I was called to serve in the Buenos Aires West Argentina mission. Before I left, I had heard stories of dogs attacking missionaries, but it was never a fear of mine. Dogs loved me. I loved them. I was practically the dog whisperer. Or so I thought. Here’s a few missionary tips you were never taught in the MTC about dealing with the #1 most common danger missionaries face…DOGS!
Tip 1: WATCH WHERE YOU’RE WALKING!
I stepped on Argentine soil in February 2015. I also stepped on something else that day…
Tip 2: CARS+DOGS
If you are called to serve in an area with a car…Lucky you. Keep in mind, the owners probably won’t listen to your message if you’ve made a puppy pancake of their pooch. (Cats are fine, though.)
Tip 3: I GOT BIT!
- 1.Clean the wound with soap and water. (You may want to knock on a nearby house, explain what happened, and ask to wash and care for the wound there. Here’s a chance to make a great contact!)
- Apply a sterile bandage.
- Call your mission nurse. In our mission, if we got bit we had to call our mission nurse so she could prescribe antibiotics. This varies from mission to mission. This is a common problem, so most missions will address this issue.
- Apply an antibiotic ointment to the wound every day to prevent infection. (rubbing alcohol also works, but it’s gonna hurt!)
Tip 4: KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE DOG
When talking to someone and they have a friendly pooch, keep an eye on him if he’s sniffing your legs and shoes. My companion got a nice little puddle in her shoe because he thought a sister missionary should be his territory.
Tip 5: BIKES=MEALS ON WHEELS
My second area was a biking area! This was the best! It was a rural town so the people were friendlier, we had bikes, the members were amazing, we had bikes, the air was cleaner, AND WE HAD BIKES! But…there were feral dogs…my companion and I were both new missionaries to the equation of bikes+wild dogs. She was particularly afraid of them. We learned all these tips together after a few failed attempts to kick at the dogs screaming at them to “GET!”. That worked 0 times. Luckily, we were wearing big rain boots and the dog’s teeth never broke flesh…Hey that could be another tip. Bonus Missionary Tip: Wear rain boots in heavily dog populated areas!
Most of the feral dogs were friendly and left us alone. However, we had to learn to read them.
The following advice also applies when on foot…
- Lo que ladra no muerda…(what barks won’t bite.) If you pass a dog and he’s going berserk, he’s probably just defending his territory. He doesn’t want missionaries for breakfast. You might just mosey on over to the other side of the road. If he’s barking AND chasing you SLOW DOWN…but since he’s barking…he can’t bite. If he’s a little close for comfort, aim to kick at his mouth. It’s amazing how you’ll discover you can pedal with one foot.
- When a dog is silent and coming at you…STOP YOUR BIKES and FACE THE DOG. If he approaches you with tail between the legs or wagging, he wants to be your friend. Carry on. If he is showing teeth, growling, or trying to make eye contact with you DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT. That shows you are challenging him. At this point you should:
- Sing a hymn and slowly back away facing the dog.
- Tell the dog you are representatives of Jesus Christ and you are passing through. This may seem silly, but IT WORKS!
Authority and Promises
As missionaries, you are representatives of The Savior. You have authority, whether you are a sister or an elder, to command in His name. You have His name on your tag, authority given when you were set apart, and The Holy Ghost as a constant companion. Countless people pray for your protection DAILY! Your parents, your mission president, your bishop, your companion, the apostles, the prophet, people you’ve never even met all pray for YOU! In the holy temples all over the world, missionaries are prayed over. Do you really think Heavenly Father is going to let a dog get in your way?
“Fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail.” (D&C 6:34.)
“The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the
Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.” (History of the Church, 4:540.)
“And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” (D&C 84:88)
You can do it!
My companion and I banked on these promises and blessings when we discovered dogs would never hurt us if we told them who we were working for. We were faced with a huge pack of dogs when we were on our way to visit some less active members. Previously, this pack of dogs would spot us a mile away and come at us. This time, we didn’t have time to go 3 miles out of the way to avoid them. We had to go through. We stopped our bikes a block before we reached the pack, and walked towards them. As soon as we declared who we were and what we were doing, they stopped barking, and let us pass. This humbling experience made us think of what Preach My Gospel teaches in its first chapter “What is My Purpose as a Missionary?”
REMEMBER: On the other side of an aggressive dog, is one of your spiritual family members waiting to hear the Gospel!