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Riley, our grumpy old mutt of questionable heritage, used to be the only friend and unquestioned leader of Echo, our goofy white Labrador. But when we confined him to the fenced-in backyard for life, and after installing an electric fence to keep Echo from breaking in to be with him, she finally had no choice but to settle in to her new life without him.

When they were out and about together, he was not just her friend; he was her chief influence, the leader of their two-dog gang. And thus it was that our slobbery, happy Labrador actually took on his grumpy, stay-on-the-porch-and-growl personality. It did not suit her at all, and yet she became more and more like him as the days went on.

And then one day a new dog showed up, the neighbor's dog, a beautiful, boundless-energy type of dog, with a zest for life and a disdain for propriety. The river? Yeah, let's get out in that. The muddy creek? Oh, yes, definitely that too. This dog would dive head first into a dumpster, I think, and enjoy every second of it.

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Contributed Photo from Bo Wagner / Echo shows the results of sticking her head where it didn't belong.

I suppose it should not have been a surprise, then, when we came home to find that Echo had a "head issue." By that I mean that we were completely taken aback when, as we came home, we saw a white dog with a completely black head, and realized that it was ours.

Honesty, I cannot even begin to fathom how she did it. Even the mud by the creek, in its most boggy spots, is not that black and horrid. But somehow, somewhere, that dog stuck her head in something and came out with a rank, putrid, totally black head still mounted atop her white body.

I could not resist taking a picture of her. A picture in which she actually stuck her tongue out at me just a bit, though I am pretty sure she did not mean it like we mean it. I hope.

Later I found that my wife had also snapped a picture of her on the stairs, one that showed the stark contrast between her head and her body.

In the three years she hung out with Riley she never, ever did anything like this. She just sat around and grumped at people like he did. But now that she is hanging around a new friend, she is coming home with black mud covering her head, just like her mud-loving new buddy.

I am convinced that if she ever becomes friends with a monkey she will start climbing trees.

One of the most wonderful things God gives us in this lifetime is friends. David had Jonathan to come up with, a friend who was the best of friends a person could ever have, a young man willing to give up the throne and let David have it instead. In John 15:15, Jesus looked at his apostles and said, "Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you."

But as wonderful as it is to have friends, they need to be chosen so very carefully, especially if a person is a follower. It has often rightly been said, "Show me your friends, and I will show you your future."

David, who had benefited from the excellent friendship of Jonathan, later saw his son Amnon ruined by the poor choice of a man named Jonadab as a friend. Jonadab, rather than motivating Amnon toward righteousness, actually encouraged and assisted him toward wickedness. Amnon ended up ruining his sister's life, losing his own and breaking his family apart.

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Contributed Photo from Bo Wagner / Echo's newly dark head made the formerly all-white dog almost unrecognizable.

Psalm 1:1, one of the greatest guides on friendship in the Bible, says, "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful." Blessed means "Oh, the happiness!" There is simply no more joyful life than a life where the friends you choose encourage you toward godliness, rather than filthiness.

It is funny, hysterical, really, to see a white dog with a filthy black head.

It is not funny at all to see a person diving head first into moral filth.

Jesus, often called the friend of sinners, was also, according to Hebrews 7:26, "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." In other words, he was friendly to all, but never a partaker in sin. But for his friends, his constant companions, he chose a small handful who would walk in the path of righteousness.

As for Echo, at least she has not taken up with any skunks, though knowing her lack of common sense, I would not be surprised if one day she does.

Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Email him at 2knowhim@cbc-web.org.

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Pastor Bo Wagner
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