The Dog Knew Better

I grew up beside a mountain in Alabama, with a dog. If you want a happy childhood, that’s a good start. Sometimes the dog and I would go up the mountain, just us, with no particular destination in mind. There was always something interesting up there—little run-off streams and rock outcroppings, sunlight through leaves and the awareness of being among innumerable living things. We stayed together, but not too close. The dog and I were interested in different things, probably because I couldn’t smell as well as she could. Still, we stayed within sight, and if I decided to explore in a different direction all I had to say was “Cinnamon, I’m going this way” and she would change course without complaining. I guess there were smells to discover anywhere we went.

Eventually, I’d decide it was a good time to head home. I did try my best to track our adventures on a mental map so I could find the way back, but I wasn’t very good at it. The trees up there look a lot like each other, in fairness. I learned quickly that there was a much better solution: “Cinnamon, it’s time to go home now. Let’s go home, girl.”

And off she’d go. In the opposite direction from where I thought the house was. But she was always right. With her nose constantly to the ground, she knew better than the boy with the complex brain who was looking around and trying. She was flawless. All I had to do was keep up.

I had to follow her against my own intuitions, but I knew her judgment was better than the best of mine. I knew that trusting myself to find the way home was the best way to get myself even more lost. I knew that I had everything I needed with me, it just wasn’t in me. All I had to do to find the path home was let go of my own ideas, trust the dog, and follow.

And if I can trust a dog that way, why is it so hard for me to trust that the God who made me knows the path to life better than I do?

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