The first time I saw Fred I thought surely he must have been on his last leg. He was so thin I could count his ribs. He stood in our front yard but I had no idea where he had come from or what he wanted. When I called to him he ran like he had been shot from a cannon. Fred was the name I gave him but I later learned his real name. Fred was a flea and tick ridden brown hound.
I was in my final year of seminary in New Orleans but also served as pastor of Rock Springs Baptist Church. Rock Springs was twelve miles from anywhere. Actually it was twelve miles from Butler, Alabama, but it was out in the middle of nowhere. Obviously, many people believed our neck of the woods was the perfect place to bid farewell to the animals they no longer wanted. It was there where we met Fred. Judging from his looks, I figured he was a stray that someone had dropped off for an extended stay with us. After that first encounter, Fred returned to visit every weekend. I threw him bread when he came but he only allowed me to get so close each time before he bolted. I have always loved dogs so winning the trust of that hound dog became my mission. At the end of the school year Jean and I moved to the house at the church for the summer. This allowed me to see Fred more often and I continued to throw him bread each time he came. Little by little he came closer until one day he finally came close enough for me to touch him. One pat on the tip of his nose and he was off to the races. The day finally came when allowed me to stroke his head without him bolting. After a few times he either decided he liked the petting or maybe it was simply the bread he liked. Eventually he came to me when I didn’t have bread. Before the summer was over ole Fred stayed at my house most of the time. He followed me all over the yard. I found out later that Fred belonged to my neighbor down the road and his real name was Hank. I think he liked the name Fred better and evidently he liked our bread better than his owner’s starvation and obvious mistreatment. His owner told someone, “That preacher has done went and stole my dog.”
One Sunday evening we left the front doors of the church open during the worship service. Fred was not an inside dog, well, at least not until that night. I guess he heard the sound of my voice as I preached and he either thought I had bread or he wanted to be petted. He walked right down the center aisle and straight up to the platform. Church members teased me that it was good to see someone “walk the aisle and come forward,” even if he was a dog. One member asked me if I planned to baptize ole Fred. His rightful owner was said to say that the church had gone to the dogs since I had come there. I didn’t think the church had actually gone to the dogs but had no doubt the dog had gone to the church.
Hey, if you haven’t been to church in a while, why not go to one tomorrow? Most likely you won’t see a dog walk down the aisle but you might enjoy what you do see and hear.
Dr. Bill King is the powerful writer of the novel But You Shall Receive Power and the creator of the humorous character known as Billy Bob Bohannon. Bill has performed as Billy Bob for churches and civic groups across the nation since 2002. His first book of Billy Bob humor, No, Really, My Name is Brother Billy Bob Bohannon, was published in 2009. The fun continues in his follow-up books, My Name is Still Brother Billy Bob Bohannon and Clean Up the House, Boys, Mama Has Hired a Maid (both OakTara). Billy Bob will have you laughing at his tales, but before you know it, he’ll sneak in a lesson for life. Bill draws from his theological training and years of pulpit ministry but in a way that is not preachy.
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