An Old Man and His Dog

The other day I enjoyed having coffee with Dr. Mike McDuffee, an old professor, mentor and friend. Mike is among the most brilliant people I  know, giving his passion for Christ a diamond tip edge that cuts through human hearts with an exacting precision and depth. Following is one example, a post from his blog, Fruit of His Lips.

“An odd Dane of the nineteenth century told a story once[1] of an old man who lived in a village.  He was a kind man who lived alone with his only friend, a large and powerful mongrel dog.  The old man always kept his door open so the village children could come by and play.  He gave them treats and tried to teach them about the meaning of living a good life.  They paid little attention to him.  They enjoyed the treats however, and had much fun tormenting the dog.  They would pull at its ears, bounce on it and twist the animal’s tail.  With warm, loyal eyes the dog would look up to its master in silence.  The man would gaze back and whisper, “Not yet.”  Many times the boys would visit, take the old man’s treats without thanks and set to harassing his loyal friend ever at his feet.  The animal endured all this in patience and in silence.  One look from his master was enough.  Nothing mattered but his master’s gaze.

Over the years the boys refused to learn from the old man how to be kind.  They instead taught one another how to be bullies, practicing their vocation of choice by mistreating his loyal friend.  The dog never so much as winced or ever gave effort to escape their cruelty.  Remaining at his master’s feet the tired dog endured the pain the boys inflicted as his master allowed.  One day, after much time had passed, during which the boys had grown bigger – and bolder – they arrived to mock the old man and to torment the aged animal in earnest.  They laughed at both the old man and his dog.  This day they would hear the old dog yelp no matter what it took for torture.  One kicked the animal while another twisted his boot into him.  A third struck the dog with his fist.  The old dog only looked to his master.  All he wanted was his master’s eye.  The pain did not matter.  Just to hear his master’s voice again, to hear him whisper, as he always had before, “Not yet.”  The dog did not care why the master allowed these things.  It was enough he had his master’s love.  He was content in life because he had been permitted to live at his master’s feet.  The old dog was so tired.  He slowly turned to look up to his master, perhaps for the last time.  The old man looked down at him and smiled.

Suddenly, with an authority in his voice that the dog had never heard before, the old man commanded him, “Now!”  It was as if the dog snapped heavy chains with which an enemy had bound him to hold him down.  The dog leapt to its feet with a ferocious growl.  The teenage boys tumbled backward over one another like apples spilt from a bowl.  For the first time they realized how merciful the old man had been over the years.  Looking into the eyes of his awakened companion, seeing the exposed fangs and coiled muscles convinced them that they had foolishly played with their own lives each time they had beset this powerful creature.  The docile victim of their years of abuse could have ripped their throats wide open to have flung their bodies emptying of life out onto the street as easily as a housewife tosses scraps and peelings from the kitchen table.  The lesson was learned, but learned too late.  All the old man said to them was, “Get out!”  And they did, thankful they could, ignorant of the great wisdom they had thrown away so long ago.”


[1]  Obviously based upon a reading of Kierkegaard, possibly from Attack upon Christendom, but honestly .~ don’t know the chain of underprops that holds it together, what does it matter?  its hearing captivates me, wherewith .~ am edified.   In this abrading world in which so many forces conspire to pull me down, .~ need such spiritual strengthening for the building up of my little faith in Christ.

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