What a Dog Taught Me about Fear and Faith

By Jim Whitt

As a young salesman with the Ralston Purina Company I pulled into a drive leading to a farmhouse in the Oklahoma panhandle. I was new to the territory and making a cold call. After parking my car I walked up to the porch and rapped on the front door. No response. Not to be deterred I walked around the house and knocked on the back door. Again, no one greeted me.

It was then I saw something that made my blood run cold. It was a sign with three of the most terrifying words known to the sales profession: Beware of Dog.

At precisely the same moment I finished reading the word ”dog” I heard a bark so loud and deep that I prayed it was much worse than the bite of the dog it belonged to. My eyes followed the sound of the bark to a machine shed behind the house. The sliding doors on the front of the building were opened just wide enough for a German Shepherd to stick his head through. The problem was that its head was as wide as its body.

I quickly calculated the distances both the dog and I would have to travel to get to my car and decided I might be able to beat him. Running for what I believed to be my life, I was only about five yards away from the car door when a little voice in my head told me the dog was hot on my tail and I wasn’t going to win the race.

I hit the brakes, turned to face the dog, waved my arms and yelled at the top of my lungs. The startled dog slid to a drop dead stop. I immediately made a 180 degree turn, jumped into my car and slammed the door. The dog recovered from its momentary shock and leaped against the car door with such ferocity that it made me flinch, even though I was safe on the other side of the glass.

Obviously frustrated at having lost a meal, he stood with his front paws planted on the car door while barking, growling and slobbering on the window. I felt like a condemned man who received a stay of execution just seconds before the switch was thrown on the electric chair.

I sat there until I caught my breath and my pulse subsided. Then I put the car in gear, smiled at my canine tormentor and drove away. A mile or so down the road my smile turned to laughter — the whole episode must have looked like a scene from a cartoon.

There’s a lesson all of us can learn from my encounter with that dog. Today there is as much anxiety about the state of the economy and the world in general than at any time I can remember. The news is filled with what we might call Beware of Dog signs. These signs create images of negative outcomes in our minds. What if I lose my job or my business? What if I can’t pay my mortgage? What if I go broke? What if I can’t pay my bills? What if I can’t provide for my family?

You can imagine the picture I had in my mind when I read the Beware of Dog sign, heard a deep-throated bark and then saw a canine that my mind identified as a German Police dog — the breed I’d seen the Nazis use to attack, maim and kill in World War II movies. I acted on the picture of that negative outcome and started running. While I was running from the dog, my mind was racing even faster.

Suddenly a picture of a different outcome popped into my mind. What if I turned the tables on the dog? Where did that thought come from? Faith. Faith paints a positive picture of the outcome. We have faith even when we don’t know it. Faith finds a way when we don’t know the way. When I chose to act on this new picture, it changed the outcome.

Fear and faith are artists that constantly paint pictures on the canvas of our minds. Fear paints pictures of negative outcomes. Faith paints pictures of positive outcomes. We have a choice of which picture to believe and act on. The picture we choose will control our actions. Our actions will determine the outcome.

I’ll always be grateful for that dog who taught me about fear and faith. In fact, he and I met many times afterward and eventually got along very well. Its owner became one of my best customers.

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