Why dog-tired? Why not horse-tired, mule-tired, or pig-tired? Why do people say their “dogs are barking” when their feet hurt from standing or walking too long? Why not “my cats are meowing” or “my horses are neighing”?

Actually, “dog-tired” derives from an ancient custom of Alfred the Great. He would send his sons out after his hunting hounds and whichever of them retrieved more of the dogs earned the privilege of sitting at their father’s right hand at dinner that evening as a reward.  (Wiktionary  at

Kings did love their hunting dog packs, but gathering cats would have been a more intense contest.

Day after day, when I got home from my last job, I was dog-tired and not from chasing dogs. I would rather have been doing that. My dog-tired condition made me reluctant even to visit with our dogs. I was weighed down. I lacked the energy to handle their bulldogginess so I would sneak back to my room, change into casual, comfortable, out of the public eye clothes, and fall asleep at 4:30 in the afternoon. I didn’t have the heart to tell the dogs that I was ditching them for a dark, quiet room and a soft bed.

I forgot that I was one of the highlights of their day and I would get stared down the next morning by pissed off, disappointed bulldogs. (Bless their hearts.) Where have you been? What audacity you have to go to bed early. We are the only ones who get to do that!

I had forgotten something else. I was carrying weight in my heart and mind that was not for me to carry. Rest was elusive. Dog-tired had become a way of life.  And the whole time there was a God-given solution.

Jesus said, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 KJV


©H.J. Hill 2016 All Rights Reserved


Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine

Bulldogs claim things. Bulldogs claim people. They do this in various ways, but most often by placing their front paws, either one or both, on the person they are claiming. They make a demand, insisting on continued attention, more attention. Don’t get up. Don’t walk away. Those dishes can wait. Everything else can wait. I am here. You are mine.

 It sounds a little like a sweet Valentine’s Day card. It’s encouraging. They love me so much that they pound me heavily with their straight, stout legs. When they keep hitting me, they bruise my legs and arms.

These dogs were not trained as puppies to keep their paws off people. That was a human failure. Since they are bulldogs, their legs are spring-loaded, perpetual motion machines.

Here is our typical conversation:

(Insane barking for no reason at all.)

“Calm down!”

(All barking ceases while they stare at the nutty woman standing in the middle of the room.)

Snoopey walks up and paws at my feet, leaving a highlighted mark on my bare foot.

I give her a touch. “No!”

Paw springs up.


Paw springs up.


Other paw springs up.


First paw springs up again.

And so on and so on and so forth. “No” has become the most ubiquitous word in our household.

I can’t let them think that I am doing anything just because they are demanding it. Then all they will have to do is throw a fit to get their way, sort of like young children.  I am in charge (whether or not I really want to be).

I start on one of my guilt trips – if I were a better guardian, a better steward of these animals, I wouldn’t be having these bad behaviors. But God reminds me that His humans have not consistently obeyed Him either, AND HE IS GOD. And He reminds me of something else.

If it hurts another, it’s not love. If it’s selfish, it’s not love.

“Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”  Roman 13:10 KJV


Copyright H.J. Hill 2016 All Rights Reserved

Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Car Ride

We went to the fair when it came to town and we stayed too long. (Wasn’t there a song about that a long time ago?)

Our dogs were not allowed to go. That was even-handed. No one’s pets were allowed to go. I understand. With all the strollers and pull wagons full of kids and backpacks and coolers, a tangle of leashes (not to mention bathroom issues) would turn the Midway into a nightmare journey and it wasn’t even Halloween.

I remembered them though. I played a game and won two cheap, squishy stuffed animals that they would love to wrap up in their huge, squishy mouths. Stuffed animals and live cats. They consider both to be in the same category. Soft, furry, and lovable in that squeezable way. They just don’t get why the cat doesn’t find the game fun.

Being left behind that day taxed Stella’s self-control because Snoopey had gotten to go in the car earlier in the day and a car ride is a car ride. When the leash came out and it was not for her, Stella gave me what-for in bulldog speak. The squeaks and groans went on unabated for three to four minutes, quite a run for a dog who is not used to stringing together more than a grunt and a lip ruffle. Lectured by a dog. Maybe I should respond with grunts and whines and lip ruffles of my own. What Stella didn’t know was Snoopey was not going for a joy ride. It was medical in nature and not something that either of them would have asked for.

So how many times have I coveted my neighbor’s car ride, to the fair, or on a trip, or anywhere, and had absolutely no idea where they were going, how long it would be, how hard it was, or how necessary for them? How many times have I looked at what someone else received and craved it without having any inkling of what it cost them, without going to the Lord about it to see if it was even desirable or appropriate for me?

Telling us not to covet whatever it is that our neighbor has is not God’s way of keeping us from the good stuff. It is His protection and His way of drawing us to ask Him for what we desire. He understands that what our neighbor has may not be right for us and may not even be  what we think we want at all.

“Thou shalt not covet…any thing that is thy neighbor’s.” Exodus 20:17 KJV


©H.J. Hill 2016 All Rights Reserved

Don’t Miss Out

Stella needed (correction: still needs) leash training, if such a thing is possible with a bulldog. We make progress and we fall back, we make progress and…we erase the whole mess and start over again. The alternative to training would be for me to become the cart behind Stella’s horse and get dragged everywhere. That joke wore thin a long time ago. Of course, Stella still loves it.

Walking Stella became a chore rather than a pleasure and I started cutting back on the effort. We were both missing out because we both wanted to be in charge of the leash. So I became intentional about my goal. I started slow and steady. What I forgot was that Stella was intentional, too, only not in my direction.

I managed to keep her powerful 50 lbs. from jerking me off the porch steps. Yay! We walked (or rather she pulled and I held on for dear life) slowly down the sidewalk to the street. I kept her within about a foot of me. Yay! She seemed to be catching on to the idea that she was to walk beside me.

Yay! The leash slackened. We turned around and walked like a normal, sane human being…and a bulldog back up the sidewalk, up the four porch steps to the front door.

“That was great, Stella! Now let’s do it again.”

Stella faced the door, laid her barrel body down,  placed her head flat on top of her front paws and said, “Nope.”

“Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.”
Psalm 32:9 KJV

Copyright H.J. Hill 2016 All Rights Reserved

Seeing Things As They Are

Dogs don’t see things as we do. Their eyes are not as complex. They lack our range of color perception. Researchers say that dogs only perceive yellow, blue, and gray. Yellow? Okay, so that’s why our dogs attack that yellow chicken soft toy and grab it first, given the chance. All those pinks and reds and greens are for the shopping humans. We buy what we find cute and attractive. I sort of knew that already when I was picking out gingerbread men, snowmen, and Christmas trees with faces. Our dogs are genuinely happy shaking an old towel. Bottom line, if it’s not yellow or blue, the dogs see gray.

(If you want to imagine what the world looks like to them, check out Those kind folks have several charts that explain the way a dog sees things.)

I love color. I am richer because of it. I am grateful to be able to perceive the full color spectrum as well as sharp distinctions in shadings. Poor Stella has jumped out of her skin at black and white photos on television, images of buildings or crowds of people from the 19th Century. I wonder what she was seeing. All those people and structures appeared totally innocuous to me. As for the color yellow, Homer Simpson totally freaks her out.

Still, we humans have our own vision problems. We put mental twists on what we see. Or we don’t pay enough attention and only catch part of the picture. At times we add to what we see as our brains and imaginations run ahead of us and embellish reality. We see things that aren’t there and often misinterpret what is there. Dogs may not understand everything before their eyes, but they don’t make up stuff.

For all our glasses and contacts and binoculars and microscopes, our clarity is not all that clear. Inside or out; physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. We need help.

My prayer for me, for you, for all of us: “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him; the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling…”                   Ephesians 1:17-18 KJV


©H.J. Hill 2016 All Rights Reserved

Don’t Stay Needy

Needy. That’s the word I kept hearing people use for Stella. “That dog is so needy.” Really, Stella, did we need a review of what everyone thinks? This is not Yelp. I wondered though if they were applying the term to me as well.

It’s all right, Stella. Not everyone will like you. Or think that you are cute or important, but I now do. Surely my opinion counts for something, at least between us. The others may come around, but so what if they don’t. Pretty girl. Stella Bella. That’s what you are to me. Stella the Beautiful, wrinkles, jowls, smooshy face, and all. Now and again, somebody just needs to tell you that. Every now and again you just need to hear that. We all do.

As for that business about being needy, we all have needs. There’s no sense in talking about it. Needs don’t require talk. Needs require fulfillment and fulfillment requires action. Action has been part of Stella’s blessing to me. Bulldogs are weighty creatures and you have to get up, do stuff for them, and use actual muscles. The endless days of easy chair sitting are gone.

I saw another connection with her. I was feeling sorry for myself. Self-pity is needy, another sinking sandpit in which to get stuck. I heard a sound piece of advice about self-pity long ago, one that I have not always followed – don’t allow yourself the luxury.

Have you ever gotten stuck in an awkward position physically and it took all you had to get going again, either because of a lack of strength to get up and untangled or simply because you had been sitting too long without moving? I was stuck when Stella showed up. Her needs forced me to get up, to move, to start addressing my needs. She was my God-given catalyst for change.


©H.J. Hill 2016 All Rights Reserved


Seek My Face, Not My Hand

Calm dogs seek your face, not your hand. They may be excited, anxious to get going, to eat, to pee, to play, but they can calm themselves and shift their focus off of the hand with the food bowl, or the treat, or the leash, and onto your face. They can look you right in the eyes and give their full attention to you, not to what you have in your hand or what you are giving, as pleasant as that thing is.

Our bulldogs are not, by and large, a calm bunch. I am greeted most mornings with a pack of foot-stomping, body-wiggling, tail-wagging, tank-rolling dogs who want to experience every life pleasure from food to bolting around like barrel racing horses NOW, NOW, NOW! (Emphasis theirs.)

The rattling drum of bulldog paws. A raucous, rampaging stampede. A bulldog dare. Just try to ignore us. The temptation to give in and let them go wild dangles in front of me on a regular basis.

I had to develop my own discipline early on not to surrender to their excitement. Bulldogs are demanding by nature. Giving in to them is akin to giving a sugar-crazed child who is throwing a fit yet another cone of cotton candy.

I started a regimen.  I stood in front of the dog and required her to sit down and look up into my face, making eye contact. No sit, no eye contact, no whatever. The concept of having to obey an order, any order, did not sit well with Snoopey. I said,”Sit.” She stood. I said,”Look up.” She looked away. I waited. And waited. Finally I walked away.  A little later I tried again. She eventually sat, but she kept her eyes fixed on my hand and whatever it was going to do that she wanted – open the latch on her crate, set down a bowl of food, hand over a toy. Her eyes never left my hand and the hand did not hand over what she wanted until she minded the instruction and looked up into my eyes.  After that it got easy – for a while. Then she tested me.

I asked her to sit and look up and she didn’t. She’s going to give me what I want anyway. I can out bulldog her. It’s nice when a test looks like a test. I had learned to be a little bulldoggy myself. And I won. And that was good for Snoopey, too.

I am often guilty of seeking the Lord’s hand before I seek His face, a spiritual version of putting the cart before the horse. He encourages me to spend much needed time with Him, in prayer, in His Word, and simply in His Presence. I desire it…but Lord, if you would just do this one thing and take care of this other item, oh, and that other little thing that I want. I have to be reminded. If I look Him in the face, His hand is open and stretched out toward me.

“When Thou saidst, Seek ye My face; my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.” Psalm 27:8 KJV


©H.J. Hill 2016 All Rights Reserved


Why Am I This Way?

Stella sticks her tongue out between her stubby teeth, bracketed  by two bottom fangs set into her famous bulldog underbite, features bred into her, bred into all bulldogs by humans. She descends from ancient herding dogs that were bred with short muzzles and a tenacious spirit  so that her kind could fight bulls, grab and hold onto them by the nose, and torque them to the ground to win money for their owners. Or die in the process.

The old days of bullbaiting with dogs are gone (hopefully). Thank God. But the breeding man did to achieve victory in those wagered battles lingers in the faces of bulldogs. I have heard people call the dogs gargoyles without understanding how they came to look that way.

Stella would be highly insulted if she heard herself called a monster. I am not a monster. I don’t care what I look like. By the way, what do I look like? There aren’t enough mirrors around here.

When she rolls over onto her back, her jowls flop open, ruffling with each breath as air hisses through her teeth. When she sits upright again, her face gravitates downward, falling into its hangdog place. Bulldogs and their perpetually worried expressions. I have one, too, and I was not bred to fight bulls. So many people have said to me over the years, “Oh, it can’t be that bad!” simply after looking at my face. (There aren’t enough mirrors around here, are there?)

So why are we the way we are? We ask that question when we are unhappy with ourselves, when we are dissatisfied, when there is a trait we want to change.

God grants gifts, and we face the pesky choices of how we are going to use those gifts. We make right choices. We make wrong choices. We and others may suffer for those wrong choices. And the bulldogs? They abide by the sentence carried in their genes and still get to make a few choices of their own along the way. Just watch their gentleness sometime. No more fighting, except among themselves. How sad. How human.

“He hath made every thing beautiful in his time…” Ecclesiastes 3:11 KJV


©H.J. Hill 2016 All Rights Reserved

Mountains and Molehills

Bulldogginess. Dear Lord, if I could just bottle it and sell it, it would help so many people through so much. (And I could make a small fortune.) On the positive side, persistence, perseverance, but then there is that other facet – stubbornness, pigheadedness.

According to the bulldogs, the sky was falling. It rained for 3 days straight after four bone dry months. When I was a little kid, I thought that rain meant God was crying. Maybe the dogs think that the world’s coming to an end. Or maybe they just don’t want to get their feet wet.

I finally had to put Stella on the leash and encourage her strongly to go out beside the driveway where she might recognize her old pee stomping grounds. And finally she did…pee.

Who knew dogs were so dainty about wet feet? I mean if you watch them for long, they step in, well, ALL kinds of things with not so much as a grimace.

This is what happens when you make a big deal out of a small deal, a mountain out of a molehill, a tornado out of a dust devil. They need us in ways that go way beyond food and water and shelter. They need us to let them know that they will be all right even if they don’t believe us the first 100 times we tell them that. They need us to be their guardians, their little “g” gods, faulty ones at best. Because they don’t understand a whole lot about what is going on even while they understand a whole lot more than we do about the ground under our feet and the rhythms of life, they act as though ordinary events are earth-shattering. Rainfall becomes an insurmountable obstacle to normal life. Sort of like when I let someone’s careless or rude remark block me from pursuing my set course.

When I was a child, I thought of dogs only as playthings, toys for my amusement when I wanted and where I wanted, even while my childish heart knew they were much more – companions, sharers of sorrows, uncomplaining playmates, guides into things unnoticed by man, fellow creatures. And they need us to sort out the important from the inconsequential, and do things like open doors and gates, show them that the sky is not falling, and bring balance to their canine ways.

I mean really, Stella, if you need to pee, does it matter that the ground is already wet?


©H.J. Hill 2016 All Rights Reserved


Don’t Drive Yourself Crazy

When Snoopey came to us, I didn’t get to know her right away. Spring was cool and she was used to being outside. In the mornings, I was running out of the house to work and then running to bed at night. My son took care of her and I would wave at her in passing and call her name. Snoopey is Stella’s sister, but she and Stella don’t resemble each other at all and they didn’t act alike. Stella is calm and submissive (when she wants to be). Snoopey – well, there was something different about Snoopey.

As she sat in her doghouse one day, I noticed an odd behavior. Snoopey was pointing her nose skyward and swinging her head back and forth, a constant repetition that went on for minutes, even after I called to her. She ignored me and just went on with the head swaying. I thought it might be an ear problem, but even after she was treated for a minor infection, every few days she would go back into the head swinging mode. Even after she came to stay inside when the weather heated up, randomly she would start rocking her head and pointing her nose up at nothing.

I researched. A few people mentioned the word “neurological”. A few people I spoke with brought up the word “crazy”. I don’t like that word. I don’t deal well with “crazy”.

Snoopey wore a suspicious look, like she was constantly evaluating us and the other dogs. She accepted affection – touch, word, time, but she was jealous in that dangerous way that could start an instant dog war. What were her first 2 years like before she came to us? I don’t know and dwelling on it is a good way to get stuck in that past we are all trying to escape. Somehow, someway, she did not get something she needed in her puppyhood. She acted weird, standoffish, but not afraid. Or maybe afraid was it. Hard to peg.

So I started paying her more individual attention. Snoopey got a new stylish collar. That meant more to me than it did to her. I gave her a tough toy bone to chew on. She picked it up and carried it around with it hanging out of her mouth like a cigar. She didn’t put it down, standing, walking, laying down. She just kept it in her mouth. I think she had never had anything like it. I spent a lot of time looking into her eyes and rubbing her head and neck. Weeks rolled on. And I realized that Snoopey didn’t swing her head anymore. No more crazy.

Now Snoopey’s eyes meet mine. Still with a suspicious streak, she watches everything even when she appears asleep. She is a natural born guard dog. She naps on my feet and stays right by me wherever we walk.

I think Snoopey had spent too much time alone, and when any of us spend too much time alone, imbalance can set in. I am an introvert. My alone time is precious to me, but God made us to be with others, to share time and words and life. And crazy is not His way.

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7


©H.J. Hill 2016 All Rights Reserved


Clinging to the One Who is Higher than I

Stella clawed at my knee and held on for dear life, her eyes bulging with terror. Her nails dug into my flesh, a painful moment for both of us.

“What’s wrong, girl? What is it?”

She released me and ran to the crate. I trotted behind her. Nothing. No blood. No sign of distress. No dead cat.

I scanned the area inside and around the crate, but noticed nothing that would cause the panic in Stella’s frightened eyes and pounding feet. And then I saw it. A treat stuck under the edge of the crate – the whole cause of the riot. A small chicken and bacon treat had become trapped! Stella pranced around the corner of the crate. She could see it and smell it, but she couldn’t get to it. The poor treat. It was going to waste. It had given its life in vain. Save it!

Stella does this pose when she is excited. She stands up, hops her forelegs about 6 inches off the floor, spins around and freezes. Then, lifting each stiff foreleg high in the air, she prances toward me for attention and accolades. For strangers and visitors, she bows with her front paws by her head. She put on her show and I just watched.

Not satisfied with the speed of my response, she placed her tongue between her teeth and blew. “Phlubbbb.”  Special bulldog sounds equal annoyance.

“So now it’s not an emergency, but you still need my help and I’m moving too slowly to suit you. Okay, here it is.”

Stella accepted the rescued treat and settled into her place at rest. How can I fault her? I’ve blown the minor into the major times without number. And over food, too. In the old days, I am sure that I inflated the importance of chicken and bacon.

Stella was clinging to my leg to get my attention for something that made no difference in the great outside world, but was critically important in her small one. She was crying to me for help to do what she could not. As a human, I am higher than dogs in my manual dexterity, my reasoning power (I hope), and my eyes’ sharp focus and ability to distinguish colors and shades.

And as humans, we cry to the Lord to do what we cannot. He is higher than we are in every way.

“From the end of the earth will I cry unto Thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:2 KJV


© H.J. Hill 2016 All Rights Reserved.


Snooting Around – Don’t Settle For Less

Stella has a whole bowl of food right next to her, and she ignores it, preferring the crumbs and single pieces that have fallen on the floor. A sense of desperation hangs around her hunt. She is afraid of missing the smallest remainder.

Snooting around, cleaning up microscopic food particles, is great practice for Stella’s smooshy nose. Bulldogs can always use extra nose work, but really, Stella, why are you snooting around in a corner for crumbs when the feast is over here – full, ready, and waiting?

I should have asked myself that very question long ago.

The fear of missing the smallest, backward chance. The fear of missing out. I have taken jobs that appeared out of nowhere and led to nowhere. I took them believing that nothing better was going to show up. I talked myself into believing that they were blessings. Strangely enough, in some ways, they were. They were stops along the way and I learned from every one of them. But if you’re not watchful, stopgaps can become permanent and you end up settling for less than what’s best.

Too often God has offered me a full bowl and I went snooting around for low level crumbs. I ignored His goodness, settling for less than He wanted me to enjoy, believing I was unworthy of what He was offering when He was the very One Who decided I was worthy. So much for not judging God.

Stella is wiser in this than I am. She snoots around for crumbs, but she always finishes the full meal, too.

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” Psalm 23:5 KJV

©H.J. Hill 2016 All Rights Reserved

The Price of a Dog

Other bulldogs have come to us, each with a story.

A man known to my son called and said he wanted to sell an Olde English Bulldogge he owned . That would give him the rest of the money he needed to buy a motorcycle he had his eye on. My son paid him and the bulldog came to us. We renamed her Wiggles because she never stopped moving, constantly wiggling and wriggling her compact body, dancing around in a semi-circle we referred to as her “comma dance”.

A few weeks later, my son learned that the man had been killed in a one-vehicle motorcycle accident while riding the very motorcycle he had dreamed of and had purchased with the money he received for Wiggles.

That struck me as incredibly sad. The event raised imponderables, questions that rear their heads  in my head at such times. What if Wiggles’ previous owner had waited? What if he had kept Wiggles? He still may have suffered the accident. Or he may never have bought the motorcycle. Wiggles may have come to us anyway. I took note of the circumstances. I have started doing that more often. It is part of being awake. Life in all of its stages , including death, revolves around us continually

So Wiggles had a home with us, but her stare always has a question mark in it, as though she is wondering what happened to that man who cared for her before and just exactly who are these people she is with now.

I have had dogs throughout my life, but I don’t remember staring into their eyes as much as I have with these dogs and I don’t remember having them stare back into mine. Now I spend time looking into the eyes of bulldogs. It develops my patience with them and theirs with me.

I have loved dogs since I was a child, even during those times when I did not have one. Among them were the buff-colored Cocker Spaniels, Brandy and Buffy, a loyal miniature black poodle named MeMe, and Susie, the wonderful Cardigan Welsh Corgi. I enjoyed their company. I hope they enjoyed mine. But even though I enjoyed them, I never really gave dogs credit for their value. I guess I never really gave God credit for creating them.

I keep circling back to the same conclusion. God can use anything to get through to a stultified mind, to a sleepwalker stumbling through a superficial life. He has used these dogs, Stella and Wiggles. I didn’t know that’s what He was doing at the time and I didn’t know that more stories were coming. It’s best that way.

©H.J. Hill 2016 All Rights Reserved.

Don’t Push Someone Else’s Limits

Bulldog people know that bullies have issues with excessive heat, issues such as death. They are more susceptible even than other breeds and the definition of heat varies with them. I had gotten in the habit of taking Stella out on a walk when I got home from work, a way for both of us to relax.

Spring had grown old and the temperature was toying with 90 degrees F. Our walks were the only times that Stella was outside except for bathroom breaks.  She was a trooper and completed our short 3/10 of a mile circuit in fine order every day.

I kept my eye on the temperature and one afternoon it hit 92. We took our walk, the usual circuit. Stella panted with her wide grinning mouth open and her lolling tongue yoyoing up and down, all very normal, but when we reentered the air-conditioned house, she flopped belly down on the cool linoleum and kept panting rapidly. About 30 seconds later, she threw up water.

Oh, no, I thought, I’ve killed Stella.  And she’s not even my dog… technically. And it’s all because I think 92 degrees is not all that hot. Not for me, but it was for her. I ran into the kitchen, grabbed all the ice packs I could find, a bowl of cool water, and hand towels.

I plopped  beside the panting Stella and shoved the water under her muzzle. She lapped up as much as she thought she needed. Her tongue was not the dangerous purple that the friendly internet contributors said to watch out for, but I imagined that it was. I placed a wrapped cold pack on the back of her head and slowly, repeatedly, ran another one down the full length of her spine.

It took about 10 minutes. I don’t really know because I was not focused on the clock. Stella’s breathing evened out, the rapid panting slowed, and she finally stood up and walked to her bed – fine and like nothing had happened. I put the towels in the wash, replaced the ice packs in the freezer, collapsed on my chair, and thanked God and thanked God and thanked God.

My son considered the whole episode no serious matter in hindsight. He would have had he been there.

I felt stupid and incompetent. I had violated the rule I always followed as a parent. What is the need of the child? Stella can’t read a thermometer. She can’t prepare for bad weather. She doesn’t buy her own food. We do all those things. My limits are not the issue. Hers are.

The Lord does not push us beyond our limits. He is a good Father. But we are not always so wise. We push ourselves to accomplish whatever and drag others along faster than they can go, then wonder why they collapse under the pressure.

Go for walks. Invite others. But keep an eye on the temperature.

Who Made This Mess?

There is really not a whole lot of sense in asking dogs “Who made this mess?” since:

  • We already know who made the mess,
  • The dogs are not going to clean up the mess (unless it involves spilled food), and
  • The dogs are likely to ask, “Mess? What mess?”

Stella is an expert at making a mess look like the natural progression of random items from one part of the house to another. She is a natural-born hoarder. It’s just that she, on occasion, hoards stuff that I would throw away or she takes stuff that she can’t possibly use. And she’s sneaky about it, like the day I went down the hall for a few minutes only to return and find that she had raided the cat’s litter box for a piece of cat poop. She had brought it to her favorite stashing place and was licking it. Yuck! Thank you, Stella. She put on her confused, disconcerted bulldog stare when I took it away. “Awwww.”

Before that incident, she had pilfered simple items like a bottle of nail polish, a pair of cheap scissors, the scoop for the cat litter…ah, now I see a connection.

I know, Stella, you’re a dog.  I have to remember that.

Asking the Lord who made whatever mess is bothering us at the moment is pretty useless, too, not because He doesn’t know, but because in many cases, we were likely involved in generating the mess. We may as well dig in and start cleaning it up even when we weren’t responsible for every piece of it.

We build our hoards, our piles of broken trinkets, our messes and then mistake them for treasure troves. It takes a revelation and our opened eyes to see the pile as a junk heap of garbage – grudges, resentments, bad attitudes, vengeful thoughts. But we own them, we argue; they are ours. They sneak up on us and we feel a keen sense of justice in keeping them close by. Still, the whole while we hoard them, they are useless, poisonous, cutting, filthy, and take up room in our lives that can be better used for whatever is wholesome. Just like Stella’s cat litter scoop, toxic nail polish, sharp scissors , and nasty cat poop. (Even the cat didn’t want that.)

“…whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8 KJV)

©H.J. Hill 2016 All Rights Reserved.

Don’t Be So Bulldoggy

According to Cesar Millan, bulldogs are the “silent point of view”. Bulldogs ambush. They don’t bark warnings like other breeds. That’s the way they were bred to be. It’s the way they are. They are tenacious. A more negative word for them is stubborn. I have come to think of them as “bulldoggy”.

When Stella doesn’t want to move, she doesn’t. She seemed to be aware from the get-go that I can’t shift a 50 lb. lump of anything without mammoth physical effort on my part or without help from the 50 lb. lump. So she drops to the ground and lays her chin flat on top of her paws. It’s her way of saying “Nope” from her silent bulldoggy point of view.

Sometimes it is a recurring battle in the “War for Leash Control”. We each advance and retreat over the same ground in a cycle of small victories, small defeats, and small stalemates. She points her stubby nose in her direction of choice, strains at the leash, and sets her sturdy massive shoulders. Her whole body says, “Now who’s going to make me go a different way?”

The very picture of Gibraltar. Her ancestors would be proud.

The funny thing is that her stubbornness delays her own success. She wants that special ride but won’t go out in a sprinkle of rain to use the backyard facilities so we can leave. I wanted to make some padded, insulated paw protectors for when we walk rough paths so she could enjoy short trail hikes. All I needed Stella to do was to stand on a piece of paper for about 7 seconds while I traced around her foot. She couldn’t bring herself to comply. I waited. I finally found one paw in a flat position when she was laying down and I got a tracing. Just one.

That’s when I noticed yet another similarity between us and them. Pigheadedness is not restricted to bulldogs. Or pigs. Or horses. Or mules. Or humans.

Dear Lord, did you send us bulldogs to show us how stubborn and hard to work with we can be? All the big and little complaining, all the disobedience, all the fear, all the reluctance to do what we should do willingly, even when it’s for our own good?

Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you. (Psalm32:9 New Living Translation)

And be not like Stella the Stubborn Bulldog who must be held by a strong hand on a leash else she pulls you down the road whithersoever she wishes to go.


© H.J.Hill 2016 All Rights Reserved.

Mothering Season

Stella whelped 3 puppies, not as many as expected, but they were healthy little boogers. My son called in a dog midwife who was familiar with bulldog issues. I had never heard of such a thing. She came in the wee hours and stayed through the next afternoon. She massaged Stella and helped her through the process. It was not Stella’s first litter, but there is always concern.

Over the weeks of motherhood, Stella was the best dog mom ever. She did her job from the first moment above and beyond the call of duty. She fed them, spent every day and night with them, and, if they had to go to the vet, however briefly, she went nuts over the separation and worried for them until they came back home.

And bless her heart, she cleaned them – the yuckiest job ever. She never shirked the task. At least I had baby wipes and diapers to use for my offspring. All she had to use was…well, you know.

But when the puppies were weaned and her job was done, she knew it was done and, in her dog wisdom, she acted accordingly. She did not chase after them, though they still chased after her. She did not let them go back to nursing. That was over. Baby puppyhood had ended and to let it go on would not have been a kindness to her little dogs. They were her babies when they were babies. When they grew into young dogs, she did not mourn the change in seasons.

Human parents are different. Our seasons last far longer than those of dogs. But seasons change nonetheless and we must allow them to change – gracefully. I learned a few lessons from watching Stella raise her puppies.

  • Wean your offspring firmly but kindly. Mother’s milk is great, but it won’t sustain a full grown adult.
  • Don’t let them chase and tackle you. They need to focus on other things in order to be themselves.
  • Don’t be afraid of the changing of the seasons. Each one has its own particular charms.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)


©H.J. Hill 2016 All Rights Reserved.


First Things First

I was not present when Stella’s puppies were born. They were delivered naturally, an oddity. English Bulldogs often experience birth by Caesarian Section because their puppies’ heads are so large.

I could have stayed home for it. Instead I was at work, on an inconsequential day, doing inconsequential things. I could have taken a personal day which would have allowed me to witness the miracle of animal birth. The only other time I had been present for that sort of miracle was for the assisted birth of a calf. But this time I allowed first things to be submerged beneath second things. I stayed stuck in my own personal mire of stupidity and put the unimportant ahead of a first thing.

After warning about what “the woman who makes a dog the centre of her life” loses (a warning I will endeavor to heed, Professor), C.S. Lewis wrote, “You can’t get second things by putting them first. You get second things only by putting first things first.”  [C.S. Lewis, “First and Second Things”, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, The Collected Words of C.S. Lewis (Inspirational Press, 1996 p. 490.]

Don’t cheat yourself out of the significant events God places before you. It would have been so easy for me to be present with Stella that day, to watch what only God can do. If you have a chance to celebrate creation, a chance that does not cost any first thing of your life or the life of another, do it. Let’s not sit around and regret closed doors, doors that were open for a brief moment, doors we allowed to close while we did the mundane. There are few daily tasks that cannot be made up later.

The world makes terrible demands on us. And yes, there are duties which we must fulfill. The rest are choices. Lord, help us to choose well.


©H.J. Hill 2016 All Rights Reserved.




I thought I would recognize a God-send when I saw one, but Stella surprised me.

Blessings are odd things. They are not always wrapped in shiny paper. They don’t always announce themselves. Once in a while, they show up as stinky, wrinkly, smooshy-faced, barrel-shaped bulldogs with faces that, as one neighbor put it, “only a mama could love”.

The day Stella came had been a rough one for me, a confusing mess that represented everything my job had become – a sinking sand pit with me stuck in the middle. Her unexpected arrival jolted me, but not enough to get me unstuck. When my son left to pick up food and a bed for her, she promptly pooped on the floor at my feet. In hindsight, in her place, I might have done the same.

Not an auspicious start.

I cleaned up the pile, promising myself that it was the last thing I would do toward taking care of this dog. My son brought her. He would have to take care of her. That selfie promise lasted, well, maybe a couple of days. My eyes kept straying over to where she slept, watching for signs that she was going into labor. I checked her water bowl. Was it full? Was it clean? The times I was pregnant, I wanted a generous supply of clean water.

As the weeks limped along, I realized Stella’s first blessing to me. She forced my mind off of myself and onto another. Not another human. Another creature.

Stella still paws me, claims me, clings to me as if she’s afraid that no one will keep loving her. After all, it didn’t work out before.

If only I could make her understand.  

“Stella, I thank God for you. You are not a mistake. God brought you to me at the perfect time. You. Specifically you. Of all the dogs on the planet, He chose you and brought you here. I am glad that He did. It shows how much He cares for you. And for me. An answer to prayer shines like a star. You came right on time, Stella. Not a moment early, not a moment late.”

So keep your eyes open. You never know when a disguised blessing will appear, even one in the form of a four-legged, walking barrel.


© H.J. Hill 2016 All Rights Reserved


Not the Dog I Prayed For

The first time I saw Stella, I didn’t like her. Easy dogs are easy to like. Well-mannered, cute, sweet-smelling, obedient. Stella did not fit that bill. She did not meet my definition of cute. She smelled awful. She farted constantly.

Stella is an Olde English Bulldogge. A bulldog. Lazy old me with a bulldog.

I had prayed for a dog – a small brown and white dog with a long, narrow muzzle and a quizzical look on its face. It had been almost 5 years since my little Corgi, Susie, had died. I felt I was finally ready.

“Dear Lord, please send me a dog I can help, a dog I can be good to, the little brown and white dog that I am seeing in my mind. Oh, and no shedding, chewing, bad smells, or pooping and peeing in the wrong places.”

(In other words, I wanted a windup toy dog that I could turn on and off with the push of a button. Lazy old me.)

Three months later, Stella came. She did not wander up. My son brought her. She was pregnant and within a couple of weeks of delivering her litter. I didn’t expect anything good when Stella showed up. I expected more work, more mess, more dirt.

But then I hadn’t expected much of anything good for a long time. It’s hard to talk about failures. They come in so many varied shapes and sizes. Sometimes they come in strings and, after a while, if you don’t break free from quicksand thinking, you get stuck. You start tolerating life, not living it. (And here’s a secret – occasionally failure is success in disguise.)

I started tolerating Stella and shifted to feeling sorry for her. I looked at her hang dog face night after night as she awaited the birth of her puppies. Poor Stella would lumber up to me, begging for a smidgen of attention.

One day I realized that Stella and I looked a lot alike. Hang down heads. Hang dog faces. God can use anything to get your attention, even a bulldog.

“God knows what He’s doing, Stella.”

She looked at me doubtfully with her sideways bulldog stare. “God knows what He’s doing. Do you?” She didn’t have to say it. It was written all over my face.

So where will all this lead? I don’t yet know. The Lord answered my prayer with a bulldog. She was not the dog I prayed for. She was the dog I needed.

And she did fit one item on my mental prayer list. She was brown and white.


©H.J. Hill 2016 All Rights Reserved