I once had a dog named Big Red. He was a beagle-something else mix. We had let our female beagle, Sugar, live with my father’s parents on the farm after a year of living with the dog in Tupelo, MS. Beagles need room to run. We have no idea who the father was, but one of the pups, Big Red, was the same color as the red clay hills of Mississippi (with a white breast, white tip of the tail, and white socks on each foot – just no black at all). He was twice or three times the size of a beagle, but otherwise, looked like a giant beagle, the relative shape of each part of his body. As a teen-ager, I played with him when we visited Granddaddy on the farm, and we became inseparable when we moved back to the farm about a year later.
We can all learn a lesson from Big Red’s hunting style, as told by Granddaddy, and observed by me on our visits. That dog exhibited faith that you rarely see in humans.
Granddaddy would sit on the front porch and listen to Big Red hunt. He knew Big Red was hunting when he heard that deep baritone voice with its half mournful, almost painful moan. The other half was like a bay-at-the-moon, common among beagles. The sound was urgent, as if Big Red’s life depended on this one hunt. The sound let Granddaddy know that he was about to be entertained by a master.
Big Red loved to hunt across the highway in a tree filled hollow above a flood control reservoir. The sound of his bellows reached the top of the hill so that Granddaddy could track where Big Red was at any time, only hearing, never seeing any part of the hunt.
When a rabbit hears the sound of a beagle approaching, it is not entertaining to its ears. A rabbit will speed up and then run (hop) at full speed toward a tree. With the strength that only fear can produce, the rabbit will jump up as high as possible on the trunk of the tree and then leap as far away from the tree as possible to the left or right. This creates a gap in the scent, a chance to get away. Beagles instinctively reach the tree and then work in circles around the tree until they either give up or they pick up the new trail, where the rabbit had landed.
Big Red wasn’t your normal beagle. When Big Red lost a scent, he would go back to where he had first caught the scent and start over. The second time, he would try to replicate what the rabbit had done when Big Red reached the tree. He’d reach the tree and jump left. If he didn’t find the scent, he’d go back to the beginning and jump right when he got to the tree on the third trip. He would keep repeating the procedure until he picked up the trail again. There was new urgency in his voice, and Granddaddy knew that the hunt was back on. Granddaddy told me that he never knew a dog that would never give up, until Big Red came along.
After more than an hour, sometimes two hours, the voice would stop. Fifteen minutes later, Big Red would run into the front yard with the rabbit in his mouth. The first time he did this, Granddaddy was thinking that he now had a problem to dispose of a dead rabbit. He stared at the ball of fluff that Big Red stood over in victory. Then Granddaddy noticed the rabbit was shaking its head. The rabbit was wobbling around, but it finally had its legs under it. It slowly, and then more quickly, hopped across the front yard and into the tree line.
Big Red was watching the rabbit along with Granddaddy. When he judged that the rabbit had a fair head start, he ran into the woods after the rabbit. The hunt was on again.
Granddaddy would tell me that he never brought the rabbit to the house more than two times each day. We talked about the hunt and the reality of one animal hunting another. Granddaddy thought that after the third hunt of the same rabbit on the same day, Big Red let the rabbit go, but dogs do like to eat rabbits. Big Red never had fur hanging out of his mouth at the end of the day. As Granddaddy and I would sit and listen to Big Red hunt, we always ended our conversation with a happy ending for all.
How is this story instructive for Christians? Big Red had faith in his master on the front porch. He did his job, knowing that at the end of the day, the bowl near the back door of the house would be filled with table scraps and dog food. (For those who want to complain about feeding a dog table scraps, understand this was 50 years ago, and there never was a healthier dog than Big Red.) He was a beagle (okay, half-beagle). He had to hunt, but he didn’t need to hunt for food. Big Red didn’t give ten percent of his earnings each day. He gave all that he had to his master on the front porch. At that moment, Big Red was like the widow who gave all that she had to live on (Mark 12:41-44), but Big Red knew his bowl would be full that night. So did the widow. She knew God would provide when she took that step of faith.
Okay, there may be some animal lovers that look on this story and scream about justice for the rabbit. I have a feeling that the rabbit was praying while it was hopping along. The prayer went something like this, “Oh, Lord! Please, there must be a heaven, for I am now experiencing hell!”
Where are they now, Granddaddy, Big Red, and the rabbit(s)? This story came to mind watching a Mark Lowry video about “All Dogs Go to Heaven.” Psalms 36:6 talks about God preserving humans and animals, thus Mark Lowry’s theme. Isaiah 11:6 and 65:25 both talk about wolves, lambs, and lions living with each other in peace. I can picture them, for the Bible talks about them. But off in the background there is a tiny rabbit who swats a big red dog across the nose and says, “Tag, you’re it!”