Previous Posts – Click to View

September 2014

What a Dog Teaches Us About God

Bjorn_With_ElsaThis past summer, one of the members of our congregation at West Tokyo Union Church passed away. He was an unusual member, but he ran to church every Sunday and waited outside in the courtyard next to his water bowl until the service was over. Snack time often spilled over into the courtyard and Bjorn was always there to opportunistically clean up any leftover treats. He knew the value of a vigorous post-prandial roll in the grass and he was often joined by the children of WTUC in his antics. He was our before and after church greeter. He would have wanted to greet everyone one last time, but he died at Lake Nojiri in August and was laid to rest next to the Ingulsrud cabin. This post is dedicated to Bjorn.

Spell “God” backwards and you get “dog.” While this may just be a coincidence in the English language, it reminds me of how much a dog can teach us about God. Without becoming too far-fetched with this analogy, take a moment to sit and stay and chew on it for a while.


I’m thinking about our extremely enthusiastic Golden Retriever.  Keep in mind that the very word, “enthusiastic,” has God right in the middle. The “-thu-“ or “theo” part of enthusiastic, means God. To be full of God means to be enthusiastic. Bjorn must have been full to the brim.

What Bjorn was most enthusiastic about was welcoming people. His best days were when he could welcome lots and lots of people. He absolutely loved Sundays. He was our best greeter. He was also our hairiest greeter and he did drool on folks occasionally, but he was always enthusiastically welcoming. How very appropriate for church. God welcomes one and all to the Christian community. We should follow Bjorn’s example; but perhaps with less drool.

Bjorn loved to share everything and he loved to deliver gifts; that’s what retrievers do. God loves a generous giver, so I’m sure that God loves Golden Retrievers. Bjorn shared anything that he could find on the floor. He would pick up items and he would bring them with wagging tail as welcoming gifts to anyone who came to our door. He shared slippers and balls and cans and wrappers and socks… and underwear. Among other things, Bjorn taught us the importance of using the laundry basket.


Although Bjorn may not have been a very smart dog, he was emotionally intelligent. He knew when someone needed comfort and company. When I was sick, he would climb into bed next to me and put his nose near my face. Apparently dog breath has healing qualities because this treatment always helped. He didn’t mind at all having someone crying into his fur. Dog hair is very good at absorbing tears. Our God in heaven invites us to come to him for comfort and he will wipe away all of our tears. God is very good at absorbing tears too.


Bjorn was a gift, an answer to prayer, really. When we broke the news to our family that we were moving to Japan, we attempted to stem the flow of tears with the promise of a dog… finally. Our oldest daughter had been wishing on birthday cake candles for many years for a male, Golden Retriever puppy, (she’s very specific with her wishes), so when we got to Japan, we looked in the pet shops for a pup and were shocked at the cost. We would have to pay the equivalent of almost $3,000 which we could not afford. I admit that I prayed about this dilemma. A couple weeks later a friend called. “Were you looking for a puppy? An acquaintance of mine has sold all but three pups left and they’re giving the remaining pups away for free to good homes. They’re Goldens and there is one male left.” I couldn’t believe it, even though I know God answers prayer. The owners, an elderly couple, delivered the puppy to our home along with a basket of gifts. They were so happy that he was being adopted by a family with kids. Bjorn has been a constant reminder to me that God hears every prayer, even the ones that we are embarrassed to offer. Bjorn also reminded me that God’s gifts go beyond what we could possibly imagine.

So although Bjorn is no longer with us, the memories of this dog keep pointing me back to God, and I am very thankful to God that we were blessed with Bjorn for so many years. We will miss having him as part of our congregation.

With love and faithfulness,




3 comments to What a Dog Teaches Us About God

  • Karen C.

    I cannot think of a more appropriate book to recommend to you than “Watson’s Way” by Joel Lund ( I have always felt that animals, more specifically, dogs are some of the best teachers in the world for how we, as Christians, should behave and treat one another. This book is so heart warming and beautifully written I was really impressed by it. For anyone who has ever had the joy of being loved by a pet, this book will instantly tug at your heart strings. Their is such a deep spirituality in our pets and they can truly bring out the best in us, and that is exactly what the author shows us in this story. Whether you are a Christian, believe in God, love dogs, or are just feeling lost, this book can truly help you reflect on your life and learn some very important lessons a long the way. Learn about letting go, expressing joy, being a good friend and upgrading your communication with those around you. It is an uplifting, feel-good reminder that life lessons are all around us. I hope you will give it a read

    • ruth

      Thank you for the recommendation, Karen. I work in the library of a Christian school in Japan and we are often looking for good books to add to our collection. Blessings to you! – Ruth

  • Elaine Nomura

    Lovely heart-warming article. Our Unitarian Chapel in UK has just lost a much-loved canine member who attended our services with great enthusiasm, greeting every member as they arrived and always standing for the hymns. What joy dogs give to us.

Bless Me with a Comment: