Saturday, April 2, 2011

Moments of Insight

Moment of Insight...Protection?

It happened at the lake, some years ago. I was recovering from surgery. During my healing process my husband rented a house at Smith Mountain lake. He wanted to give me some time away from the stress of running a pet care facility. Bed & Biscuit was a great love of mine, especially then. But a large boarding kennel is not easy to manage when you are not feeling well. I had been struggling, and needed a break.

It had been a peaceful week...time for reading and reflection. I missed my dogs though, as the rental agency had no "pet friendly" homes available that week. Yet there was also something freeing about having a week with no living creatures depending on me every moment of the day.

On the day of our departure I walked down to the lake for a few last glimpses of the mountain and the water lapping quietly at the rocks. Like many, the rented cottage sat on a hill, and one had to walk down an incline to the dock. Walking back up proved a bit difficult, as I was not totally healed from abdominal surgery. I spotted a good sized flat rock and decided to sit for a moment...resting before climbing the last thirty feet or so back to where the packed car was waiting.

As I was catching my breath, I suddenly saw, coming through the trees to my right, a large black dog. Despite his graying muzzle, this older Labrador came trooping through the woods, along with a younger Basset Hound...the two were a picture of joy on that early day of autumn.

Obviously well cared-for, the dogs' tags attested that they belonged to a nearby neighbor. After greeting me with sloppy dog kisses, they settled right in as if they were my own. The older Lab fellow walked a couple of feet away and lay down in a watchful post, while the female Basset sat leaning against my leg.

As I looked at the lovely old Retriever, I felt comforted, as he seemed to be protecting me in some way. As his sweet dark eyes glanced back at me, however, I received a totally different thought. I heard a quiet, Fatherly voice say "Melanie, dogs are not given to protect, instead they are a gift to be protected by you, just like children are gifts to be protected."

This was a defining moment for me as a dog trainer and behavioral consultant. I knew that many people, even those who did not own guardian type breeds, looked to their dogs to protect them. We have all read stories of dogs offering their owners physical protection in the face of danger. Some of us have even experienced this on occasion. And of course we know that our dogs are great sound alert systems. But 99% of the time, our dogs need us to protect them, not vice versa.
Relationships with dogs are complex. But I am sure the voice I heard was true. Dogs are a gift. And we are not only protected, but we must give them our protection...always.

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