December 30, 2018

How Sophie the Golden Retriever Teaches Us to Be Better Christians

Passage: I Corinthians 13:4–8

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Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant
—1 Corinthians 13:4

Written by Sally Campbell

I want to think briefly about what we can learn from our pets and from the animal world. Dogs for example can show us a lot about being good Stephen Ministers.

Why dogs would be great Stephen Ministers (dogs know all about empathy.)

My dog Sophie is a born empathetic listener and a compassionate friend. When you are sad she starts with a paw on your knee followed by a head in your lap and if allowed she inches up until she’s licking your face with her paws on your shoulder, her big brown eyes full of concern.

She listens with full attention—no texting, no peaking at her cell, no glancing at her watch, and no thinking what she will say next.

She listens attentively without judgement. She maintains total confidentiality. She never repeats and She never says, “How could you have done that,” or “Here’s what you should do,” or “Why didn’t you…” or “What were you thinking?”

Sophie is full of gratitude. She greets each new day with joyful anticipation. Every meal time she attacks the same dry food with gusto, licks the bowl, and never asks, “Where’s the beef.”

She is patient. Her happy face waits at the window to give an all over wiggly greeting even when she’s been left alone too long.

Sophie lives in the moment enjoying every minute of our morning walk—sights, scents, sounds, squirrels—she does not spoil a walk worrying about all she has to do when we get home or brooding about past or future issues.

Sophie never compares herself to other dogs. She does not mope about thinking, “Dudley is perfect and I’m not.” She’s just herself without dwelling on her limitations or where she stands in the dog world.

Sophie is friendly and generous. Everyone who comes to the door gets a warm welcome and a gift of a shoe, a towel, a mitten, a toy, or whatever she can get in her mouth to offer. She wiggles about with enthusiasm like a fish on a hook.

Sophie loves without reservation. She holds nothing back. Her devotion is complete. She cares for everyone, friend and stranger.

Sophie is not forever asking why. She accepts life as it comes with joy or with patience and without complaint.

Sophie is fun and funny. Her funky behavior can lower your blood pressure, dissolve anxieties, make you laugh and soften your disappointments. Hide and seek is her favorite game but I must admit she cheats. Still it makes me laugh.

She forgives forgetfulness, cross words, long absences, late meals, lack of attention, and any number of other human failings. There are no grudges. Over is over—no reminders of the times and ways you’ve disappointed her in the past.

So far Sophie does not pray, but she is very good in church and would be pleased to attend every Sunday if invited. I think Sophie would make a fine Stephen Minister. She is a good model and teacher.