We sometimes look after our family’s (Hardin) dog. I notice it spends a lot of time just sleeping or lying around and, in between naps, it eats or begs for something to eat. It doesn’t appear to be such a rough life. It’s not really “a dog’s life,” which is supposed to mean a miserable existence.
Dogs weren’t always well-spoken of in the Bible. For example, “A fool doing some stupid thing a second time is like a dog going back to its vomit (Proverbs 26:11, quoted by Peter in 2 Peter 2:22), isn’t complementary. If you have ever seen a dog throw up and eat the stuff again, you know how sickening it is. So fools are like a vomit-eating dog.
When Goliath was confronted by David, who had only a slingshot, Goliah said “What’s that stick for? Do you think I’m a dog?” Apparently, Goliath was used to beating dogs with a stick and insulted David by implying he could do the same to him..
In another story, David was looking for someone in Saul’s family so that he could return some kindness “for Jonathan’s sake” (2 Samuel 9:1). It turned out that there was a cripple named Mephibosheth, but he was embarrassed that David would help him. “Why would you be so good to me? I am no better than a dead dog” (ibid, 9:8). That’s humility for you!
David wasn’t fond of dogs in the Psalms: he compared an evil gang to a “pack of dogs” (22:16); enemies “snarled like a dog” (59:6) and roamed about growling and wanting food (59:15). I don’t know if David could have “called off the dogs,” so that the disparaging remarks would not have been heard, but he chose to fight instead. I guess he was “between a dog and a wolf” or a rock and a hard place and we know that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” David fought a lot and relied on his men for help.
In a number of Bible stories, a real insult was to be called a dog, or to die and be eaten by dogs, which was the fate of Jezebel (2 Kings 9:10). Another insult was to compare leaders to “watch dogs that didn’t bark,” but just laid around and dreamed (Isaiah 56:10).
Dogs turn up in the New Testament too: Jesus told the disciples to not give what was holy to dogs (Matthew 7:6), which was comparable to giving pearls to swine. Jesus was also capable of insults: he told the Canaanite woman who came to him to heal her daughter that he was looking after the “lost sheep of the people of Israel,” not Canaanites, whom he compared to dogs. The woman’s reply impressed Jesus so much that he healed her daughter: “even the dogs eat the leftovers that fall from their masters’ table” (Matthew 15:27), indicating if she was a dog, she should still be allowed some crumbs.
A story in Luke tells us about one useful function of dogs: they could lick the sores of beggars, such as the one waiting for some scraps from the rich man’s table (16:21).
Paul used the metaphor of a dog to refer to Jewish leaders who were insisting that Greek converts be circumcised: “Watch out for those who do evil things, those dogs, those who insist on cutting the body” (Philippians 3:2).
Dogs are more esteemed in our culture: According to an article in Fortune magazine by Michal Addady called “This is how much Americans spend on their dogs” (August 26, 2016), it is to the tune of $1,641 per dog per year, including veterinary care, vitamins and toys. So “to live like a dog” isn’t so bad in the US. (Cats do nearly as well—it costs $1,125 to care for one for a year.)
To be as “sick as a dog” is bad news: they mope, puke, and go potty all over the place. (Hopefully we humans omit the last feat.) A saying is that “every dog has its day,” which applies to us if we get a chance to do really well, at least once. And, if things get really bad for us we “go to the dogs.” However, if our fortune changes and we suddenly have more that we need, we might be tempted to “put on the dog,” and seem more important than we really are. Of course, in order to attain that status we would have to “work like a dog.”
There are dogs that work—sled dogs for example and they are mainly of the Alaskan Husky type used for transportation in areas like Alaska and Greenland.
How about a “shaggy dog story,” one that goes on and on involves multiple unimportant scenes and incidents, then ends with an absurd punch line? That is quite different than a bumper sticker I saw: “Husband & Rottweiler missing, Reward for the Rottweiler.”
There are also “dog and pony” shows, when something is highly advertised to gain positive opinion by using various gimmicks. I don’t think either dogs or ponies are involved, but they must have been at one time at the fairgrounds or some similar place.
Is it true that “a barking dog never bites”? I have met some mean dogs in Papua New Guinea and those dogs can’t bark, they just howl—and bite. One came at me viciously in a village one time and I had to kick him—he did a backflip and landed on his feet, then growled and howled, but no bite. That memory “dogged” me for some time!
Well I don’t want to “keep a dog and bark myself” and I am getting “dog-tired” of thinking what to write. If I keep at this story it will soon be the “tail wagging the dog.” And that “shouldn’t happen to a dog.”