Happy Tail Syndrome

The price of dogs has rocketed during this pandemic – it seems lots of people want one. Working from home means they have the time to care for a dog and take it for walks. For anyone living alone a dog is a welcome companion.

Dogs are enjoying having their owners at home more. Poor Rollo the dachshund was taken to the vet with a painful tail. The diagnosis was ‘Happy Tail Syndrome’. It had become sprained by excessive wagging.

We had a very happy exuberant dog; he was the happiest, most enthusiastic of creatures whose welcome was hugely demonstrative. He never did sprain his tail, but when he came into our entrance to greet us, it would whack the neighbours’ door so hard they thought they had a visitor!

Our dog Sampras, named after the tennis star of ‘95, was clearly very intelligent. He would sit amongst us like a member of the pack, cocking his head from side to side, giving full attention to our conversation, anxious to pick out words he recognised. We had to be careful as from an early age he had acquired an extensive vocabulary and like many dogs had also learnt to spell W A L K !

“walkies”, “park”, “squirrel”, “ball”, “stick”, “dinner”, “biscuits”, “pet shop”, “holiday”, and “car” were but a few utterances that brought reaction.

It was amazing that such an intelligent creature should have a problem with simple words like,

“Come!” and “Stay!” and “No!”

I had many embarrassing and frustrating visits to the park with Sampras. Several times he ran off a with another dog’s ball and wouldn’t return it. Rather, he would allow me to get close then he would prance off as if it were a game, making me, his owner, look ridiculous – totally powerless. He had a mind of his own and there was no way that a “come” or a “stay” from my lips would stop him diving into the park pond or worse still, rolling about in a muddy puddle. No, this loveable creature who was so demonstrative with his affections was totally unreliable when his preferences were crossed.

As he grew up I’m happy to report that our relationship also matured. At about three years old he suddenly changed into a faithful friend. He was still extravagant with his affection but he began to value my “well done” and the accompanying pat on the head above the passing joys of pond, muddy puddle or another dog’s ball.

When he died I reflected that I had learnt a great lesson from owning a dog. A wagging tail must be accompanied by a commitment to being led. In the same way, enthusiastic worship must be accompanied by passionate obedience or it does little to glorify our master.

The Apostle Paul said, “I make it my aim to please him” (2 Corinthians 5:9). Let’s grow up and agree with him; let’s press on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus ( Philippians 3:14). Let’s covet the “Well Done” of the master.

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