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Published: Saturday, 5/21/2005

Hound of heaven

THE English language has several expressions that compare people to dogs: They lived liked dogs, he was sick as a dog, she had a dog s life. In much of the world, people do indeed live like dogs but casual references seem to contain little sympathy for the dogs themselves.

Yet in the same blighted places, the poor people and the poor dogs both struggle through hard and miserable lives, even if people have too much pride to acknowledge any common bond of suffering. That perception is overturned by an extraordinary story from Nairobi, Kenya.

According to the Associated Press, a stray dog found a newborn baby and carried her across a busy road, through barbed wire and into a shed where the dog had its litter of puppies. Discovered by her cries, the baby girl is now recovering in a hospital and the dog, hailed as a hero, is getting treatment.

The story may invite some skepticism tales that seem too good to be true sometimes turn out that way. But not for nothing are dogs man s best friend.

That dogs, even semi-wild dogs, may be emotionally hard-wired to protect human pups may be the stuff of imagination, but it resonates in the myths of mankind. Remember Romulus and Remus, revered as the founders of Rome, said to be suckled by a she-wolf as abandoned infants.

Kenyan authorities are investigating this un-shaggy dog tale, but no matter where that goes, we ve all been reminded of a serious moral issue: the plight of abandoned babies in Kenya and others parts of the world.

The second insight is more difficult, requiring a recognition of shared creation, the sense that we are all on this planet together, man and beast. The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge said as much long ago: He prayeth best who loveth best/ All things both great and small;/ For the dear God who loveth us,/ He made and loveth all.

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