Monday, May 5, 2008

The Dog Whisperer

“My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord or loathe His reproof. For whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.” Proverbs 3:11, 12

In a few short episodes, I have become a huge fan of “The Dog Whisperer.” The man’s name is Cesar Millan, and he is a behavior psychologist for dogs. And he is amazing.

Our new dog Sasha has become a challenge as she seems to be getting more and more aggressive the more comfortable she becomes in our home. Being only a year old, she still has plenty of puppy left in her. She would rather play than eat. But her most favorite thing of all in the universe is to take a walk.

I am the one responsible for Sasha’s walks for the most part. However, with every morning and evening walk we have taken, it has become harder and harder to control the dog. She is extremely strong and pulls me along just as fast as she can. When we have the misfortune to pass a jogger or heaven forbid another dog, Sasha goes wild. She fiercely barks and runs circles around me in frenzied excitement. It is all I can do to hold on. Then for the rest of the walk, she is out of control. She drags me along, wheezing and choking on her restraint in her efforts to move forward in her continued excitement. We both get quite a workout.

I didn’t have the heart to do much about it. I didn’t want to spoil her fun. I wanted her to be free to experience the outdoors, sniff trails to her heart’s content, and enjoy the experience. Yet it is downright embarrassing to let others see my incompetence as a dog owner. I keep calling over to Sasha’s latest victim, “Sorry! She is new to the family and we haven’t trained her yet.” Obedience school is two weeks away. It seems like forever.

So my kids set me on to The Dog Whisperer. He can get an aggressive dog to fall into line while walking in about ten seconds. It is amazing to watch. One of the first things he does is get the dog in the correct frame of mind before even opening the front door. The dog is made to sit. Stay calm. And wait for the command to get up after the door is open and the owner has gone through first. Once walking, the dog remains either by the owner’s side or behind him and is corrected every time she begins to pull away. The leash is kept short, keeping the dog close by the owner.

The big challenge, of course, is when another dog appears on the scene. The dog tries to go wild. But the Dog Whisperer does not allow her to stay worked up. He immediately gets the dog to sit and keep her attention on him. Sometimes he must make the dog lie on her side in a totally submissive position. Once the dog has calmed down and relaxed, he then allows her to continue on in the walk. The dog is no longer stressed by the presence of another dog. She is free to enjoy the walk once again. No longer is she under obligation to prove her superiority over all other animals in the neighborhood. She has allowed the owner to be in charge, which is actually a big relief to her.

You probably have already guessed where I am going with this metaphor. Our Heavenly Father corrects us and disciplines us because He delights in us. He wants us to be free to enjoy our lives here on earth. We might mistakenly interpret that as being given free reign. Yet ultimately, that would not be good for us. In our zeal to move ahead, we would pull ahead of Him, choking ourselves in our efforts and losing sight of who is in charge. The tugging war would begin. And we would quickly become worn out at the effort it would be just to walk. Furthermore, like any dog that is not shown her place, we would eventually come to despise our “owner” by refusing to obey or heed. Then when things did not go as planned, we would stomp around on earth, angrily shaking our fist at a God who was supposedly all powerful.

God loves us far too much to allow us to choke on our own efforts. So He quietly and consistently puts things in our lives that keep us on our knees. We are drawn to Him by need, and remain by His side through the circumstance, learning to be submissive to His will as we walk with Him.

Ultimately, in that state of mind, it is where we can find peace and relax. It is a relief to let Him be in charge! He always was all along. We just needed to be reminded. When we again acknowledge this, we are free to enjoy the walk once again.

I’ll let you know how things go with Sasha. Tonight we took a very nice walk, following all the rules of the Dog Whisperer. She came home relaxed, happy, and in a great state of mind. I’m thinking this is going to do wonders for our relationship.

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