Luther on dogs

Last week we were on Spring Break, visiting our daughter, son-in-law, and three grand-daughters in Oklahoma.  Here we were privileged to witness one of their family milestones:  getting their first dog.  A bouncing, excited, affectionate Labrador retriever.

It made me recall that Luther was a dog-lover.  He had a dog named Tölpel (which was apparently a synonym for “Dummkopf”).  I love this quotation:

“The dog is the most faithful of animals and would be much esteemed were it not so common. Our Lord God has made His greatest gifts the commonest.”

Think about that!  God’s greatest gifts are the commonest.  But because they are so common, we take them for granted.  Yes, dogs.  But what else?  (Having children.  One’s spouse.  Food and drink.  Colors.  Reading.  Baptism.  The Lord’s Supper, and on and on and on.)

More quotes from Luther about dogs after the jump.

“Be thou comforted, little dog, Thou too in Resurrection shall have a little golden tail”

via Martin Luther didn’t say that, did he? Yes, he did! | Dreaming Beneath the Spires.

‘When Luther’s puppy [n. 116, Luther's dog Tölpel is mentioned again and again in the Table Talk.] happened to be at the table, looked for a morsel from his master, and watched with open mouth and motionless eyes, he [Martin Luther] said, “Oh, if I could only pray the way this dog watches the meat! All his thoughts are concentrated on the piece of meat. Otherwise he has no thought, wish, or hope.”

Luther’s Works, Volume 54, Table Talk (Philadelphia: 1967), pp. 37, 38. May 18, 1532

via Quotes from Martin Luther

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Health. Most of us take it for granted that we’re going to wake up tomorrow and see, hear, smell, feel, walk, and everything else that a normal, healthy person does. We forget that our health is not something that God is obligated to leave alone this side of eternity.

  • Tom Hering

    We forget that our health is not something that God is obligated to leave alone this side of eternity. (@ 1)

    Are you saying that when we become ill, it’s something God does to us, rather than a normal part of our fallen condition? I ask because I see it the other way around. Death, decay, and disease are the norm for us all. Insofar as we have health and life, it’s because of God’s active and merciful intervention in our lives. (A reason to give thanks!) We see this in the way Christ went about healing the sick and raising the dead. We don’t see Him striking people down. But again, I may have misunderstood you.

  • Pingback: Dogs, Disobedience, Devotion | ogremum

  • http://www.logia.org John T. Pless

    Luther said nothing good about cats. Good thing. Don’t trust a theologian who likes cats.

  • Pete

    @ John T. Pless

    As far as I know, cats have never said anything good about Luther – which doesn’t make him special as cats appear to have a dim view of humankind in general.

  • Abby

    My pastor sent me this Luther quote about dogs after my dog died. (I am still missing her.):
    “As far as pets in heaven, I loved what Luther said to his daughter when she lost her pet. He told her that if that was the only way that she would be able to experience pure joy in heaven, then he was certain her pet would have a place there.”

    Mark Twain about dogs in heaven:
    “Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, your dog would get in and you would stay out.”

    My dog will be in heaven — I couldn’t see one bad thing in her! :)

  • Tom Hering

    Re: @ 3. Don’t trust theologians who like cats? Okay. But I’ll trust God, who indeed loves cats, having made them – and having made them to be man’s best friends. (Or at least Americans’ best friends – there being more cats in American households than dogs. So there.)

  • Joe

    Since we are not heaven bound after this life but rather destined for the New Creation – we can say with certainty that there will be animals among us. After all they are part of the creation that will be restored or made anew when Christ returns.

  • Tom Hering

    Joe @ 7, agreed on all points. It’s what the biblical story of Noah’s Ark tells us about God’s saving plan. Note that He made a covenant with the animals as well as with man.

  • Ned Moerbe

    Our dog would be more esteemed if he would quit climbing out of the kennel.

  • http://www.cyberbrethren.com Rev. Paul T. McCain

    I agree with Pless. Cats are for old ladies and little girls.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

  • Gene Veith

    That’s ridiculous, Paul and John! I like cats too. Cats are introverts; dogs are extroverts. I respect cats for their cool disregard. Also because they are killing machines. And so graceful while they are doing it. Didn’t Walther have a cat?

  • http://www.cyberbrethren.com Rev. Paul T. McCain

    I have a cat. Or, I should say, a cat lives at my house. In fact Rose nearly was screaming at me because I forgot to feed her yesterday. She was one angry cat. But she does let me scratch her head, from time to time.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Rev Paul @ 10 & 13 – so which are you: Old lady or little girl?

  • Tom Hering

    I respect cats for their cool disregard. (@ 12)

    While there certainly are cats with cold personalities, in general I’ve found them to be animals who give what they get. Treat them like low maintenance pets (which is what a lot of cat owners want), and they’ll take a low maintenance attitude toward you, too. Love them to pieces, and you’ll get the same in return.

  • Cattail

    Today’s post is particularly comforting because my beloved dog has lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes). The disease has been temporarily set at bay with massive doses of steroids, but it will inevitably return in a month or two. In the meantime, I’m spoiling him rotten, and of course he is blissfully unaware of the fate hanging over his head. This is, of course, the other end of the spectrum from the cute puppy stage mentioned by Dr. Veith.

  • http://www.cyberbrethren.com Rev. Paul T. McCain

    @14: I’m left with the cat, after my little girl grew up and went away to college. I have no idea how old the cat is. She seems to just keep on ticking.

  • George A. Marquart

    But there is the story of Luther chucking a dog out of the window of one of the towers of the Wartburg, when he was in protective custody there. Luther thought the devil had appeared to him in the form of a dog to tempt him. He was convinced that this was true, because the dog-chucking took place at night, and in the morning there was no trace of the dog where he would have fallen. Also, apparently the fact that the dog never barked made Luther suspicious. So cave canem non latrans.

    George A. Marquart

  • Tom Hering

    I thought the story was that Luther threw an inkwell at the dog, and the dog, all excited, went flying out the window to fetch it. I guess we’ll never know which Luther-and-the-Devil story is the true one. ;-)

  • Hanni

    Another commonest glorious thing is gardening, planting seeds, digging in the garden, watching God’s miracles appear. BTW, for those uninformed the difference between cats and dogs is this: a dog comes when you call it; a cat takes a message and gets back to you (cool disregard, right:)..

  • Gene Veith

    To translate George’s Latin: “Beware the dog that doesn’t bark.”

  • Helen K.

    “Animals in Heaven, Pets in Paradise”
    by Lutheran pastor Peter Kurowski
    e-book availble from Amazon

    I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like cats or dogs- especially a theologian. They are a huge part of our lives and I plan on being re-united with all of my former pets at the Marriage Feast of the Lamb.
    So there. (:

  • Joe

    Well – Helen, our pets may be there but I’m not sure we’ll be reunited with them in a relationship that mirrors what happens here. We don’t even get that for our spouse …

  • Tom Hering

    I don’t know, Joe @ 23. Won’t the New Creation (also) be a restoration of the first, including our dominion, which most certainly involves taking care of the animals? But I think you mean our pets won’t be in an exclusive relationship with us. No, probably not, and that’s okay. We’ll still get to be with them – and their mates and parents and siblings – for all eternity. Anyway you look at it, the relationship with our pets in eternity will be a “more” thing, not a “less” thing. It’s even possible they once had the gift of speech, and will have it again. Just neat stuff to contemplate – and long for.

  • Joe

    Tom @ 24 “But I think you mean our pets won’t be in an exclusive relationship with us.”

    That is correct, that is what I meant.

  • Abby

    8 signs your cat is really a dog:

  • P.C.

    I’ll take a German Shepherd any day over a qweepy cat!!

  • Abby

    @27 :) I’ll take a Cavalier King Charles!

  • Helen K.

    God loves a terrior.

  • Abby
  • Helen K.

    I never met a dog I didn’t like. I used to think (when I was younger) that I’d like to have one of every breed during my lifetime. Too late now. Also, I used to feel very guilty about being so fond of animals….until I made a comment to Pr Todd Wilken…and he said “it’s a gift”. I guess he met about my love of animals.

    I was raised in persuasions that didn’t put much emphasis on the animal kingdom. They were meant to be subdued and used and then I read a little part of a book by Elisabeth Elliot (evangelical) about she believed dogs could be in Heaven. Since then I’ve changed my mind on many things.

    I suppose that is why I’m fond of the new Pope and the name he chose…Francis. Brother Sun, Sister Moon.

    Forgive my sentimental meanderings.

  • Abby

    @31 Nothing to forgive, Helen!

  • Helen K.

    Thank you Abby. I get carried away at times.


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