to beloved pets is often just as hard as saying goodbye to human friends and loved ones.  The ultimate LIFE LESSON to me is the archetype metaphor I have learned from my dogs over the last thirty or so years.

I have learned that our time on earth is a time prescribed to bind and forge a personal relationship of trust, loyalty and love with our Creator, aka our MASTER, in much the same way in which a wise and understanding dog owner does with a beloved pet.  The Master understands His creation, and our fallen tendencies are to simply be human – and the amazing thing is: He loves us anyway.  The Master will take us exactly as we are with all of our faults and imperfections – even if we are the runt of the litter.  We don’t have to earn His Love and His Grace by “good behavior” for indeed, he is “all in” for us in our behalf – He has bought each of us with the highest possible purchase price.   All we have to do is completely give Him our hearts with absolute trust and loyalty, and He’ll give us His in return.  It’s a simple formula really.  He knows there will be times in our relationship that we will pee on the carpet, defecate on the beach and get a ticket, chew up the furniture, and generally smash things up – for that is our fallen carnal nature.  He loves us anyway, and does so powerfully and unconditionally.  He won’t ever give up on us, and look for a “new home” for us to live in.  The problem is, we are the ones running away from Him. Too often we blind sheep are totally ignorant about our loving and caring Master and His unconditional love for us.

To me, as a Christian, that is the message I have learned from my dogs – a message totally missing in false religions such as Mormonism that my family and I abandoned a dozen years ago.   I have learned that once a real and living relationship is forged with the Master – that all good human qualities are magnified, and we in turn no longer have the innate desire to engage in “problem behavior”. In the process, we glorify Him and we truly become one in heart and mind.

“In a dog’s life, some plaster would fall, some cushions would open, some rugs would shred. Like any relationship, this one had its costs. They were costs we came to accept and balance against the joy and amusement and protection and companionship he gave us.” 

At the end, this is what transpired between Marley and his “master”: “Then I dropped my forehead against his and sat there for a long time, as if I could telegraph a message through our two skulls, from my brain to his. I wanted to make him understand some things.

You know all that stuff we’ve always said about you?” I whispered. “What a total pain you are? Don’t believe it. Don’t believe it for a minute, Marley.” He needed to know that, and something more, too. There was something I had never told him, that no one ever had. I wanted him to hear it before he went.

Marley,” I said. “You are a great dog.” 
― John GroganMarley and Me: Life and Love With the World’s Worst Dog