Sunday, February 10, 2008

Learning through Suffering

I saved this picture from the cover of Coonhound Bloodlines magazine, the December 1996 edition. It's watercolor for one, and it depicts my favorite dogs for another. Redbone Coonhound puppies are soooooo cute! This is pretty much what Quigley looks like now. When we take him to the vet, technicians have to come out to see him and pet him and coo over him.

Today was a good day. I got to go to church, Quigley was good, and my car is finally fixed. Hurray! Thursday was not good. I went on the internet and read about dog training. Pretty much everything I could find advocated "gentle, positive methods of training" where you never reprimand your dog, only find ways to redirect him so you can praise him, where you never make your puppy feel uncomfortable obeying you, or, it would seem in any of his interactions with you. As for biting, said one article, if your puppy bites hard enough to break the skin you have an aggressive dog and had better see a veterinarian behavior specialist to evaluate as soon as possible.

I was freaked. Looking back, I just want to slap myself upside the head and ask, "What were you thinking???" Everytime I go on the internet I learn stuff that freaks me out and turns out not to even be valid or relevant to my situation.

I tried some of their advice and it only made things worse. Quigley needs more than "Just leave the room for a minute when he puts teeth to your skin." Let's see, I'd be like a jumping bean, going in and out of the room every other minute. Quigley's kind of like an eel. At a certain point when you're petting him his mouth flies open and never closes as it swings back and forth after your hands... and he's sooo fast. Teeth are touching skin before you can even register it happened.

Well, so many things happened this weekend, that I'd be here all night, but the upshot of it was I realized I've been obsessing over the dog. Again. Instead of sitting back and trusting the Lord to handle things, I was thinking about the problem, trying to figure out what to do about it, and going to the world to look for a solution. Today I decided, Phooey. Back to business as usual, so much as I can. The Lord will have to protect Quigley from his strange appetites (the roots of bermuda grass, rocks, charcoal, wood, pine cones, roofing materials, weeds, leaves, sticks and anything else that comes into the yard) and He will be the one to fix him, not me. I will do what I do, what I'm led to do, what I've done with the past five dogs we've raised... Jake, Grumpy, Sam, Boomer, Bear...

It occured to me in Bible class the evening of the day I read all that stuff on the internet... Jesus learned obedience through the things that He suffered. We learn obedience through suffering. In fact, we often learn things through suffering we could never learn by any other way. The Lord sometimes deliberately puts us through it (this has all been in current Bible classes) so we can be alone with Him and learn things about ourselves and about Him.

Suffering is not a bad thing, through our society has made it seem so. People are constantly trying to make sure nothing bad ever happens to anyone. No one should ever suffer pain, mishap, injury, accident, disease, illness, being offended.

Last year in our hundred year old Rodeo Parade, a five year old girl riding in the parade was killed when horses pulling a wagon behind her bolted and ran over her and her horse. It was a tragedy, but the little girl did know how to ride, so it wasn't totatlly unreasonable for her to be in the parade (though she was under age according to the rules). She'd been around horses all her life and everyone knows when you deal with horses, these things occasionally happen. Horses are big and stupid (though not as stupid as sheep, I will point out!) and they have a lot of strength and speed. People get hurt. Horses get hurt. Yet what was the unending refrain on every newscast relating to this story? "What can we do to make sure this never happens again?" "We must work hard to make sure this never happens again." "H0w could this possibly have happened?!"

I use this just as an example of how accidents are treated. Horror! Shock! The sense that no one should ever suffer anything under any circumstances. Yet that is not the Bible's view.

Well, anyway, I decided that if Jesus could learn through the things He suffered, if I could learn through the things I suffer (and, in fact, must with certain kinds of lessons), if my son learned obedience from the things he suffered, it doesn't seem like such a bad thing if the puppy has to learn things from suffering like all the rest of us. Of course by suffering I mean, reprimanding him, pushing him off the table when he jumps up to put his paws on it and see what he can steal, lifting my knee to bump his chest when he jumps up (more like hurls himself at me), telling him NO from time to time. It even means he can scream in his crate until he learns that he is not the only one who gets to decide when he's going to go into it.

And I will recall that I have a book to write, which I am called to do by the Lord Himself, and it takes precedence over the puppy.

Speaking of, I am currently engaged in trying to come up with a master outline. I have combined about four lists of events, plotlines and sequences into one master document (everything but the kitchen sink, it seems) and now have to make it coherent, logical and more streamlined. Not an easy task, but when it's done, I think I'll be able to write fairly smoothly, especially when I'm not requiring the writing to be anything but lousy!