He isn’t too ordinary

July 21, 2011 at 8:54 pm 7 comments

“The dog is a very faithful animal and is held in high esteem if he isn’t too ordinary.”
.                                                                           –Martin Luther

My friend Rob pointed out the odd resemblance between these two portraits to me today.

While it might seem strange to link Martin Luther to a dog, Luther had a dog named Tolpel and though the word loosely translates as fool or lunkhead after reading dog-related quotes ascribed to the man, I get a strong sense that he was quite fond of the animal.

And in an odd bit of coincidence, the best known of these refers to a dog’s rapt attentiveness.

When Luther’s puppy Tölpel happened to be at the table, looked for a morsel from his master, and watched with open mouth and motionless eyes, he 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

I may be a lapsed Lutheran but I agree whole-heartedly. The kind of intense, rapt attention a dog is capable of focusing on meat (or in this photo, his master) is something to aspire to.

William Graffam wrote a book for children about Tolpel’s observations on Luther which appears to be quite hard to find. I’d love to find a copy because LibraryThing lists it under the tags ‘Lutheranism’ and ‘comics’.

As I finish this post I realize that the many generations of Lutheran church basement ladies I am descended from would very heartily disapprove of the comparison I’m making.

Some things never change…

Entry filed under: dogs. Tags: , .

Look before you leap Outcrossing and essentialism

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rob McMillin  |  July 21, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    Wow, my little off-the-cuff comparison rates a whole blog post! I feel honored!

  • 2. H. Houlahan  |  July 22, 2011 at 2:18 am

    Is this that kind of Shiite Lutheranism where they make you take the ten-minute loyalty oath to the Trinity once a year?

    Cuz that scared the crap out of me.

    I’m not used to seeing that intent expression on the OddMan. It’s more like his brother Cap. And it reminds more of this guy:


  • 3. Rob McMillin  |  July 22, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Certainly an intensity in it, but not evil intensity, as with Rasputin. I was thinking, more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_van_Beethoven.

  • 4. SmartDogs  |  July 22, 2011 at 9:15 am

    When I was a kid (and attended church because I had no choice) we moved a lot, so I saw a real cross-section of sects. My parents preferred the more laid-back, open-minded ELCA churches and, in fact, when they moved to a small town where the only Lutheran option was one of the much more conservative Missouri Synod churches, they switched to being Methodists and never went back.

  • 5. Rob McMillin  |  July 22, 2011 at 9:29 am

    My introduction to Christianity was Bob Schuller’s big plastic church, the Crystal Cathedral.

    We stopped going about the time I was 8-10 or so, and I never looked back. Better things to do with my Sundays, anyway.

  • 6. Rob McMillin  |  July 22, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Also, LOL at “Shiite Lutheranism”. Always reminds me of the wonderful Emo Philips gag:


    Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”

    He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me, too! What franchise?” He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”

    He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!”

    Northern Conservative†Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.

  • 7. Elaine Ostrach Chaika, PhD  |  September 14, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    See the last post on my blog, which is pertinent to Luther and his dog and your excellent post: http://smarthotoldladhy.blogspot.com

    For more about animal cognition, go to:http://dogsandwolves-smartoldlady.blogspot.com

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