Mutt Meets Praying Mantis; Or, Mantis Bites Dog?

My dog, a 40-pound mixed mutt, was standing outside our garage door barking. She doesn’t often bark unless the neighbor dog comes over to play, and sometimes that dog gets her going.

The extra bonus with a mantis is that their very posture of prayer often invites me to pray, even as I work.

But this was just our dog, Velvet, barking with some extra excitement. Time to go look.

I was amazed. There stood a tiny praying mantis up on its hind legs, batting at my dog as if it could hear my dog barking and as if it feared her. Well, of course it feared her. At about 20 inches tall, our dog dwarfed the 3-inch mantis. I have no idea if this one was male or female: you can tell if you get a good look at their abdomen—the male’s abdomen is longer than a female’s. So to keep pronouns easier, I’ll use she for both the mutt and the mantis.


Velvet, with no praying mantis in sight.

What wonderful imagery for the battles we sometimes feel we’re fighting. Up against a giant monster! Would the dog eat the praying mantis? Could the praying mantis chomp on the dog’s dancing paw?

They say that a praying mantis is both a predatory insect and carnivorous; so wishing she could chomp on my dog’s leg is not out of the question. One website geared for kids said, “They will eat basically ANYTHING that they can capture, overcome and usually eat alive. YIKES! For this reason, mantises are not known to be finicky eaters. They may even practice cannibalism when hungry enough” (from

The website also talked about people who keep them as pets. Well, generally I love a good praying mantis or two in my garden or flower bed because I know they are great at killing and devouring bad bugs. The extra bonus with a mantis is that their very posture of prayer often invites me to pray, even as I work.

But I’m not the type to invite them into my home, thank you very much. And thank goodness I had daughters. They had fish, tried hamsters for a while, and we always had dogs and cats, but no mice, snakes, or mantises.

Back to the praying mantis. How often do we feel like the little mantis and that there is a giant Goliath bullying us, making us shiver in our knees?

In 1 Samuel 17, the biblical Goliath is quoted to have roared at tiny David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with a stick?”

My dog was the big giant the little mantis feared. But I perceived that my dog was not even trying to snip at the mantis—she was just excited to see the little creature putting her paws up in a fight.

So often we can only see problems that loom large. Many problems are enormous! A scary medical diagnosis. A hurtling hurricane. A conversation that hurt someone’s feelings and broke a relationship. How to repair damage? Who can help us see our way through small and big problems?

In this case, I was the savior for the mantis. As soon as I called off my dog, the mantis calmed down and scuttled her little hind end out of the way. The dog soon forgot the mantis, and all was well.

I don’t want to carry this analogy too far, but sometimes even a simple text conversation where we assure a loved one or child of support and care can be enough to lift them out of a small depression and give them courage to face their problems with an improved spirit.

Or how about the dog meeting the mantis as the focus here? My dog did not realize that, given the chance, the tiny mantis would have loved to nip at her toe or ankle. I’m told a mantis can wallop a pretty good sting, even if not poisonous. My dog is wimpy enough to have come crying to my door. Or perhaps the mantis did nip her, and that was why she barked.

At any rate, the overall image I want you to take away is that so often our problems do loom large, but are not as menacing as we fear. Sometimes all we need is a friend, colleague, or relative who calls off the dog, or helps us see that the barking dog is only a mild-mannered mutt.


For a free booklet, write for the title “Praying When You Are Depressed.” Write to me at or Another Way, 1251 Virginia Avenue, Harrisonburg, VA 22802.