By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer
Two dogs played fetch in front of a crucifix.
Nobody got upset. The puppies running the halls of Salado United Methodist Church last Sunday were doing as they were told.
With every bone they chewed, Prophet and Monk were helping their owner teach lessons of the Bible.
The speaker was Hank Hough. He's the founder of Kingdom Dog Ministries.
'I'm a duck hunter, a duckaholic even,' Hough said. 'I wanted to serve the Lord, but I didn't know how. I couldn't talk, sing or dance. But then God gave me a dog.'
And as that hunting dog became a champion in his eyes, Hough said he learned how he could become a champion in the Lord's eyes. 'Hank's the perfect guest for our program,' said Nelson Lewis, president of the Salado United Methodist Men, at last Sunday's wild game dinner.
With their families in tow, the camouflaged men came to dine on the beasts they usually hunt - duck, fish, squirrel and pheasant.
'It's something we do every year,' Lewis said. 'This is Hank's second time to come talk to us.'
The majority of Hough's program was about parenting. He compared the task of training his dogs to the rigors of raising his four sons.
'These kids today leave the house, and they don't know who they belong to,' Hough said. 'That's dangerous. They need to know who they belong to. Just like these dogs. They need to stop when I say, 'Stop.' I know when they'll get hurt. I know who they can trust.'
He asked the children of the audience to call the dog.
'Stand up, kids. Holler. See if you can get Prophet to come to you.'
Hough said nothing to Prophet, and he didn't blow his whistle. He simply stood beside the animal with his right arm slightly raised.
The dog didn't answer the giddy calls of the youngsters.
'This dog knows who his master is,' Hough said. 'There's a lesson in this for all of us. To be champions for the Lord, we need to resist temptation. We stay straight with the Lord even though he doesn't ask or tell us to.'
The most serious lesson of the day was not to 'treat train' your children.
'The day will come when there's a bigger treat,' Hough said. 'The day will come when your treat isn't good enough for your dog, kid, husband, wife to do what you want. Do not focus on that which is temporary.'
To demonstrate the lesson, Hough spread dozens of treats on the floor and then commanded his dogs to do a variety of tricks.
Some of them were obviously difficult.
'I want my dogs to work hard,' Hough said. 'It might be confusing, but they'll learn and do it.'
The dogs didn't give up, and they didn't look to the treats for rewards. They waited for the pet and hug they knew would come.
At the end of the puppy talent show, Hough gathered both animals in his arms.
'God, I love these dogs,' Hough said. 'And they know it. The lesson is this, folks, is that cookies are here to destroy us. God has something for you to chew on for eternity.'
He reached into a black duffel bag and pulled out a bone.
'Like the dog gets a bone to sink his teeth into, God has something in mind for you,' Hough said. 'It could be a good wife, a good job or a good life. But it doesn't just come. You earn it through your obedience to the Lord.'