Dog Days

Written by Sue Harrison

When my granddaughter was two, I read her a book that has become a classic for children – Clifford the Big Red Dog. After we finished reading, my granddaughter looked at me very seriously and said, “When I was a dog…” Then she went on to relate all the heroic things she’d done as a dog.

When my granddaughter was two, I read her a book that has become a classic for children  – Clifford the Big Red Dog.  After we finished reading, my granddaughter looked at me very seriously and said, “When I was a dog…” Then she went on to relate all the heroic things she’d done as a dog.


When I was a dog…

I use that story when I teach writers’ workshops, because that’s what novelists should try to achieve – to write so vividly that they pull their readers deeply into the characters’ lives. Like my granddaughter, the reader “becomes the dog.”

You may remember a fad that swept the Christian world a little more than a decade ago – the WWJD bracelets. What Would Jesus Do. The idea was to remind Christians to strive to become  like Jesus. I wore my bracelet – a gift from my daughter-in-law – until it fell apart.


I wish I could tell you that I’m always successful at emulating Jesus, but I’m definitely not there yet. Just this morning my husband and I had an argument about his T-shirts. A few days ago, I mentioned that I was going to go through his stash and throw away the worst of them. I thought that he’d agreed to that. Evidently not.

I was still grumbling about the whole situation a half hour after he went to work in his shop wearing one of his retrieved-from-the-garbage T-shirts. So here’s me talking to me [Whine alert!] : “For goodness sakes, I’m the one who does most of the housecleaning around here. And, for goodness sakes, whoever needs that many T-shirts anyway? (Yes, I was petty enough to count them.) And for goodness sakes . . . ” You get the idea.

What Would Jesus Do? I’m pretty sure He would remind me to be grateful that my husband needs old T-shirts to wear when he’s building beautiful stringed instruments (a mandolin on the way!) and also when he’s doing more mundane things like mowing the grass – so I don’t have to.


I retreated to my Bible, the New Testament book of Luke, and read the story about the sisters, Mary and Martha. Martha was the obsessive-compulsive type, cleaning, scurrying, and feeling righteous. Her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and simply listened. When Martha complained, Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”  (Luke 10: 41-42, New Revised Standard Version)

To paraphrase my granddaughter: When I was a  Martha,  Jesus reminded me that I should be a Mary.

How about you? What’s your tendency in life? Martha or Mary? Or are you more into Clifford, the Big Red Dog? 

(Thank you to Kandice Huyck for permission to use her photographs of her beautiful golden retrievers, Jak and Gracie!)

About the author

Sue Harrison

BIO: Novelist Sue Harrison is best known for her Alaska trilogies. Her novels, national and international bestsellers, have been published in more than 20 countries in 13 different languages. Her novel Mother Earth Father Sky was named by the American Library Association as a Best Books for Young Adults. Sue lives with her husband in Michigan, but has family here in Nebraska and love Nebraska’s rich history. She is currently writing romantic suspense for the inspirational market. Catch up with Sue on her website and blog – .


  • I have Martha tendencies, but I’ve been thrilled to see the Lord working to add more Mary elements to my life in recent years. How I’d love to see Him do even more work on me in that area.

    • You and I are much alike, Keli. My husband teases me that when I’m in Martha mode, putting everything ‘away,’ invariably we never find a few things ever again. On my last spree, I did something with my dry measure cup in the kitchen. After a month of saying that it would turn up, I finally bought a new one!

  • Thank you for a beautiful reminder. I like the reference to Mary and Martha as I often find myself like Martha.

  • Beautiful post Sue!

    I have an old Montana sweatshirt which is twenty years old and has more holes than threads. My wife has tried to rid the world of it on many occasions.

    Although it offers little practical use and makes me appear as Lazarus emerging from the tomb, it reminds me of a time when the open wilderness of Montana represented a yearning in my heart, and I revel in the memory each time I wear it.

    For us guys, who seem to grow more boring and boring by the day, those old shirts can mean us once again jumping in the rain puddles of life. Humor us. We’re just like Clifford, thinking you can’t see us behind the tree.

  • Thank you, Michael. And thank you for bringing up the emotional attachments that guys have to their clothes. Those attachments are something that I discount when I’m in Martha mode. In Martha mode I have a tendency to treat people like things and overlook their deeper needs.

  • I try to be Mary. I am acting like Mary more and more with pray and God’s help. I know a lot of us act more like Martha without trying it’s easy to get caught up with family and thing of the world and forget about God. I have recently became an assistant G.A. leader and since I am trying to be arole model for these girls I am striving to be more like Mary.