I’d just finished bathing him. He was clean, fluffy to the point of being poufy, and smelled oh-so pretty. Lavender with a hint of gardenia.
I clipped on his leash and started down the road for our morning walk. I stopped momentarily to respond to some phone messages. The decaying odor of roadkill suddenly assaulted my senses and I looked up to find my dear little Yaz happily rolling in the remains of a dead … something. Hard to tell what it once was at this stage. Now it was simply dead bones and rotting flesh fused into a disgusting mass of maggot-infested nastiness.
Why do they do it? Why do dogs insist on rolling in dead things? I’ve even caught Yaz wallowing atop dead caterpillars and squished mole crickets. I know, I know – your otherwise adorable pooch does it too.
Ick. What are they thinking?
It turns out nobody knows for sure. One theory is that this seemingly bizarre behavior is genetically ingrained – that their Creator instilled in canines, hunters in the early days, the instinct to camouflage their scent in the wild so their prey wouldn’t be scared off. Seems to me that it’s a little too late for the poor prey if they’re dead enough to roll in.
Another theory is that it’s a way for the dog to share information with other predators. Not sure I get that one either. What’s the message – let’s get together at the watering hole later and stink up the place together?
The theory I buy into is the most obvious: It’s fun! Some well meaning, highly credentialed animal scientists have postulated that rolling in dead things increases dopamine levels in dogs the same way scarfing Cadbury with almonds does for Debbie’s. Rolling scratches where it itches and provides a little freedom for a horizontal boogie break. Sounds fun to me!
And “just because it’s fun” is my primary motivation for doing a lot of things.
Yet it occurred to me, as I tugged on Yaz’s leash to drag him away from his folly, that people roll in dead things too. Not physical things like animal carcasses (please don’t tell me if you do), but in the decaying guilt of past sins that we just can’t let go of. We insist on digging up those buried dead things and rolling in them from time to time. It’s our own fault that our unresolved guilt resurfaces and reeks to high heaven.
The Psalmist said, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he [God] removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12 NIV). If we truly believed this, we wouldn’t keep a guilt-shovel nearby to unearth past sins we have no business revisiting. Guilt revisited stinks.
You do it, don’t you? I do it too. As a matter of fact, I happened to be rolling in a pile of rotted nastiness from the past at the very moment I was trying to pull Yaz away from his.
Conviction. Pot. Kettle. Black.
So I am newly committed to resolve my guilt over decomposing dead things that should have been mummified and forgotten long ago. And leaving them buried. I’m turning in my shovel. And my pitchfork. And my atomizer.
Do you need to stop rolling in any dead things too, my friend?