National Puppy Day: A Gift From

Jae C. Hong

It’s National Puppy Day!

It’s always some kind of “Day” in this country. There are days celebrating hot dogs and pizza, days celebrating mothers and fathers, even days celebrating secretaries. We like to celebrate things, and why not? Americans have always loved a good party.

Thursday is National Puppy Day and it’s as good a day as any to be reminded of the goodness of our Lord. Our Founding Fathers enshrined the concept of Divine Blessing in our Constitution. It has been a bedrock of our development as a nation and our identity as human beings worthy of immutable rights. National Puppy Day may seem silly – and it kind of is – but it’s also a great time to reflect on how God provides in the little ways and the big ways.

Dr. Hugh Ross is an astrophysicist and Christian apologist who works with Reasons to Believe, an organization dedicated to apologetics through science. He highlighted a recent study from Duke University that seems to indicate humans are naturally inclined to form relationship with dogs. According to Ross, God’s grand design includes a special relationship between humans and nephesh animals – birds and animals that seem to be imbued with an innate ability to emotionally connect with humans.

According to Genesis 1:21, 24, birds and mammals are nephesh creatures. God endowed the nephesh animals with a desire to emotionally relate to humans and to serve and please us. We tame these animals to become personal pets and domesticate them to perform service for us.

God designed the relationships between humans and nephesh animals to be mutualistic. That is, just as the nephesh animals relate to, serve, and please humans, so, too, God designed humans to relate to nephesh animals and to serve and please them.

Duke University’s Rachna Reddy led a study to find out if humans are naturally predisposed to relating to and serving nephesh animals or if those were qualities that developed “over time through training and education.” It was essentially a nature versus nurture study, and they used dogs as the test case.

The study is obviously multi-layered, eliminating those with fears and allergies, and with control groups built in; but essentially Reddy’s team conducted their experiments with young children and domesticated dogs. They wanted to know if young children would naturally help (friendly) dogs with a basic goal or ignore the task.

The team placed each child (2-3 years old) in an enclosed pen with a dog, then the researchers would “accidentally” drop a toy or a treat in a manner that put it out of reach for the dog, but within reach for the child.

Of the 236 experiments where the dog showed some visible interest in the toy or food treat, children gave it to the dog in 118 (50%) cases. In the 102 experiments where the dog ignored the toy or food treat, the children gave it to the dog in 27 (26%) cases. Reddy’s team noted slightly more positive outcomes when the dog was highly engaged with the child or when the child had a pet dog at home. They also observed that the children attempted to engage the dog even when the dog was passive. All the children were particularly motivated to give the dog a food treat.

The conclusion reached by the team is that young children have a naturally developed, “prosocial” behavior towards dogs that is indeed spontaneous and not socially trained.

There is, of course, much more detail to the study, which you can read more about here, but the gist of the study seems to reinforce our human proclivity towards dogs. Not everyone likes dogs, but it is clear it is a normal impulse to relate to dogs.

I have long believed dogs are God’s gift to us to navigate a post-Garden of Eden world. They are reminders of the special relationship we used to inhabit with nature, and still do in some respects. They are a reminder of His provision – dogs do all kinds of valuable and vital jobs for us, even detecting when we are sick or about to become ill. They are a reminder of His affection for us – dogs care for us, comfort us, and love us even when we are not operating at our best. They are reminders of our purpose.

There are few images on earth that melt the heart more than that of a puppy discovering and cozying up to his baby human counterparts; and we love a good puppy-party video, where someone gets the pleasure of just immersing themselves in a pile of eager puppies. There is something so irresistible about a puppy. Almost divine, if you will.

Reading Ross’ report made me think about how my dogs have enriched my life, and how many of my friends have pushed back loneliness and depression, and found added purpose with the help of their little furballs. It’s kind of amazing how much we take this special relationship for granted. There is something in us that just knows…these creatures are made for us, and we are made to care for them.

The relationship is divinely created. After all, in the English language, GOD spelled backwards is DOG.

Coincidence? I don’t care if the cliche is confined to English speakers…I say no! I thank God for thinking ahead, and giving us such adorable help to make our way through this crushing world.

I’ll end with these words from Dr. Ross. Happy National Puppy Day to you all!

The Bible declares that God created human beings so that they can experience and express fellowship and love. The research by Reddy’s team adds to the accumulating scientific evidence that humans are designed to experience and express fellowship and love with one another, with God, and with the nephesh animals at the highest levels permitted by the laws of physics. Their research affirms the declarations in Genesis 1 that we humans are uniquely created in the image of God.

The opinions expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of



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