Train Up a Dog in the Way He Should Go

My dog ShermanThere is a new member of my household. His name is Sherman. I say ‘household’ and not family because this new member belonged to my oldest son and his family.

Sherman has issues. Overall he is a good dog, but suffers from separation anxiety. No matter what my son and daughter-in-law tried to do to, every time he was left alone, he went to the bathroom. He’s a Pomeranian which means he’s a little fur ball. And this little fur ball had no qualms about lying in the mess he made. This means having to give him a bath every time they went out. It turned out to be easier to simply leave someone at home to stay with the dog. Not very conducive to family life. After two years of this, they finally gave up and relegated him to the back yard.

Enter Nonna. (That would be me, the Italian grandmother.) Nonna happens to be a no nonsense kind of person. When my kids were younger, I was known as the drill sergeant. With six kids, I had to be tough. But to be honest, I have that kind of personality. It’s the way God designed me.

So this weekend I went to my son’s house to pick up Sherman. If you subscribe to my newsletter, you know that I swore I would never own a dog again because dogs are a lot of work. Given my lifestyle – 2 jobs, my granddaughter, ministry, writing…there really isn’t a whole lot of time to care for a dog. Now cats, on the other hand, are a snap. I have two of them – Nick and Bruno. Fill up their food and water bowls, give them a clean litter box and they are good to go for a couple of days. But dogs? They need tending every day, several times a day.

Before picking Sherman up, I did a lot of research on how to train a dog who suffers from separation anxiety as well as how to take care of Pomeranians. I’ve never owned a full breed dog. Turns out, Poms are delicate and have to be treated with care.

Yesterday was our first full day together in the house. I learned how to bring him into the house so that he knows I am leader of the pack, along with what feels like a cajillion other things. Though I work from home, I do have to be in stores for a good part of my day. The beauty is that I can go out and come back – giving Sherman short bursts of time alone. I am happy to report that I was gone several times yesterday, and not once did he go in his crate!

I texted my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson the good news. My grandson texted back, ‘Wow…wish it was that easy for us.’ Now I love my grandson, but at this point I wanted to slap him upside his head. What I did throughout the day yesterday was anything BUT easy. And it wasn’t just the one day that I was with him.

First, it was a lot of prayer. A LOT of prayer. After all, how could I fit a dog into the mix of my life? But I felt a call to take him home and have been praying about it for six months.

Next, it was a lot of preparation. Once my son agreed to give me the dog, I did a lot of research. There is quite a bit to learn about dog training. Some of it I used to do naturally with my dogs, but there is so much that I did not know. There was also a lot of going to stores and buying the right supplies from the food, to the toys, to the kennel, leash, harness, shampoo and more. I also had to figure out how to set up my schedule so I could be with him and do my both my jobs because as much as I love pets, I prefer sleeping indoors – which requires income.

Finally, there was a lot involved in our first full day together. One thing that every dog training site seemed to agree upon is that exercise is very important when it comes to training a dog – especially Pomeranians. They are high energy dogs and in order to get them to pay attention to lessons, they have to be calm. This meant that I took no less than ten walks yesterday. These were not the short, take-your-dog-out-to-piddle walks. Rather, they were walk-the-dog’s-energy-off walks in a dog that is highly energetic.

And it was only the first day of many to come. The end result of ‘Sherman not piddling on himself’ was anything but easy. And this made me think of my rabbis. October was Rabbi/Pastor Appreciation Month. It is a time where we lavish gifts and cards on our spiritual leaders, showing them our appreciation for all they do. But should we stop there now that October is over?

I don’t think so. They have to go through a lot to train us up spiritually into the people God has called us to be. And it isn’t an easy job. There is a lot more that goes into caring for God’s flock than meets the eye. And they have to put up with a lot of nonsense from us. Like my Pomeranian, we jump around and get out of control so quickly.

My Sherman will always be an energetic dog. He will always need to get a lot of exercise. He will always need me to provide his food and water. He will always need love, affection, attention, and a disciplined life. As his leader, I knew going in what that leadership entailed. It will always be a lot of work, but that’s the role I took on.

In the same way our spiritual leaders know what is necessary to care for the flock. They spend a lot of time in prayer and preparation. They do a lot for us that we don’t even see. They put in long days for our benefit. And I think that in addition to spending a month showing them our appreciation, we should become an obedient flock. Their job will never be easy, but our obedience will go a long way toward making their job easier.

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