It was before digital cameras, and I’ve moved a lot—so I don’t have a picture of one of the banes of my life…Carson. The picture at the top of my blog is a free image of an “ugly dog,” but who is to say what is beautiful and what is ugly?

When Luke was five, we went to Carson City, Nevada, one Saturday to explore. Before we entered a restaurant for lunch, an ugly black dog began following us. Luke pet the dog and talked to him. We went in to eat and forgot about the dog. When we came out—the dog started following Luke again. When we got to our truck the dog tried to climb in with us. We told the dog to stay. I pulled out of the parking lot and drove away. Luke screamed at me to stop. “He’s following us. He’s going to get hit by a car.” Sure enough, the ugly black dog with bat ears ran down the road behind us with cars honking at him. We didn’t know where he belonged, or how to make him stay—so we took him with us. I spent the next two weeks placing ads in papers, making phone calls—and when no one claimed him—I spent the rest of his life trying to give him away. No one wanted him. Including me.

Carson was a ridiculously long dog, with ridiculously short legs, and a ridiculously long fluffy tail, bat ears, and a snout like a Labrador. He was ugly—and stupid. Even puppies learn “come,” “sit,” “stay,” “down,” and “shake” at just a few weeks to a few months old. Carson never learned.

A few months later, Carson stampeded a herd of buffalo. Buffalo-viewing tourists fled to their vehicles. Embarrassed, I tried to drive away and leave Carson behind—but he chased us down the road and Luke screamed and cried…and I stopped to rescue him…again.

Carson barked at other dogs and at everything that moved; chased cars; dug under fences; terrorized chickens; tangled with skunks, and lost one of his back legs attacking a dog ten times his size. The leg was so mangled that the vet had to remove it. Driving home with the three-legged dog, Luke suddenly burst into tears. “What’s wrong?” I asked my sobbing son. “Mom, we have to get another dog. There’s not much left of Carson.”

It was a good thing that there wasn’t much left of Carson. When we moved to Montana, I was forced to work three jobs to support myself and Luke. One of the jobs was waitressing at an all-night restaurant. I worked from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and had to leave Luke alone in our duplex with Carson. The people in the next duplex opened the door between the two units in case of emergency. Dogs were not allowed. But because Carson had only three legs and no one wanted him—he got to stay. And because Carson was with him—Luke felt safe.

When Luke was eleven, Tom and I got married. I still had Carson. The day of the wedding, Luke and I entered Tom’s house—a mobile home—for the first time. Tom’s fluffy old cat tackled Carson and sent him tumbling across the floor. For the rest of the time we lived in that mobile home, Carson would never walk past the living room—even after the cat died and been gone for a year. Carson was not only ugly—he was stupid.

The day of liberation finally arrived. After all the years and all the attempts to get rid of Carson…he died.

I sobbed for two days.

Jesus said, “Do not judge according to appearance.” The ugly dumb-as-a-box-of-rocks black dog knew how to love.

Direct Vision


savannah over fence deserted street

None of us has direct vision. We all see through a filter of past events and experiences.

When I was four, my mother took me to an optometrist because she thought I couldn’t see clearly. She explained to the doctor, “She doesn’t color between the lines.” I thought to myself, “Oh, that’s what those lines are for.” It wasn’t that I couldn’t see them—it was that I was in love with color and spread my favorites thickly across the pages of coloring books in my own patterns and designs. After I knew about the lines—I used them.

When I was four and boarded a bus with my mother for the first time, I saw black people getting on and exclaimed, “Mom, look at all those poor sunburned people.” My embarrassed mom shushed me for my rudeness, but she didn’t understand. It wasn’t rudeness, it was compassion. I had never seen a person with black skin before. I hurt for them because I thought they were badly burned.

What we see depends on what we’ve seen before. None of us has direct vision.

Recently our collie returned to our local vet time and again dehydrated because she would not eat. Time and again, she was hooked her to a drip and we were assured that she was not too thin, and that perhaps—because she’s a smart dog—she played us, refusing to eat until she got something she liked.

None of the vets understood that Savannah…Would. Not. Eat. They had never seen her walk to her food, sniff it, make a face of human disgust, and walk away.

We finally got an appointment for Savannah at a vet hospital that had the equipment to examine her, and the first thing I heard from the vet was the inevitable, “She’s not a bad weight. Maybe we just need to adjust her food.” Her food has been adjusted so many times that we’ve given away cases and bags of various brands and kinds and still have cases more.

Again the questions. Again the subtle suggestion that I might be the problem because I worried too much. Again, the failure to comprehend the fact that Savannah… Would. Not. Eat.

Then the phone call that made me cry for two reasons. One reason, we have a sick little girl whose condition is chronic with few treatment options. And I am not an obsessed doggy mom who worries to distraction. There are physical reasons for Savannah’s lack of appetite: pancreatitis and an inflamed bowel. A vet finally saw the lines.

I was reminded of a Bible story. When Samuel was ordered by God to ordain a king from Jesse’s family, Jesse brought his sons to Samuel one at a time and God rejected all of them. Samuel asked if Jesse had any more sons. He had one more. David, a young boy who was out in the field with his father’s sheep. David, who later killed a giant with a rock and a slingshot. David who wrote most of the Psalms in the Bible. David, who became King David. David whose earthly lineage leads to Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords.

When God chose David out of Jesse’s sons, he told Samuel, “The LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

God sees the lines. Sometimes…we don’t.