The Author

Barking Dogs

Early one evening recently, I sat in a school parking lot waiting for one of our daughters to be released from choir practice. The parking lot bordered the fenced yard of one of the houses in the neighborhood. Behind the fence were two dogs. One looked to be a scruffy poodle sorely in need of a haircut, while the other was a short-haired mongrel, a Heinz-57 of a dog who seemed to be mostly fence-jumper. The poodle wandered aimlessly while the mongrel barked at everything, up to and including a leaf falling off a tree.

The after-school activities must have been numerous, because even at that after 5 hour, kids were all over the place. The mongrel was having a field day, barking himself hoarse, either trying to scare someone or get someone’s attention. What I noticed was that no one paid him any mind. I guess the kids were so used to his noise that they tuned it out.

One young man in particular caught my attention. Big for middle school, he managed to shoulder a backpack, carry a musical instrument, and talk on his cell phone without missing a beat. As he passed between my car and the fence, he never looked up as the barker snapped, snarled, and hopped along the edge of the fence. All that noise, and he wasn’t even heard.

Then the poodle got into the action. From all the way across the yard, this aimless wanderer shot toward the fence with that well-known yap, screeching to a halt just before he banged into the chain links, the hair standing up on his dusty back, yelping with all his might. For the first time, I saw someone react to the noise. The young man I had been observing stopped the phone conversation, shifted his backpack, and took a few steps away from the fence. Even though he knew the fence was between him and trouble, this new development had grabbed his attention. It wasn’t the noise, but the one making the noise.

Have you ever noticed how that’s true among us humans? Bark often enough and aimlessly enough, and after awhile no one pays attention. Remain quiet, pick up your spots, act with energy and enthusiasm, someone’s liable to listen. In John 7:46, Jesus was teaching in the temple while upsetting the authorities. The authorities wanted him arrested, but the temple guards refused to do so. When asked why, they responded “No one ever spoke the way this man does.” Hmmm. There’s a lesson there. I’m trying to learn it.