Dog vs. Missionary

As a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I often served in rural areas where the dog population sometimes seemed to equal the human presence. Our mission abounded with dog stories. I mean these were nearly universally unpleasant but often humorous. Generally, they were not for the consumption of the dog-loving folk and I learned from my parents who became dog lovers late in life that criticizing nearly any aspect of our canine brothers can be perilous. I hope that the subject is not in breach of good taste, but given the season (missionary reunions, etc.) I thought it might provide a little entertainment. I shall offer a few fairly tame stories, but I suspect it may stimulate something more radical. I hope it does, actually.

My first dog story takes place in the Canadian “wilderness” when we were tracting on foot between far-flung farmhouses. As we trudged along a dirt road to the next house, when we were roughly 100 yards from the house, I could clearly see a black speck in the far field behind the approaching house which was perched on the edge of shallow valley. As we got closer, this black speck grew larger, moving rapidly toward us. My companion didn’t seem to notice this and I didn’t think too much of it until we hit the long walk-way up to the front door. The speck had grown into a four-legged shape that was speeding our way. About 30 feet from the door it came tearing around the corner. It was surely biggest German Shepherd (or some similar breed) I had ever seen. It made no sound as it raced up to my companion, grabbed his left elbow in its jaws and began to drag him up to the door. He was not amused and used a few choice words (in a subdued voice). I was hanging back with my mouth open, I’m sure. The lady of the house came to the door nearly immediately, asked us our business and commanded the dog to release its prey. She stated her disinterest and shut the door. The dog (or monster) didn’t take any more note of us.

The second experience was in the same region of country. Same companion. We were walking in a somewhat more populated area and approached a house along another dirt road when a medium-sized dog came down off the porch and ran toward us. This could not be good, I said to myself. Just then a women came out the front door with three children in tow. They started yelling at the dog. I thought, this is really not good. The dog got to within 10 feet of us, we were still on the road, and began a rather fearful barking. But it wasn’t just that. It began to leap into the air, in my now adrenaline-charged state I thought he must be getting up 6 or 7 feet high, barking furiously at us. I was sweating and if my bladder – well I stayed dry. We tried to speak to the woman over the barking but it was hard to hear. The kids were solemn-faced. Finally, she told us that her husband was away and he was the only one who could control the dog, she was sorry, but she said we should not come any closer as she could not be responsible for our health and safety or words to that effect. I believed her. That dog just kept it up. My companion wanted to know when we could come back. I wanted to answer, NEVER. As we walked away the dog just kept this up. About 50 yards up the road, my companion bent and picked a large stone. I said, “I wish you wouldn’t do that.” But he turned around and threw it at that dog. I felt my prayers answered when it missed. Prideful man.

I’ve got lots more dog encounters, but I think many of you have great ones. It was an occupational hazard of missionary work. How about it?


  1. There may be more dogs in French cities than there are humans. I was so desperate for even the tiniest glimmer of positive interactions with the French that I turned the dogs into tools. While the French (and I suppose a lot of city dwellers elsewhere in the world) won’t meet the eye of a stranger on the street, the dogs would. As we’d approach people and their dogs walking the other way on the street, I would grin like the mutt was the mostest beautifulest creature alive. I would nudge my companion and point to the dog and make sure my face showed my enchantment with the sweet little beribboned frou-frou. Then when we were about 8 or 10 feet away, I would suddenly raise my eyes and smile straight into the eyes of the Frenchman/woman, who invariably was already smiling at me.

    A small victory, but then they all were, in France.

  2. Way to go legit on me Ardis. Here I was looking for missionaries running for their lives and you give me contacting technique! But people often treat their dogs like children.

  3. My mission was the only time I ran from little(r) dogs. Mostly, because I didn’t want the children to watch helplessly from their bedroom window as I kicked their Fido in the ribs. I never understood the missionaries who served in highly dog-populated areas and had this fearless air about them. Their aurua was as if saying I dare you to bite me, mutt…

  4. oh my, ardis..faking frou frou lovin’ seriously oscar worthy.

    My main dog story:
    My greenie and I were out for a jog. Lots of dogs in the area-. One ginormous black dog was in the front yard on a chain. We thought nothing of it as it barked and bark as we passed.

    Then we heard an unmistakeable POP. The sound of dog paws running followed by the rhythmic sound of the chain on the road. I was bit in the back of my leg-by the knee. The owner must ‘ve called him off, but we didn’t stand around to check…

    alternate ending…as we never heard the owner, perhaps it was those three strange looking gentleman at the side of the road.

    It was a major bite

  5. Ugly, man. Were those guys wearing fedoras over bald heads?

  6. aghh…it was NOT a major bite…oh for an edit.

    I mean I had a shot and all that stuff, but no stitches, not much blood.

    fedoras in south africa? no they may or may not have been the inspiration for the vuvuzela

  7. I was riding my bike down a street in a rural Japanese town, and a stray dog ran out in front of my front tire. I kind of smashed into him and almost crashed. The dog ran off and a nearby gas station attendant laughed at me.

    Aside from that, I never had much experience with them.

  8. I managed to avoid being bitten by a dog in Mexico, which is pretty remarkable given the odds. I was once bitten by a “domesticated” goose at a member’s home. Those things strike like a snake, and who knew they had tiny sharp little teeth in those beaks.

    But now, a dog story. In my second area, my companion and I ran across a living, healthy, fully ambulatory, and completely disemboweled stray dog. Yes, you read that last part right. The dog was dragging its innards in the dirt and sand after having been ripped open by something. It would not have been so amazing, if it was not that we saw the same dog walking around the same area, still disemboweled, for a couple of weeks after that first encounter. I can’t remember if we stopped seeing it or if I got transferred out of the area first, but I hope that someone finally got up the guts to put the poor thing out of its misery. I grew up with dogs and have a real soft spot for all of them (which did not prevent a couple of kicks and rocks from me throughout my mission), so I could not bring myself to do something about it.

  9. The post title could also be the title of an excellent video game. Behold a new iphone app is born.

  10. Latter-day Guy says:

    A relative of mine serving in southern AZ was once invited in with his companion for a drink of water. The owner had a highly annoying chihuahua. Tired of it’s nipping at their ankles, when the lady left the room to get the water, his companion (a big fellow) just flicked it in the forehead. It dropped dead instantly. Horrified, they slid it under the sofa. The lady returned with the water, and they drank it, left, and never came back.

  11. LDGuy, that story has been told soooo many times (sometimes it’s a yappy dog, sometimes it’s an annoying cat), right down to the sliding it under the sofa — I call baloney!

  12. Benjamin says:

    I served in Ukraine, where the apartment buildings have a stairwell that goes up anywhere from 8 to 16 floors, with four apartments on a floor. One of the Seventy in our area presidency got this ‘great’ idea that if we went into the stairwells and spent 15 minutes singing hymns before tracting the building, we would improve the spirit in the building and therefore improve the chances of making good contacts.

    Skeptical, but willing to give anything a try, myself and three other elders went into a stairwell and began singing. About half way through our second hymn we heard the pitter patter of foot steps, and then the angry voice of a dog charging down the steps.

    I’ve never trusted a great idea from a Seventy since.

  13. J, want to collaborate? We’d have to hurry to ride the conference market.(grin)

  14. Latter-day Guy, I call bull too.

    We had that exact same story in my mission in Japan – early 1990s. Only in our version, the missionaries came back to the house and there was a horrible rotting smell with the little old lady oblivious to the smell and saying “have you seen my dog? I haven’t seen him for days.”

    This is one of those standard missionary standby stories that gets passed from mission to mission, and no one knows where it started, what the real facts were, or if the incident happened at all.

    I do know that when I moved into the city of Sasebo and the missionary apartment there, I was treated to an angry ten minute lecture from a neighbor lady. She had a yappy dog that barked from the balcony across the alleyway at everyone, missionaries included. It seems that the elders from a few months ago had decided to use some airsoft pistols from the missionary apartment window on the crummy little mutt, and the woman had seen it.

    That was a pretty troublesome bunch of missionaries. I spent two months in that city rebuilding a lot of the relationships they had managed to kick over.

  15. I was bit while serving a mission. It was pretty bad. I was the butt of many a joke for awhile.
    Then I was told by another missionary that if I was more righteous my garments would have protected me.
    I spent the rest of my mission pretty jumpy while tracting. I remember wishing that we could have pepper spray or something. I know, not good for PR…

  16. I had a brand new greenie that I took tracting for the first time out in the countryside of Michigan. As with others posting here, sure enough running straight toward us down the dirt road was the biggest Labrador I had ever seen. My companion was terrified and asked what we should do. Thinking to have a little fun with her I said “Well, Sister if there ever was a time to pray, I think now would be the time.”

    Unfortunately, she immediately dropped to her knees and squeezed her eyes tightly closed and started praying in the middle of the road! Not having her faith, I interrupted her prayer by dragging her to her feet and over a small fence into a field away from the dog.

    Not one of my finer moments as a senior companion. She learned for herself soon enough the realities of mission life.

  17. Latter-day Guy,
    One of your relatives avoiding shatting in his pants by wiping his behind with a Joseph Smith pamphlet on a member’s doorstep. Another relative is party to a chihuahua slaying.

    Where does it end with your family!?

  18. I’ve been reading this blog for a while and now I’m finally going to comment!

    I served in the Ohio Cincinnati Mission, which covered pieces of four states (Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and Indiana). The following story took place during my time in Indiana. It was the middle of January, it was evening, and it was as dark as the inside of a cat. We were tracting a kinda rural/suburban street – lots of houses but relatively far apart. We came up to one house and saw a dog laying on the driveway. I was one of those elders who didn’t really fear dogs so much, because dogs tend to like me and I can tell when they don’t, so up the driveway towards the dog we proceeded.

    Until it started growling.

    It was one of those low, scary growls that tells you this dog means business, and the kind of business that involves teeth and blood – its and yours, respectively. Deciding that discretion is the better part of tracting, my companion and I voted to skip that house and carry on with the rest of the street. So we turned around and headed back down the driveway.

    But then the growling got closer.

    We spun, and indeed the dog was up and walking toward us. Its hackles were up, its teeth were bared; it was *pissed*. I will say that I began to fear for my life a little bit at this point, and I probably offered a quick silent prayer that we wouldn’t be hamstrung and devoured by this psycho dog. It was then that I remembered about my Christmas gift from a member – a mini Maglite that I kept in the pen pocket of my suit. I got it out and shined it in the slavering beast’s bloodshot eyes (which is where my poetic liberty crosses the line into outright poetic licentiousness) and it stopped its advance, but continued snarling. “Don’t turn around,” I told my companion, “we’re going to slowly back away.”

    That dog followed us down to the bottom of the driveway, and even most of the way back to our car (we’d decided to drive past this dog’s house to get to the rest of the street), but never got closer than three yards or so. I still have the Maglite and look at it fondly every once in a while, because I’m convinced that it saved both of our lives that night.

    In an unrelated mission-dog story, I used to have a tie (a Wembley, in fact) that survived being chewed on by a pit bull while said pit bull was humping my leg. I gave that tie to a guy who was my branch mission leader when he left on his mission and told him to wear it fearlessly.

  19. My third evening tracking in the Danish winter dark, we got a little turned around and couldn’t figure out where we were going. My companion walked one way to look at one sign and I had walked the opposite way to look at the other. It had just occurred to me as a newly minted greenie that being 30 yards away from my comp might be too far for the Lord’s approval and protection, when a black shadow leapt from the darkness, pressed its paws against my chest, and woofed in my face. I’d never seen a Newfoundland dog before, and this one was huge, so my jet-lag addled mind registered “bear”. The dog was just saying hi, but I’ve never been so startled before or since.

  20. Much later in my mission, my comp and I got trapped up against the office door of some sort of school with tall hedges on either side and a German Shepherd in a barking frenzy in front of us. The gates to the campus were wide open and we’d just knocked on the closed door to get directions, but the dog was the only answer.

    Unable to go anywhere, we just stood there as the dog got angrier and angrier. Well, I just stood there — my comp hid behind me, which annoyed me because he was twice my size. I had had a very bad day already.

    So, when the dog launched itself at my groin, I barely twisted enough that it got a nice chomp to my inner thigh. It didn’t tear my pants, but let’s just say that if the dog had struck on target, I would have been incapacitated.

    It made me so mad that within an instant, I decided that one of us was going to die, and it wasn’t going to be me. So, when the dog launched it’s second strike, I caught it under the chin with a kick. The dog was quick –I just clipped it — but it must have bitten its tongue because there was blood all over its muzzle. My comp started freaking out because he thought the blood was mine — “Did it bite you?! Did it bite you?!” “Yes it bit me!” — but he stayed behind me.

    The dog licked its muzzle and we both got ready for a battle to the death when a school official came and called the dog off. The dog wasn’t very obedient, and the school official demanded what we had done to make it so angry, and started treating us rather disrespectfully. It didn’t help that the dog kept circling around behind me, and I had to keep turning to keep it in front. Since I was about ready to slug the official and kill the dog, I let my junior do the talking until we got out of there.

    I had quite the bruise. Hurt to ride a bicycle for about a week.

  21. Latter-day Guy says:

    11, 14, Well, it was told to me by an uncle who said he was one of the elders involved (not just some elder in his mission). Maybe he’s Paul H. Dunn-ing, but I dunno. He doesn’t seem the type. As far as I can recall, he served in the 70s.

    17, It’s probably just a result of the big numbers. The family breeding program is aggressive and fairly successful. I suspect the Bene Gesserit may be involved.

  22. This brings to mind my service in France when as a fairly experienced Elder I joined a new companion. I had to laugh when we packed up to head out on our bikes the first time. As he was prepping his backpack I noted a length of gas pipe protruding from the opening. At my inquiry of its purpose he replied, “I’ve been bitten once by a dog and I don’t intend to repeat that experience. Forget about the laying on of hands, I’m holding to the iron rod with extreme prejudice.”

    It was never the big dogs you had to worry about. The small little rodents off their leashes were the ones who seemed to have something to prove.

  23. Long time reader. First time poster, but can’t resist. This happened here in the states in rural Texas. This happened in an area where we biked far from our apartment and stayed out all day long. Once it hit 9pm or so we would head back to the apartment.

    Most of the roads were two lanes with little to no shoulder and the speed limit was 45-50 mph. There was a certain place we were always riding by that had a huge Rottweiler that never failed to come after us. As we would get closer to where the dog lived we would pick up speed and fly by. But this dog always came after us.

    One night (very dark, no street lights) on our way back to the apartment we were going by the dog’s house and did not realize he had seen us. So we had not really gotten up to speed like normal. Then we heard him right on our tails and he was very close. Too close. So we kicked it up as fast as we could pumping our legs. I was ahead of my comp but not even paying attention to where we were on the road until I looked down and saw that I was on the wrong side of the middle line.

    At this point I moved back over on the right side and my comp followed just in time to see headlights way too close. It was a suburban going at least the speed limit. We both got out of the way, but I am glad to say that the Rottweiler was not so lucky. I looked back as the suburban went by and it did not even brake. The dog went flying through the air and there is no way it could have survived. I wanted to go back and take a look and a picture, but my comp refused. Needless to say that little stretch of road was much nicer after that night!

  24. WVS,
    I would like to share some of the stories from my mission about dogs, but the memories were sufficiently painful that I have long since suppressed them into a corner of my subconscious where they will sit, never to be awakened.

    I hate dogs.

  25. It was winter on Vancouver Island. We were called to dinner at a house deep in the interior of the island. The four of us made our way to the gate opening to a long, long drive. In the dark you could hear the loud and determined barking, and a floodlight came on.

    As we opened the gate, walked in and closed it, we could hear the member, cajoling the dogs, telling them to shush. As we made our way into the light, the dogs eventually quieted down. Looking at the longest dog I’d ever seen (from head to tail was taller than 6’2” me), I remarked “Wow! That’s an interesting looking dog.” The gruff member, an ex-parajumper replied, “Well, she’s half-wolf, you know.”

    For the first time, I was really glad we’d called before dropping in.

  26. sbagleysd and 1timer, welcome!

  27. I served in Southeast Idaho. Nice farm country. Went to this house that had at least ten dogs. Most of them were medium size, so we felt that even though they were barking, it was no big wup, we could knock at the door anyway. We knocked once, and recieved no answer. I turned and looked to my left, and saw this huge grey dog that was almost the size of a small horse. It was running for us as fast as it could. I nudged my companion, and said, “We’re done here!” and then proceeded to run to the car as fast as I could. My companion was right behind me. We drove out of there with that dog right behind the car. I swear that dog could have literally bitten my head off. We never made it back to that house.

  28. I grew to hate dogs on my mission.

    1) In one of my first areas, we were knocking (clapping) when we came to a house that had an iron gate on top of concrete (by far one of the wealthier areas I tracted). They had a doorbell which I rang, and then set my hand on top of the iron fence which stood shoulder height to me (probably about 5’8″) Two dogs come barking around the side of the house. One medium sized, one very small. The small one (a little bigger than a chihuahua, but not much) yips as he jumps toward the adjacent concrete wall, from which he jumps again (this was Spider-Dog, I swear) and manages to catch my ring finger in his teeth. I had a blood blister on my finger for months because this dog had learned to defy physics.

    2) Later in my mission, and well into my sadistic stage. We were being followed by another yippy small dog. After a block we realized he was blind, and following us by smell/hearing. I was amazed at his tenacity to keep barking at us and picked up some small pebbles. I started lobbing them one by one (lightly, I’m not REALLY sadistic) and watching them tap the dog, the dog would run ten feet further and start yipping harder. I did this three or four times before the dog finally ran away.

    I also got bit on two separate occasions by the same black lab-looking dog on my right calf. He bit fairly hard – it hurt, but luckily didn’t break skin the first time. The second time I was wearing rubber rain boots. I started walking a very large circle to avoid the house (which was difficult since it was two houses down from a family we were teaching).

  29. In Herstal, Belgium there lived a dog that we nicknamed Isabel. (ee Alma’s conversation with Corianton). She was the guard dog at a factory a few doors down from (and behind) our appartment. Everytime we’d walk by her yard, she would be dashing herself against the fence, teeth bared, thirsting for some missionary blood. My companion and I liked to sit on the roof of our apartment. One night nature called and rather than climb back through the window I just peed over the edge of the building. Down in to the factory yard below. Apparently the sound of the urine falling on the grass attracted the attention of Isabel who came over to investigate. My companion saw an opportunity too good to miss and he got her with his stream square on the head. I don’t know if it was because he had “marked” her, but she never bothered us again.

  30. Take sbagleysd’s story and move it to a clearing amongst banana trees in Venezuela – then at the part where I say to my companion “just back away slowly” the dog, at that point still prostrate, gets to its feet, which incites panic in my companion who bolts for the safety of the road though a tunnel of sorts in the banana trees. At the sight of fleeing prey homedog goes into attack mode and charges. My powers of deduction being what they are, I conclude the time and season for calmly backing away has passed and head down the same tunnel through the trees as fast as my legs will carry me. Just as I emerge from the tunnel, with the dog literally inches from taking a chomp out of my backside my companion makes himself handy with a large, very hard, very green, mango by throwing it directly at the dogs gaping maw. I don’t know if he could have recreated that shot again in a million years, but the dog decided he didn’t need to bite me anymore, as I was out of his territory. It kind of backed up into the tunnel and settled for barking until we vacated the premises.

  31. Matt Thorley says:

    I served in the Ontario/Quebec mission in a small group of missionaries who served on Indian reservations. Those dogs on the reservations were almost wild and we were always being threatened by them. We had several close calls, so we came up with a way to get a slight measure of revenge.

    We drove a Ford pickup truck and the dogs would always run out and try to bite the front tires of our truck. Some of them even had canine teeth that hung out from their lips from biting so many tires. In order to get our revenge we would slow down and wait until the dogs were right beside the truck trying to bite the tires. Then we would shove the front door open and knock them into the ditch. We always cracked ourselves up when we were successful, but we were also mindful that these actions might not seem Christ like, so we were careful to only do this trick when it couldn’t be seen from our potential investigator’s house.

  32. I had a ward mission leader in So CA who was completely unafraid of dogs. He would literally just walk up to a barking, ferocious rotwiler and just pat its head on the way to ringing the doorbell.

    I tried it myself thereafter with varying success. Large dogs, including pittbulls, were almost universally disarmed when I showed no fear. It was a different story with the little dogs. Some of those suckers are just mean.

  33. Let’s just say my trainer has a “strong” personality. We butt heads a lot. I can’t remember anymore what started it, but we were fighting one day while tracting. Well, more accurately, we had been fighting earlier, she was knocking doors, and I was following her around silently. (Very mature, I know.) Anyway, we get to this house with a little chihuahua barking furiously. She marches right up to the door with her “I’m on the Lord’s errand and I dare you to stop me” attitude. I wisely hung back. As soon as she reaches the top stair of the porch, the dog charges and gets a couple good nips on her ankle before she could run away. Being a discouraged greenie, I was completely delighted. Although I dislike dogs in general and loathed dogs on my mission, I hold a special place in my heart for that tenacious little chihuahua.

  34. In one of my areas there was a anti-missionary dog living close to our apartment so we daily faced the challenge of not getting ripped to pieces. Unfortunately, we could not escape to its powerful jaws, as both got bitten.
    Tired of him, my comp made a plan to take revenge. On our way back home, he told me to take the lead and make the dog chase me (not a difficult task since the dog would always chase us). I consented, not exactly knowing what he was up to, but when I looked back, I saw him running fast towards the dog and over it with his bike!
    The dog yipped so loud that I felt bad for it and ashamed for us as there were people on their front door watching us, but I have to say that it worked. because the dog never dared to bother us.

  35. Our fellow missionaries used to get to a street packed with crazy dogs that made it very hard for them to pass. My comps bought mini water pistols, and when they got there, they would shoot at the dogs as if they were playing “Doom”.
    The dogs would run away yelling (but unharmed), and the missionaries could go on tracting. I highly recommend water pistols under extreme danger with anti-missionary enemies.

  36. WVS-Where in Canada did you serve? I am from there. I got bit twice in my mission and still carry a scar on my foot from the second bite. The first was when I got bit from a doberman pincher, I tried to pet it and it caught my pinkie finger and I pulled back and it left a scar for a month or so and it bled too! The second was when we were tracting and I got bit in the ankle from a little tiny yapper. I served in LA and dogs were everywhere!! I hate dogs!!

  37. Cam, I was in the eastern provinces, NB, NS (never got to Newfoundland). The little ones can be sneaky.

  38. WVS-Ah! Great places and people! I am from the Prairies but not Alberta!

  39. Maybe Costa Rica has more rocks than most missions, or maybe PETA has a poor presence, but those dogs knew you meant business when you reached down for a rock (or even for a pretend-rock). It didn’t matter whose dog it was, if it barked at you or chased you, you threw a rock at it. So I never got bitten. But, in my last area there were two large rottweilers in the neighbors yard across the street. Since most Costa Rican yards are fenced in, there was no danger. However, one night as we were coming in, a 70-something old man was out for a walk creeping along in the dark. The two dogs started barking like mad at him. With his wiry muscles, he picked up what had to be a 20 pound stone and chucked it over the 7 foot fence. I don’t think he hit the dog, but the barking stopped and he resumed his stroll.