Our Guard Dog

I was a new minister in a dangerous town, and I had to leave my family alone for the weekend. Who would keep them safe?

- Posted on Mar 17, 2011

A black Lab on a porch -- was this pastor's canine visitor a guardian angel?

My very first assignment as a minister was to an inner-city parish in Camden, New Jersey. There was drug dealing and violent crime within sight of our home, and rough characters knocked on our door at all hours of the day and night.

Not long after we arrived, I had to attend a week-long church conference out of town. I dreaded leaving my wife and three children alone in our new neighborhood. God, I prayed, take care of them.

My first spare moment at the conference, I called home to make sure all was well. My wife assured me that everything was fine and that no one had bothered them. “But there is one thing,” she said. “You had barely gotten out the door when a huge black Labrador retriever ambled up to our front porch and lay down. Now he won’t leave.”

“Don’t feed him or touch him,” I said. “He’s probably one of our neighbor’s. He’ll go back where he belongs soon enough.”

The next day when I called, the dog still hadn’t left the front porch. “He never bothers the children or me, but he won’t let anyone else come to the door,” my wife said. “Not even the mailman!”

At the end of the conference, I returned home to find the big black dog sitting on our front porch. He stood up when I opened the car door, his eyes trained on my every move.

Once I reached the steps, I said tentatively, “Hey boy, I’ve got to get in the house to be with my family.” With that, he stepped aside.

After hugging my wife and kids, I asked her what we should do about the dog. “I don’t know,” she said. “I have to admit, I felt completely safe knowing he was out there keeping watch.” We both looked to the porch. The dog was gone. I went outside and walked around the block—checking all the front porches. No sign of the big retriever! It was as if he had vanished off the face of the earth.

And perhaps he had.

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