I don’t own a dog. It’s not because we don’t like dogs. We love dogs. We are dog people, some in this family more than others. You’ve heard the expression, “Take time to stop and smell the roses?” Well, my husband has a version of that express that says, “Take time to stop and pet the dogs.”
For four years before we became missionaries, we were dog breeders, specializing in gorgeous Saint Bernards and cuddly “Teddy Bear” Shichons. Before that we almost always had a family dog. In fact, we had an Irish Setter before we had kids!
Dogs are everywhere in the Philippines. My kids love dogs.
So why don’t I own a dog?
Because my conscience won’t let me.
Before we left the States to become missionaries in the Philippines, we had increasing issues with the growing regulations for breeding kennels in Pennsylvania. What started as helpful oversight to protect dogs from a few “bad apple” breeders, quickly became an advancing burden requiring higher levels of oversight, inspection and facilities. We weren’t allowed to keep our dogs in our home, which is what every family looking to buy a puppy would prefer— a home raised puppy from a loving family. Instead, the State required us to build a commercial kennel, well insulated, with heat in the floor and air conditioning and fresh water in each dog’s space. There were laws about temperature and humidity. Then there were laws added about air exchange.
It was at this same time the God was getting a hold of our hearts about ministry abroad. After an exploratory trip, my husband and two sons came back with incredible tales of life very different than America. They encountered many people who lived without the basic comforts our dogs were legally required to have. People living without running water or sanitation. People who did not eat a balanced diet or who only ate one time per day. Families crowded into small homes, smaller than most American storage sheds with no furniture, simple wood fired outdoor “kitchens,” and all the family sleeping together on the floor. My Saint Bernards were legally required to have more space per dog than most families have in their homes.
This new knowledge made it easier to re-home the dogs, pack up our home, sell much of the furniture and goods and leave the American life behind. As much as I love dogs, I love people more. The love of Jesus, who died on a cross for each of these people, propelled us into a radically different life.
It’s been seven years. We’re settled in here. The differences between the haves and the have-nots still ache at our souls, but now those people living with less-- those people are our dear friends.
And that’s why I don’t have a dog.
Because if I had a dog, he would have access to drinking water without having to carry it from the nearest river.
If I had a dog, he would have the food he needs to be healthy and grow.
If I had a dog, he would be vaccinated against the many dangerous dog diseases that a large unvaccinated dog population easily spread.
If I had a dog, he would be wormed every month to protect his health.
My friends don’t have those things. And until they do, I don’t think my conscience will let me have a dog.