An Elly May Smile!

It has been a while since I wrote about Elly May… not Clampett, but our Pembroke Welsh Corgi.

She smiles.

I wouldn’t want other dog owners thinking I am out of touch here, so I’ll add that almost all Corgi’s smile – as do an impressive number of other puppies!

With human beings, a smile is pretty easy to recognize – corners of the mouth go up, often accompanied by a crinkle around the eyes.

I wondered how dog’s smile, so I did a little research and found a surprising bit of controversy.

Most agreed that dogs smile using the same/similar facial muscles as humans. But, given the differences in the shape of the skull (both from humans and among the different breeds) the resulting smile can be harder to recognize than you’d think.

Some dogs do smile by turning up the corners of their mouths, others are actually smiling when we think they are yawning. Some breeds show their teeth; others don’t.

According to Professor Nicholas Dodman of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts School of Medicine, “Today it is widely understood by scientists that mammals [such as dogs] do experience primary emotions [e.g., fear, sadness, anger, and happiness] -and they communicate them.”

But, there are other scientists, animal behaviorists, and veterinarians who argue just as passionately, dogs do not smile. Period.

I enter the debate only to say, Elly May smiles.

As a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, she doesn’t have a tail to wag – although she does wiggle her rump with all of the gusto she can muster!

But she also smiles. And she smiles a lot like a human – mouth slightly opened, corners turned up, eyes slightly crinkled and sparkling! It’s a beautiful thing.

Often, when we are out walking little kids will tell their mom’s, “That dog is smiling at me!” – they are almost giddy!

Then, as we pass by they add, “What happened to your dog’s tail?” I love to look panicked and say, “Oh my gosh… Adele… Elly May’s tail fell off again!!” Then I’ll ask the child to help me find it.

I enjoy this. The parents seem disturbed by it…

Elly May just smiles.

One day a week or so ago, I was ticked with Elly May’s smile.

I had a chance to sleep in. Now, I’m at an age and stage where sleep in doesn’t’ mean what it once did. I do remember when sleeping in meant lunch would be my breakfast. Fantastic!

Those days are way behind me.

To sleep in now just means to make it to 7:30 or 8.

I’m not complaining. I am a morning person. But, once in a while, to stay under the flannel sheets and blanket until the house is warm is a wonderful thing.

On that day, I was rolling over about 6:45 AM when I saw it: Elly May’s unmistakable smile.

She is not allowed on the bed – her legs are only about 3.5” long so getting on the bed isn’t really an option. However, like most Corgi’s she is llllloooooonnnnngggggg. So, when she stands up on her hind legs she has no trouble making eye contact….

…and she did.

…sweet little squinty crinkled brown eyes – a slightly opened mouth – warm doggy breath – and her unmistakable smile

I wanted no part of it!!

I actually chastised the dog for smiling at me (I’ll pause here so you can make that “tsk, tsk, tsk” sound…).

I really do feel guilty about it. But in the moment, I wanted the other 75 minutes of sleep in the worst possible way.

Feeling guilty is a thing for me – It helps me to live with myself before the judging eyes of my dog-loving wife and neighbors…

Do you know anyone who seems to enjoy feeling ‘guilty’?

It’s true for a lot of us.

I am told if you attended Catholic School, and I know if you were raised by Puritan-like, fundamentalist Baptist parents in the South, you have wrestled with that feeling guilty thing more than once.

There is a kind of catharsis attached to it…a sense of purifying, cleansing, purging of emotions, relief of tensions. You actually feel better by feeling guilty.

During the Lenten season, those of us who are followers of Jesus sometimes feel guilty. We think we’re supposed to… it helps us live with what we’ve thought of as “God’s judging eyes.” We’ve even fooled ourselves to think we feel better when we feel guilty.

In truth we just feel guilty, though.

But that’s not really the message of the season – at all.

In fact, it’s the opposite.

The message of Lent is we need not feel guilty… the Christ – the Anointed One – the Messiah – has carried our weaknesses and our sorrows; was pierced for our rebellion; was crushed for our disappointing thoughts, behaviors and values; was beaten so we could be whole…

But this un-truth lives on. In the same way I wanted 75minutes more sleep, I so often want that feeling of guilt.

And, much like I got ticked with Elly May for smiling at me, I get ticked with God for lavishing grace and mercy on me, for being so darn patient with me, and for being loving and kind toward me!

I deserve the guilt – I worked hard for it.

All that other stuff is a gift. I didn’t do anything for it. It’s like I was asleep to it all until one day God woke me up with this incredibly big smile on His face – and He just won’t quit pulling for me!!

Thank God I do not get what I seem to want, for I surely long for what He has given.

Don’t feel guilty – embrace grace this season.

Receive God’s smile and smile right back!


About christmasandicecream

Grace & Peace to you all! I'm Randy. I am a follower of Jesus - sometimes close up and, sadly, sometimes way too far away. My best friend, administrative assistant, partner, and high school sweetheart all live with me and go by the same name: Adele. She and I are part of a relationally-focused, small group based Church family that helps us along spiritual quest. Our boys are both grown now. We have a wonderful daughter-by-marriage and 2 truly GRANDchildren... 1 boy and 1 girl. We are Corgi people and now oversee the care of 1 spoiled Corgi puppy named Elly May. I am a devoted fan of 2 'seasons' in each year: Christmas and baseball!! At my house, a Christmas tree goes up somewhere within days of the close of the Fall Classic (baseball lingo for the World Series) and a Christmas tree stays up all the way through Spring Training. In between it is non-stop celebration of the Incarnation. I live in the Mid-Atlantic part of the U.S.A. and, among other things, work as a coach and consultant with an incredibly diverse network of churches that make up the BCMD. My Church-roots are in the Baptist bucket of the Christian ice cream shop. But, just because I have a favorite flavor, doesn't mean I don’t like them all! I do. I work with things like soul care & leadership development of pastor/pastoral team members; with small, simple, organic models of church life; with relational strategies of spiritual formation; and with the health of the Church. I taught at New Orleans seminary for a decade and have served in local churches for 30 years. I am currently part of the faculty of Rockbridge Seminary – a new kind of seminary for a new kind of Church – where I also play a role on the Academic Council. *I am obliged to note that questions, comments, ideas, views,... just about anything you read here, are mine, and not those of BCMD, RS, any other organization or school I work for, or those of most normal people. Thanks for visiting. Come back again.
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