Three Dogs, Two Sticks, and Some Sheep

lisa and bear

Over the last year, we’ve been adopted by two puppies. You may remember Gus, from a previous newsletter, who came onto the scene last June and wiggled his waggly tail into our hearts. While he may be a year old now, he’s still very much a puppy in so many ways.

Then, recently, we were adopted by another adorable pup, “Little Bear,” who charmed her way into our hearts with lots of snuggles, eyes that look into your soul, and the funniest little gait when she tries to keep up with her big brother. Fortunately, we have already have everything we need, from Dog Harnesses, to food, to more toys than she could ever possibly wish for, so we know she’s going to be well-loved and entertained with us.

It was also recently that I was enlightened about the fact that there tends to be a difference between large and small breed dog food! Who knew taking care of our furry friends would teach us new things, everyday!

But, with two puppies and a sweet old girl named Rosie hanging out at the house on the regular, we realized that we needed to tighten up their training in order to keep things from getting out of hand. So, armed with a copy of Cesar’s Way by Cesar Millan, host of the famous dog training show Dog Whisperer, we set to work. Or, so we thought.

As it turned out, we were the ones who needed to be trained. Dogs, it appears, require a leader, and if they do not feel adequately led, they will lead. And boy, did we go to school realizing how many times we weren’t leading our dogs and how many times they were. That is why I believe I need to upgrade my dog food because the old dog foods are probably no longer appealing to them. They are now in charge, which means they get to decide what we should do, so let us begin with the most basic thing, upgrading their food itself.

For better or worse, we had let Gus, in particular, who is naturally dominant, have full run of the plot where we stay. It sounds innocent, and kind of awesome for a dog, but after doing some reading, we realized that we hadn’t shown up for him as leaders of the plot, even though we had in our house.

The result was incessant barking at other dogs in the neighborhood, terrorizing innocent hedgehogs, and all around being on edge, especially at night. What we didn’t realize is that he was doing it out of fear. One of our colleagues suggested that we give him the best cbd for dogs, you know, to calm his nerves. However, we felt we need to take a different approach. Once that realization sunk in for us, we took steps to show him we were his leaders and that he could trust us to keep him safe. And, you know what? It’s been working.

So, what is the point of all of this? I had a few hard reality checks during those first few weeks of training. One reality check in was how much I feel like I need to lead my own life when I feel like God isn’t doing an adequate job. (Gulp.) Another one? How much I feel like I need to protect myself when I am afraid of being hurt by people or circumstances. (Can anyone relate?)

In truly Holy Spirit fashion, a few days ago, as I was reading Psalm 23, verse 4 struck a nerve. It says, “Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Really?)

If I can be perfectly honest, rods and staffs are basically glorified sticks, and sticks don’t exactly speak “comfort” to me. Quilts, cozy sweaters, coffee-these all speak comfort, but not sticks. But as I begrudgingly thought it over and wondered how a rod and a staff could be comforting, I considered the context.

“The Lord is my Shepherd,” the psalm begins. Shepherds lead, and shepherds lead sheep. By intelligent logic in this poetic analogy, I, then, am a sheep. And, if I’m a sheep, then I need to be led, just like my dogs. And, just like my dogs, I need to feel like the one leading me is going to keep me safe.

When I properly dug into verse 4 and considered what a rod and a staff would be used for, the fullness of the analogy took shape for me. I imagine the rod would protect the sheep from danger, and the staff would clearly show them where the shepherd is so they can follow him. So, if the rod and staff actually equal protection and guidance, I can understand how they would be comforting.

The best part of all of this? When dogs are properly led and made to feel safe, they become the versions that people call “man’s best friend.” They relax and smile and snuggle and sit by your feet. It’s fulfilling for them and fulfilling for the owner.

I get the sense from Psalm 23 that this is God’s heart for us. He wants to lead and protect us so that we can relax and smile and snuggle and sit at His feet. Little by little I’m starting to realize that it’s fulfilling for us. And, maybe, amazingly, it’s just as fulfilling for Him as our Shepherd and Father.

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