We lost our beloved German Shepherd, Sarge, in March, before COVID hit. Rick’s heart ached for another dog. I wasn’t sure I could go through loving one and then losing another in 11-12 years. Needless to say, I gave in.
We picked up “Ranger”, our all-black, fuzzy pup, along with instructions on diet. (I barely cook for my husband; but found myself cooking for a puppy.) Ranger was frisky and happy to meet us and didn’t get car sick on the way home. We had a crate with section sized for him ready in our bedroom. And I felt ready, having read The Art of Training a Puppy by the Monks of Mt. Skete and watched numerous YouTube videos on training a dog.
Every puppy has a unique personality. Ranger is very smart, walks like a prince, and has the attitude of an emperor. The breeder told us he was “vocal”. We listened to him tell us what he thought of his crate for the first two and a half weeks. He experimented with his repertoire, from whining pathetically to canine cursing. He barked. He howled. He rattled his cage. Sometimes we laughed. Sometimes we wanted to howl. We did not give in. Rick can sleep through anything. I slept on the family room couch. Ranger finally gave up the battle. He now sleeps all night – which means until 4:00 a.m.
Our dog has his “witching hour” first thing in the morning and after dinner in the evening. This is a time of “mad dog racing around the house full speed ahead, ears flapping, canine grin spread across his face”. He has energy to spend and boy, does he! (This is why I worked diligently on “Fetch the Ball!” I dream of the day when I can use a chucker!)
He is house-trained. (Actually, we’re trained to be watchful.) He sits at the door, looks at us, and whines. Time to go out! Better hurry! When I say “Food”, he’s racing for his bowls in the laundry room. We make him sit and wait a few seconds as we set the bowls in place. He’s learned how to take them out and bring them to us. “Hey! How about more?!” He “sits”. “Down” often earns me a “duh” look as he slowly, dramatically slides into the proper position, or flops over on his back to have a belly scratch. “Ranger, come!” When he feels like it, which is about half the time – unless he knows I have treats.
He has big feet and floppy ears, one ear trying to stand up. He was cuddly-lap-size when we picked up him. He is now 25.5 pounds and strong. I looked at him this afternoon. Yikes! I think he’s grown since this morning. All the more reason to make sure he is trained and socialized properly.
We want him to obey on command because it’s our responsibility to protect him from danger and to teach him how to behave and be friendly to human beings and animals (within reason). If I say, “COME”, I want him to race to me immediately (not challenge a skunk or raccoon or pack of coyotes). While we’re teaching him to obey, we’re learning about his unique personality and his needs and gaining his respect and trust.
Puppies are adorable and fun, but they can be trying, too. Our little “land shark” has sharp little milk teeth that pierce and tear with no effort. He’s learning NOT to bite, even when it’s to show love or just out of rambunctious enthusiasm. Training a puppy to become a good canine companion is hard work that requires consistency and a lot of love.
And all that makes me think more about God. Am I listening to my Master’s voice, eager and ready to respond? Or do I play keep-away or hide-and-seek? Do I hear when I’m called and turn toward Him with joy? Or do I blithely go about whatever it is I’m doing? Do I crave being with Him or am I just too busy exploring this big world? A puppy needs discipline. So do I. What are some of the methods God has had to use in my life to bring me to repentance and obedience?
A good dog offers a good example. He walks beside his master. He obeys commands quickly and with joy. He stays as close as he can because he loves the one who trains him. That’s the kind of Christian I want to be: one who walks beside my Master, moving with Him wherever He wants to go, one who obeys His Word quickly, one who stay as close to the One I love as I can be.