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“Better to be a dog in times of tranquility than a human in times of chaos.”

Chinese Proverb

“Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”

Psalm 84:10

I would never wish “interesting times” on anyone. The oft-quoted saying, “may you live in interesting times,” was likely an aberration of the “dog” proverb above. According to my dogs, it’s better to be a dog at all times, including a pandemic! 

Such a statement about living in interesting times was unlikely meant to be a blessing. More likely, it was regarded as a kind of curse. Life during a pandemic has felt like a curse for some, and for none of us has it been a cake walk, a bed of roses, or a bowl of dog treats. The suffering that many have endured is quite real and feels like anything but a blessing. Some have suffered economically, others physically, and almost all have suffered emotionally. Most of us, at the very least, have had a major change of plans and vastly impacted lifestyle changes. I have had two major trips cancelled and am presently in the midst of trying to plan a wedding with my fiancée during these stressful and uncertain times. 

While ministry has encountered a seismic shift toward “virtual” modes, with technology leading the way, I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by a nimble and creative staff that has been able to shift gears pretty seamlessly. Nonetheless, none of these changes are what I would call fun in any sense of the word.

Fortunately, in addition to a fiancée who loves me unconditionally, I have six dogs who love me, perhaps even more unconditionally. What’s that? Did I say six dogs? What do you mean by “canine addiction?” I have no idea what you’re talking about when you imply that I’m in need of a good “Rover recovery” program! Actually, only four of the dogs are mine. Two of them belong to my fiancée. But we are working hard to create a happy family. We sometimes say that we are “the Brady Bunch of barks.” 

During the anxious moments that have made up the last few months, I have looked to my dogs for spiritual guidance. They are calm, centered, consistent, and joyful. They take great delight in the simple blessings on which they focus: a nice walk, a soothing scratch, a tasty treat, or a calming nap. 

As my dogs always have, they are teaching me many powerful truths during these difficult times. They’ve taught me to count my blessings every day, never to take anything for granted, and always to be grateful for simple joys and pleasures. Our morning walks put me in the best frame of mind and remind me how important it is to exercise and be outdoors. Their savoring of treats encourages me to savor simple meals and a glass of wine each evening with the ones I love. Their exuberance upon my return home makes me feel loved and valued — I sometimes imagine God must feel the same way when we return home to Him. 

A few days ago, when I returned from running errands, one of our dogs had found a Bible (likely it smelled like us) and had taken it in his mouth and placed it right in the middle of my bed! I am guessing he was reminding me to take time to read God’s word and get centered each day in the Holy Scriptures. We’ve now started reading the Daily Office each morning, thanks to the dog. He was likely also hoping we’d read Psalm 84:10 and meditate on how much better it is to spend one day with God than a thousand elsewhere, even in the midst of a pandemic. And in dog years, one day is at least seven! 

We have one beast that is quite bold in the language of flatulence. He makes no apologies for what he apparently feels is a normal expression of something that should be released. However, my fiancée and I fell out laughing the other day when he somehow found and retrieved a package of Gas-X and brought it into the living room! It’s important, we think he said, to admit our shortcomings and try to address them! A pandemic is a good time to get well and whole and make the appropriate changes in our lives so that we will feel better.

Several years ago, my late great dog Nawiliwili Nelson and I set off on a 5,000 mile “Last Howlelujah Tour.” We shared dog stories and raised awareness and funds for our animal friends at 23 different locations from New Orleans to Las Vegas. We appeared at churches, bookstores, restaurants, and even breweries. Wili was featured in news articles and interviews around the country and even in Europe. 

This summer, I’m wrapping up my third book. We’re now in our final edits. It’s about my shared adventure with Wili and about the lessons we learn from our furry (and not-so-furry) friends. I had planned to travel to California with one of my other canine buddies on another “Howlelujah Tour” in memory of Wili, release this new book, and raise funds for Wili’s Howlelujah Foundation for Animal Welfare and for local animal shelters along the way. Best laid plans, right? 

One of the great lessons my dogs have taught me is to maintain a nonanxious presence — go with the flow regardless of circumstance. So, we are adjusting our plans. We’ll be launching the book and doing the Howlelujah Tour virtually, utilizing social media (especially Facebook), videos, podcasts, written reflections, my webpage, and my “Spirituality for Real People” E-news. Just as the church is adapting and adopting new ways of communicating the gospel during this difficult time, so are authors. We’ll be asking folks to host “Watch Parties” as we share stories from the book and I’ll be taping a series of readings that folks can share. I may also host a virtual version of the “Bow Wow Film Fest.” This canine-centric film festival features original short films about, wait for it … DOGS! Doing ministry in the time of COVID in a creative collaborative manner has prepared me to do a book launch and even a book tour in a creative and collaborative manner as well. 

As Christians, we are entrusted with the timeless message of God’s love for creatures and critters of all kinds. The message does not change. But, our methods do. How we share the gospel is quite dependent on cultural context and particular circumstance. This pandemic has been a challenge. But, it’s also been a wonderful opportunity to imagine more creative ways to share, worship, serve, learn, and cultivate fellowship. We will be able to share God’s love through dogs all the way around the world — without ever leaving home. That is blessing worth howling about!

The Rev. Bill Miller, Christ Episcopal Church, Covington, Louisiana

The Reverend William “Bill” Miller lives in Covington, Louisiana, near New Orleans, where he serves as Rector of Christ Episcopal Church. He is the author of  The Gospel According to Sam: Animal Stories for the Soul and The Beer Drinker’s Guide to God: The Whole and Holy Truth about Lager, Loving, and Living. His new book The Last Howlelujah: Tails from the Trail will launch on October 4, the Feast Day of St. Francis. Learn more at or You can subscribe to his “Spirituality for Real People” E-newsletter at

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