Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Raising a Boxer is a Spiritual Journey

Raising 3 Boxers could be a journey to Hell

I believe in One God.  Creator of all things. Everywhere present.  Who fills all things.  An understanding God who Loves in Purity of Spirit, who is compassionate, forgiving and is plenteous in mercy.  In His Divine Love, He gives us trials that purify us......that sanctify us.  That will bring us back to that place of being truly human;  that which He originally created and called Good.  We, however, are disobedient.  We ignore what He would teach us and stubbornly chase after our own desires.  In the trials He gives that we could use to benefit ourselves;  we instead fall even further from His Grace.  We fail.   And then we fail again.

This is why God created dog.  Dog is God spelled backward.  God is in all things.  Man loves dog unconditionally just like God loves man unconditionally.  Dog also loves man unconditionally.  Dog also is forgiving.  God uses dog to teach man.

One of my heroes is Cesar Millan known to many as the Dog WhispererHis words of wisdom stick to me.  I may not sometimes grasp the higher spiritual concepts that the priests and Holy Fathers would teach me, but I can get it by learning how to talk with dogs....................Or not.  Cesar says over and over again, "God does not give us the dog we always wanted.  He gives us the dog we NEED".

So with that background, I come to my story.....

As I've told you previously, Lord Malcolm and Lady McKenzie are in beginning Agility.  There is really so much to learn about this sport but we are doing pretty well at it, for the level we're at.  I have them in two separate classes but on Wednesday mornings the building is open for another small class and usually there are not too many other people there, so I take both dogs up to practice.There are some kennels there that they don't mind if you use, so I kennel one and work with the other while an advanced obedience class is in session.  Well.  Last Wednesday, we walked in and the class was working on off leash recalls.We walked by just as a lady called her dog to come.  The dog, of course, started running toward the handler just as it should.  Malcolm decided just at that moment, that he should do the same and lunged with all his mighty might.  McKenzie didn't think that was appropriate, so she jumped on Malcolm.  Dog fight ensued.  There I was using both knees to step between them and walk them back away from the ring.  I plastered them to the ground and waited till all was calm again.

Then I kenneled Malcolm and worked a bit with McKenzie.  When I traded dogs, McKenzie started screaming in the kennel.  So I went to quiet her.  Then I tried to work Malcolm a little more.  Every time I stepped away from McKenzie's kennel, she screamed.  I was so frustrated by that point I decided that working was not a good idea and got them ready to go home.  As we started by the obedience ring again, BINGO.  Another outburst.Their class was ending, thankfully, but still. Really? I train every day.......I read all the books........I go to dog school for Pete's sake.  I felt defeated and embarrassed and overwhelmed all at once so I just broke down and started crying.  

Two of the teachers at the club came over to help me.  Through my sobs I asked them if they wanted these two dogs because I just couldn't do this anymore.  I'm not a dog trainer.  But no matter who I hire, how often I work them, where I am, or what advice I follow, I can't get them to just calm down and behave.  I wanted to give up.  I wanted to admit defeat,  call the dogs a loss and try to move on.  I wanted out of the responsibility that I had agreed, in the beginning, to take.

They grabbed my dogs, one each, and went over to a place to sit down.  Laura started laughing at Malcolm who was in his wiggly, butt wagging, slobbery and extremely happy mode all of a sudden and Kim asked McKenzie to lay down.  Which she did, right away.

"See there?  That just proves that I can't do this.  You both need to take those dogs.  They mind you."

Yes.  God had given me a test.  And of course, I failed.  I was still in the process of failing when He began to encourage me..........

"Brenda.  Take heart.  You're just having a bad day!"  You hold McKenzie's leash and I'll walk my dog back and forth.  Look.  She's behaving.  Malcolm is behaving.  They are just puppies.  You just have to be patient, consistent and persevere."

They gave me much more encouragement and support.  They built up my defeated attitude and gave me a few good pointers. ( One being, squirting the dog with a stream of water every time it starts to lunge).  Well.  OK.   I do feel better.  The dogs proved that they were not aggressive and more importantly, that they KNEW  the commands and exactly how to behave.  But Boxers are puppies until they are 3.  And they display puppy tendencies and behaviours until they die.  They are also very bull headed.  Oh yea.  They are Boxers.

So I gathered my things with new-found hope.  I strengthened my resolve with their encouraging words and I went home to read more of  Dr. Patricia McConnell's book, Feisty Fido:  Help for the Leash-Reactive Dog.  By the way, this book does suggest that it might take months to get Fido to stop reacting to other dogs.  And I still have yet to receive the no pull harness that she strongly suggests I use.  

At any rate.  There you go.  In the Holy Services we say, "again and again, let us pray to the Lord".  I heard somewhere that Devils are creatures who, once fallen cannot get back up.  Angels are creatures who cannot fall.  And mankind are creatures who can, with God's merciful help, rise again and again for every time they fall.

With God's help ... through the hands of Laura and Kim... I was able to rise again.  Malcolm and I went to agility class that very night and he (of course) tried to lunge at another dog.  One squirt of the water bottle and it was over.  No more lunging.  (He looked at me as though I had completely lost my marbles)!  Malcolm was not the worst student that night.  In fact, he was one of the best.  He did everything I asked and did not wear me out lunging and pulling.  He had a good time and I had a GREAT time.  Even the other handlers in the class noticed the difference.

Perseverance.  Resolve.  A break down in public......I'd call that humility.  Cesar was right.  God gives us the dogs we need.  I thank Him everyday for what I have.  I also thank those whom He uses (Laura and Kim) to strengthen and guide me.  And I thank my joyful and beloved Boxers for being their bull-headed, strong-minded, wiggly, loving and forgiving selves.

We all live to rise another day.  With God's help, our next 'trial' will bring out the patience, wisdom, love and understanding He would like to see in me and not the vile, no can do, I hate my life, somebody else do this, knee-jerk attitude that more often prevails.  Again and again...................

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