It was October 31st and I was sitting on the front porch watching children as they scavenged through the neighborhood going door to door looking for candy. Neighbors stopped by just to say hi. Typical conversations were held about the weather, the football game, the economy……and the housing market. As one of our neighbors approached, I noticed that at the end of her leash, she had the most beautiful black dog. His hair was soft and curly. His eyes set close together and they seemed to be chocolate brown. He had an under bite, a slight wheeze…and within seconds I had fallen in love. (Please don’t tell my dog, Max.) As I was rubbing his belly, I commented...
“you don’t really see many black dogs.”
I was shocked when she quickly responded…”black dog syndrome.” The typical conversation about weather and housing market turned into an educational seminar about a condition I had never even heard of. Apparently black dogs are the black sheep (excuse the pun) of the canine world. They are commonly the last, if at all to be adopted at a shelter. The bigger they are…the worse their chances. I was at least a bit comforted to find out males are more likely to be adopted than females. Let’s face it guys…there are very few things we can boast about as men…so I will take what I can get.
Since I was so intrigued by this conversation, I went to the internet and found that black dog syndrome was a true phenomenon. Destined for death at many shelters, some of the reasons that they are passed over might surprise you. 1. Harmful superstitions. Black dogs are the center of many common folklore tales. 2. Negative labels. Apparently people associate having a black dog with living with depression due to the terminology “transcending the black dog.” 3. Fear. Many believe that a black dog is simply more aggressive and dangerous. 4. And this is the one that I was most shocked at……they are just too ordinary. This phenomenon has actually caused some shelters to adopt a BOGO (buy one get one) policy so that the dark coated canines can find a home.
I guess I shouldn’t be shocked that the fate of a beautiful and loving animal rests in decisions being made around superstitions, labels, and fear. As I think about the many decisions we make every day, I wonder what is shaping those choices. Are we so easily influenced? Do negative labels, superstitions, fear, and opinion polls shape and guide who we are and what we do? Are we people who act out of conviction or are we people who act simply out of conformity? I also wonder what other kind of syndromes exist. Who and what are we excluding based upon what we hear rather than what we see with our spiritual eyes and know to be true? How many opportunities, friendships, and situations are we missing not simply because of the decisions we make……but more so….the basis of those decisions.
May we pay attention to what is shaping our choices. May we be a friend of conviction. May we use it to guide us. May we go against the flow. May we recognize prejudices in our life and may we deal with them appropriately. May we freely ask for God’s forgiveness. May you reach out and ask for others forgiveness as well. May we not be exclusive but may we have a heart that includes. May we see things through God’s eyes and may He be involved in the basis for all our decisions. May we never look at black dogs the same again.
Written by our Pastor Dr. Mark A Bedwell