What My Dog Is Teaching Me About Following Jesus

Marie Osborne

Marie Osborne
Published Aug 28, 2023
What My Dog Is Teaching Me About Following Jesus

We never have to wonder if He will respond in a different way, if we will be rewarded or punished arbitrarily. We learn to trust His loving leadership because of his consistency. 

Every morning at 6 am, I hear a scratch at my bedroom door. Luca, my 80-pound golden retriever puppy, comes looking for me to take him on his morning walk. 

I climb out of bed, brush my teeth, change my clothes, and put on my walking shoes. I quietly exit my room, and I’m greeted by his big brown eyes. He flips over on his back, looking for the first belly rub of the day.

My buddy and I head downstairs together each day. I get the coffee maker ready and coffee brewing. I fill up his water bottle and mine. About this time, he starts running back and forth between me and the front door, unable to contain his excitement any longer. As I put on his leash, he trembles with anticipation. I open the door, and off we go.

Our New Family Member

We adopted Luca in the spring. He was only 13 months old and more than a little rough around the edges. He jumped on pretty much everyone that greeted him. He stole pieces of clothing and ran away with them. He dug holes in the backyard. He once ate half of my daughter’s sandwich right off her plate. We had our work cut out for us. But as the months have passed, he has settled in with us and learned the ways of his new family. Each morning, as we walk, I can’t help but reflect on what this puppy has shown me about following Jesus.

Don’t Eat Trash!

The first day we brought Luca home, I took him for his first walk around the neighborhood. We live in a fairly nice suburban neighborhood. I would not describe it as a street that is littered with trash. But let me tell you, this dog found every tiny piece of trash on our street and ate it before I could pull him away from it. He did not view me as his leader yet. He had only been with us one night, so he didn’t know me or respect my authority. I had him on a leash, but that was about it. I couldn’t keep him from eating trash.

Every time he gobbled up a Starbucks napkin, I thought about how we spend our lives gobbling up “trash” before we follow God. We go through life looking for something to satiate us, hungry for more, all while He is patiently waiting to give us living Bread. Luca would even try to chew up rocks, and we freaked out, knowing that swallowing something like that could seriously injure or even kill him. Yet he seemed desperate for it. Aren’t we the same without the Lord? Desperate to consume things that lead to death when we could be filling up on truth that leads to everlasting life.

Loving Leadership

As the days and weeks passed, we continued to train Luca and teach him the rules of our home and his new family. The trainer we worked with encouraged me to establish loving, consistent leadership. He needed to know the boundaries of this new family. He needed to learn the rules and expectations for his safety and ours. In order for us to have a long, happy relationship with our dog, and for him to live a long, happy life, I had to establish myself as his leader, and he needed to submit to my authority.

Oh my goodness, what a mirror image of our relationship with God. When we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, we are adopted into the family of God. We must submit to His authority and walk away from the desires of our hearts and even sometimes the rules and boundaries we have learned from our earthly families. All our previous experience and habits must fall at the wayside. We can only have a close relationship with the Lord if we submit to His authority. We will also find our greatest joy in this life and the next by submitting to His loving leadership. 

Consistency Is Key

The other thing the dog trainer told me was consistency is key, and again, I thought about the parallel of our relationship with God. He never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We learn to trust His loving leadership because of that consistency. We never have to wonder if He will respond in a different way, if we will be rewarded or punished arbitrarily. We learn to trust His loving leadership because of his consistency. 

Unconditional Love

As I got to know fellow dog owners, I heard stories of their sweet pets and all their crazy quirks. Our neighbors fondly recalled their dearly departed golden retriever, and her silly habit of burying her toys in the backyard. Another friend smiled as she recalled how her dog once found a lizard under a rock in the backyard, and now he goes back to the same spot everyday to see if the lizard is still there. 

The unconditional love dog owners have for their pets, their silly personalities and funny quirks, reminds me of how our Lord loves us completely. He loves us exactly the way we are. He sees all our mistakes, all our sins, all our stubborn disobedience, and He loves us anyway. He patiently works on us from the inside out. He does not leave us the way we are but loves us every step of the way.

Every day, when I feed Luca and give him water, clean up his messes, and sweep up his hair, I think of how much we do for him out of pure love. We don’t expect anything in return, and in fact, we get very little in return. God did not create us for what He would get out of it. He does not care for us for what He can gain. He does not sustain us, protect us, love us, equip us, empower us, transform us, in order to benefit personally. No, He does not need us, but He loves us and does so much for us, anyway.

Never Abandoned or Forsaken

We had to train Luca to trust that we would return when we would leave him home alone. We left for a few minutes at first, then longer periods of time. Each time we returned, his trust would grow. We had not abandoned him. We are his loving family. We would always come back. This reminded me of the times when God seems distant. He never leaves us. He does not abandon us. He may seem distant or quiet, but He remains our loving, loyal Father. 

Every morning, as Luca and I go on our walk, I thank the Lord for using even our family pet to draw me closer to Him. He truly wastes nothing. 

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Sviatlana Barchan