Can This Old Dog Learn New Tricks?

February 1, 2023 by Rev. Shannon White

Almost two months ago, we got a puppy. At now 5 months, she’s the most adorable thing—a Bernedoodle (mom is a Bernese Mountain Dog and dad is a Poodle). She’s soft and incredibly calm and so lovable, in fact, the vet called her an amazing dog as far as her personality and demeanor.

Still, we haven’t had a puppy in 16 years. That means I was 16 years younger than I am now at age 63. Our beloved dog, Max, died during the pandemic shutdown at


age 14. So, I’m long past the time of remembering what it was like getting up early for quick trips outside and training this sweet pup (whose name is Gidget) to do what we need her to do. Thank goodness my husband is an early riser, and my church is 5 minutes away from home so I can drop in during the day to take her out.

We enlisted a trainer, who, of course trains the humans in the relationship. After the first session, I thought, I’m an old(er) dog now…can I still learn new tricks?

I had gotten used to my schedule—sometimes working longer than I should; not always taking time to get out and exercise like I used to; and experiencing long periods of peace and quiet to work on sermons and other tasks at my computer without interruption. Much like an infant, this little fluffball has upended my comfortable work-driven adult life where I could do what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it.

Thank God.

Some scriptures came to mind:

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed. – 1 Corinthians 15:51

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. – James 1:17

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. – Isaiah 43:19

(How’s that for cherry-picking?)

Or the words from verse 4 of the great hymn of faith, “All Things Bright and Beautiful”

God gave us eyes to see them,

and lips that we might tell

how great is God Almighty,

who has made all things well.

Thank God I’ve experienced a shift.

Our spiritual journeys are all about needing to stay awake and to be fresh with perspective as to what God is doing in and around us. Indeed, this puppy has been brought into my family’s life as a source of unconditional love, great joy and delight.

We love her immensely. And her ability to lovingly reach in and disrupt this old dog’s tricks might be just what God had in mind.

Rev. Shannon White is the Pastor for Spiritual Development at Round Hill Community Church in Greenwich, CT. She has been ordained since 1991 and has served churches in New York and CT. She is also a two-time Emmy nominated television journalist and the author of two books: The Invisible Conversations with Your Aging Parents; and How Was School Today? Fine.