What a dog taught me about the atonement

Mixed-bred dog

Mixed-bred dog

When I was a teenager, I had a dog named Butch — a springer spaniel-black labrador mix. My friend gave me Butch for free, and you know what they say, you get what you pay for.

Butch had a strange yet endearing personality. When we would come home from church, or anywhere else, he’d sprint to the door and greet us by turning his body in the shape of a horseshoe, his tail wagging furiously, and his mouth curling upward into a smile.

Butch was The Smiling Dog.

Butch was also The Disappearing Dog.

We lived near the foothills of Mount Olympus in Salt Lake City, and Butch had an adventurous spirit. He frequently would leave for days, even weeks, at a time. We presumed he had gotten lost or starved to death or hit by a car or run away from home.

Invariably, though, he would return, skinny as a washboard. You could see his ribs poking through his black fur. Sometimes, he returned with porcupine quills in his snout. My dad and I had to grab the pliers, hold Butch down, and yank those quills out.

After we finished removing the quills, he was so grateful, he smiled at us. Butch’s fur was so dirty and greasy — as if he had jumped into a vat of motor oil — that I had to bathe him. Afterwards, when he was clean, he would smile, eat three giant bowls of dog food, then curl up on the heat vent and sleep for a week.

Sometimes, we are like Butch the dog. We set out on questionable paths out of complacency or curiosity or rebellion, and, when we do, we usually end up with the equivalent of porcupine quills and filthy fur.

Fortunately, because of the atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we can have those painful quills removed and we can become clean again. The Lord has already marked the path for us and we can be assured that if we follow it, staying close to our Heavenly home through prayer and scripture study, and repent, we will enjoy peace in our hearts and a smile on our faces.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has taught us, “There are some who believe that because they have made mistakes, they can no longer fully partake of the blessings of the gospel. How little they understand the purposes of the Lord. One of the great blessings of living the gospel is that it refines us and helps us learn from our mistakes. We ‘all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,’ yet the Atonement of Jesus Christ has the power to make us whole when we repent.”


Jeff Call has covered BYU sports since 1993, including the past 16 years for the Deseret News. He, his wife and six sons live in Cedar Hills.

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