Canine Capers

“Once you live a good story, you get a taste of the meaning of life, and you can’t go back to being normal; you can’t go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.” Donald Miller

The little Chihuahua pup took our fancy. He was so small we could tote him around in our travels in Brazil. And being a dog, Monica and Vernon would not only have a pet but perhaps—yes perhaps—learn about caring for it. We heard about the litter of Chihuahuas when visiting friends in the village of Mairiporã outside of the city of São Paulo. So the little dog became part of our family. In fact becoming family is how he got his name of Yippie for he loved to be so close to us that he’d get his little toes stepped on. Yippie was small–I’ve seen many cats twice his size.

Yippie went with us to life in Rio de Janeiro and in a way became our diminutive guard dog. Doris recalls that children passing by our enclosed yard would toss pebbles at it so that the little fellow learned to act aggressive. He wasn’t dangerous because of his size but he stood his ground at our gate. He learned to be protective—he did his job.

When we were leaving Brazil for the last time we left Yippie with our friends, the Thompsons who had children the age of ours. We heard later that Yippie escaped one day to the street and was hit by car breaking his back. But they cared for him and he recovered—and that’s the end of Yippie’s story as we know it.

Perhaps it was because of robberies and home invasion that most of the dogs I met in Brazil were nasty. While living in Rio Preto, one day I was walking through a new subdivision. There a small dog expectant with pups began to waddle behind me; she did not concern me in any way for with her belly hanging low she could hardly walk. I woke up when she grabbed me by the heel just above my shoe. You bet I kept a close on eye on her until I left the area.

While in São Paulo Doris and I were given charge of a small church group in a little hall in a back yard. We had a great laugh about one of those services with a Brazilian couple who visited us a few weeks ago. You see a stray dog, stinking with rotten meat, entered the open door and could not be shooed out. He ran around under the chairs refusing eviction so finally all thoughts of religious worship vanished and the service ended. Perhaps the dog with its stink thought those religious people might be the kindest he might find that day. In any case it wasn’t quite what he expected. The worship service wasn’t what we expected either.

A couple of more stories about a dog come out of that hall and yard for the Japanese pastor who lived in the house had a dog, a big one. Its leash ran on a clothesline that gave it liberty across the yard and from there it protected the house. One day I came to knock on the pastor’s back door. As I did the dog escaped the line and ran for me. I was able to face it as it jumped and the dog grabbed a mouth full of the jacket I was wearing. The owner heard the commotion and came running to beat off the dog. From then on I was wary of that dog for there is not much protection in such a situation.

Our mutual dislike put me on guard the day I drove up to the pastor’s house and found the front gate open. I knew the dog might be free of its leash, so for protection I grabbed a tire iron from the trunk. I no more had turned around when that dog came running through the gate with its teeth bared. As it leaped for me I swung the tire iron and hit it on the side of the head. It dropped to the dirt and for a few seconds lay there quivering. Then it scrambled to its feet and ran back through the gate. Me? I was dusting myself off for in the fear and mighty swing of that tire iron I too ended up in the dirt. I recall nothing of that meeting with the dog’s owner; all I recall is that encounter with his dog.

Doris reminded me of one more dog. When we lived in São Paulo, among our German neighbours was one we seldom saw. This older couple lived next to us with a high wall between. We supposed that they were one of the many Nazis that fled to Brazil after WWII when the Allies conquered their country. They had a vicious dog that would leap as high as it could at the gate or wall to attack. We warned our children to keep away from the wall but boys are courageous so one day this story evolved. Our son Vernon climbed the wall and was sitting on it—I suppose the presence of this young lad enraged the dog more than usual. The dog jumped higher than expected and grabbed Vernon’s arm taking out a piece of flesh below his shoulder. We took Vernon to a doctor to get the wound sewed up but as he had predicted might happen, it became infected. There is a significant scar there still today.

There is little protection from a big savage dog and if that dog had been able to drag Vernon down off his perch I have no doubt he would have been killed. And I wonder about my own encounters with dogs as well. My only answer is that God sent his angels to watch over us—not only from dogs but in many other situations. Why I don’t know, but I am sure God’s promise in the Scriptures, Psalm 91:11,12, extended to us in those situations, “For he shall give his angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.”




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