THURSDAY: Religion is the Smile on a Dog


I spend my days here working as a dog handler and trainer in the Staff Dog program. On any given day I am in contact with these wonderful creatures, even during days when my clientele are absent. It is a blessing, and I have always thought this. Who am I to deserve such kindness?

Day in and day out I immerse myself in projects that move me forward in life or projects that bring me happiness (such as this blog). I discovered years ago, as does every imprisoned soul, that the moment you stop to dwell upon your imprisonment or aloneness The Darkness comes for you. In This World, where no one cares whether you live or die, the demons patiently wait in the shadows for your moment of weakness.

I sometimes suffer from moments of sadness, most centered around future thoughts of losing family, but none much different from that of any caring prisoner. This week has been especially hard for me which is very rare.

This week was also my second week of providing daycare for a new staff owned dog. It’s a shephered/bull dog mix that goes by the name of “Justin.” He’s 80 lbs of muscle and love. Somewhere early in Justin’s life, he was abused by a previous owner–info provided by the pound to his new owner. I can always spot the abused dogs, for they tend to shy from a reaching hand or cower from loud noises. Justin has come a long way. Unless you knew his past, an untrained eye would be none-the-wiser.

Dogs, like people, have similar emotions. When they’re happy they smile and bounce about cheerfully, and when they’re sad you see it in their entire form. Gone is the smile and gone are the happy movements. Sometimes Justin has moments of sadness, and I spot them every time. When this happens I’ll pet and talk to him until I see his tail wag happily and his smile return. He knows I mean him no harm. Dogs are intuitive creatures, arguably more so than people. They can read emotions and intent from a mile away.

Earlier today I was half-sitting half-laying on my bunk, pillows propped up behind my neck. Justin was curled in a ball at my feet, watching the bustle of the dorm. I became lost in sad thoughts of family, triggered by something that eludes me at this moment. So rare for this to happen to me. For some reason, I’ve been drowning in thoughts like these all week. I think it’s all centered around thoughts of catching COVID-19 and not making it home ever again. Prisons are dangerous places right now.

I was thinking about how much I miss family and wasn’t aware of anything going on around me. I was completely lost in my thoughts, drowning in The Darkness–alone.

Then, from out of nowhere, a dog appeared. At first I didn’t realize what was happening. Justin had arisen from the other end of the bunk, came over to me, and plopped himself down between my legs, resting his head on my stomach. He stared kindly, refusing to move. He’d realized what was happening and intuitively knew I needed help. I sat there petting him for a long time.

People who know me will tell you I’m not a religious man. Organized religions aren’t for me. Yet it doesn’t diminish my trust and belief in our Creator. “Religion” is what we choose it to be.

For me, I’m always seeking the hand of The Creator, and in so doing, The Creator seeks me. This is my religion. Today, religion came in the form of a smile on a dog and lifted me back up.

Who am I to deserve such kindness?

—Christopher—


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One thought on “THURSDAY: Religion is the Smile on a Dog

  1. Marija

    Hello Chris, I am glad that you are doing well. I am happy that you have a good company:) Thank you for sharing this vulnerable and emotional post… I notice how sometimes abused people tend to be shy and scared of others or noise. Tabea and me sent you a response to your letter some time ago, but I dont know if you received it. I am sorry I didnt receive your precious card and craft, but maybe it got lost during these times. I am okay and here the virus almost disappeared. Churches and stores are opening up so it is good to see more people again. I know some people had it hard, especially those who are alone during this time because sometimes being alone means being more weak to those thoughts you talked about. We from CPP ministry still have our meetings on Sundays afternoon where we talk about pen pals. Good thing is that we have more volunteers signing up since the virus so less lonely inmates! God bless you brother and a sisterly hug from Tabea and me!

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