I was browsing in a discount book store when I saw the sweet face of a dog.
It was on the cover of a book called, “The Black Dogs Project — Extraordinary Black Dogs and Why We Can’t Forget Them.”
Fred Levy took the photos for the book, which came out in 2015.
Levy embarked on a project of photographing black dogs after learning they have a harder time getting adopted than other dogs in shelters.
Lauren Dube, co-founder and president of Labradors and Friends Dog Rescue Group, also wrote in the book about how she’d seen so many black dogs in shelters.
She’d watch their happy demeanors change to depression.
Later, as part of a rescue group, she’d see people adopt yellow and chocolate Labs over black ones.
Do people really overlook black dogs when it comes to adoption?
Dube says they do.
It happens all over the world.
And it’s called Black Dog Syndrome.
I kept reading.
In the same article, Dube told how she’s been blessed to have many black dogs in her life.
Dube also said that once people were made aware of how friendly these dogs were and saw part of their personality — they wanted to adopt animals they might never have noticed on a website.
As I turned the book’s pages, I saw Levy’s beautiful photography of black dogs. Some have shiny coats and bright eyes. Even those with graying muzzles have a dignified and interesting look.
Every photo has an accompanying story about the dog and its owners.
I plan to read each one.
At the same time I wonder, why wouldn’t people pick a black dog?
Why do we always look at the outside of a person or animal and never venture to find out what’s inside?
It’s been a common problem throughout the ages.
And one we see in the Bible.
We can find the story in the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel, chapter 16.
During this time in Biblical history, Israel wants a king. God has Samuel anoint (pour oil on) a man named Saul, thus making him the ruler.
But Saul will become a bad leader.
So God picks someone else to be king and — unbeknownst to Saul — sends Samuel to anoint the new guy.
God sends Samuel to the home of a man named, Jesse, who has eight sons.
When he reaches the man’s house, Samuel sees one of the sons.
Samuel figures this guy surely must be the next king.
In verse 7, we read where Lord tells Samuel: “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Seven of Jesse’s sons pass in front of Samuel.
None of them will be the future king.
Finally, Samuel asks if Jesse has any more sons.
“There’s still the youngest,” Jesse answers, “but he’s tending the sheep.”
Samuel wants to see this young lad, so they send for him.
That son comes in.
“Rise and anoint him; he is the one,” the Lord tells Samuel.
So Samuel anoints a young man named David as Israel’s next king.
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This David will go on to kill a giant warrior named Goliath. And while the road to the throne is long and difficult, David eventually becomes king of Israel.
The Scriptures describe David as being a handsome young man, but I wonder if he looked like kingly material when Samuel saw him.
Only God really saw the potential beneath the shepherd’s garb.
And only God knew David’s future.
We see such incomplete pictures when viewing only the exterior.
Do we overlook someone with unkempt hair and messy clothes?
Or someone who doesn’t look so impressive?
In the New Testament, James warns believers against favoritism.
“Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in,” James writes. “If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ’Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:2-4)
I have a hard time imaging people telling a poor person to sit at their feet in church today.
But are we as welcoming as we should be — no matter what a person looks like?
And do we get so busy trying to hurry to a Sunday school class or to find someone we want to talk to that we overlook someone else sitting or standing nearby?
I feel like I live in a rush, but I know a woman in my church who has what I call “Holy Ghost Radar.”
We’ll be singing in church, when she turns around and notices someone who’s perhaps come in the door a little late. Or maybe that person walked in church after having not attended for a long time.
They might look OK.
Or they might look a little sad or hesitant.
The next thing I know, she’s out of her seat — and she’s praying quietly with them.
And I have a feeling that she’s praying just what they need to hear or at least something that’s encouraging.
How do I know that?
Because she’s an encouraging person, who’ve I’ve seen look past rough exteriors and focus on the person beneath — more than once.
Does she have a black dog?
I don’t think so, but I don’t think she’d be opposed to one either.
One thing I do know is that she loves Jesus, who I don’t imagine ever wore fancy clothes or rode the fastest camel in town.
He even had to borrow a donkey to ride on what we call Palm Sunday.
And here’s how the prophet Isaiah described Jesus, hundreds of years before our Lord ever walked this earth:
“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”
Wow. You mean Jesus knew what it was like to be overlooked?
“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces, he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” (Isaiah 53:3)
Jesus knew the pain of rejection and yet he was so inclusive.
The Savior, who was scorned, reached out to despised tax collectors, the poor, the sick and people in all sorts of tough situations.
Can you imagine him writing in the dirt, telling the men who brought the woman caught in adultery that whoever was without sin should cast the first stone?
Or can you picture him tenderly placing his hand on the shoulder of a leper, who no one else would touch?
Or smoothing the hair of a child, whose mother just wanted a special blessing for her little one?
Jesus saw beyond gruff exteriors to the pain beneath.
He knew the hearts of the people with whom he interacted and sought to teach them better ways to live and love.
And I’d like to imagine that he might even have petted a black dog or two.