Principles Learned from a Puppy

By Pastor Del Riemer

Sandi and I purchased our Yorkshire Terrier puppy in early December at the age of two-months. We have not had a dog in 35-years. We needed some training and reminding of how to train our puppy to be the pet that we desired and needed. Jessie has been an amazing therapy dog for Sandi in the midst of her ongoing disability. The therapy has been more in what we have learned then in what our puppy, Jessie has learned. As I have considered these lessons, I would like to share some of them with you, and how they have impacted not only our household, but our relationship with Jesus. I’m sure those of you who have a dog will be able to relate, but even if you don’t, the principles still apply. I hope you enjoy my musings.

  • The one who gives the most interaction is dominant.
    – We have found that the person who spends the most time with our puppy Jessie, the one who plays with her the most and feeds her, becomes her go-to dominant master. This mirrors our own life. If God is the One that we spend time pursuing, if we accept our daily food and encouragement from Him, knowing that he is ever present, then he will be our best friend and master.
  • Repetitive training helps but it is a long process.
    – Since we got Jessie as a 2-month-old puppy, virtually everything she knows has been taught by us. Even though our training has been consistent, repetitive failures and retraining are necessary to form her character. God too, is patient with our failures and rebellion, and continues to speak love through consistent input, training, discipline and investment.
  • Just because something is attractive doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
    – As a puppy, Jessie is attracted to, and by, many things. Chewing on drywall, gnawing on legs of chairs, chewing on power cords, tasting anything that’s left on the floor, being enamored by toes and socks, anything shiny, and a multitude of other things which she seems uncontrollably drawn to. All of these things would be detrimental to her health and safety… if permitted. Our natural human tendencies are much the same. God knows when to allow us to learn from our mistakes, but also when to protect us from things that are harmful to us. He loves us enough to tell us the truth.

Just because something is attractive doesn't mean it's good for you.

  • It’s so nice to come home when you know that someone is waiting for you.
    – Now don’t get me wrong, Sandi is generally happy to have me home, however not in the same way that Jessie welcomes me when I come in the door. When she hears the door latch, she runs to the door with not only her tail wagging, but her whole hind end. She jumps up, licks and kisses, and generally makes a big deal simply of me being there. This warms the cockles of my heart (whatever heart cockles are?). I still remember the comforting feeling when as a kid I would come home, walk in the door, and announce “I’m home”, and know that my mom was there in the house waiting for me. I find that same comfort in knowing that Jesus is always with me and waiting for me to communicate with Him either in Word prayer or silence.
  • Snuggles and touch warm the heart and give a positive perspective to everything else.
    – When I come home or sit in my chair in the morning to read, Jessie will jump up into my lap and snuggle. She loves to curl up on my chest and fall asleep. Or give kisses and snuggles which warm my heart. Scripture as well refers to those warm inviting moments when Jesus simply says, “come to Me”. I can rest in His arms, knowing that I am safe and with the Lover of my soul.
  • Denying what the puppy wants, breaks my heart, (although my concern for her trumps foolish gifts).
    – Jessie is so cute that it is tempting to give her whatever she wants. If we let her eat all the food that she is interested in, she would either be sick, fat, or dead. Our concern for her well-being means that we must deny her much of what she wants to simply supply what she needs to thrive. I don’t think I need to draw a parallel between that principle and how God deals with us each day, do I?
  • Our puppy’s exuberance can be embarrassing to guests who are not accustomed to such passion.
    – Not everyone is a dog person, and when people come into our home, they can be overwhelmed (or even frightened) with the attention our puppy gives them. Sometimes this is embarrassing to them, and to us. I think we Christians can do that to other people as well, that when we share our excitement and passion for Jesus in insensitive ways, they become uncomfortable and overwhelmed, and are repelled rather than drawn to Jesus.
  • Others who own puppies understand.
    – Much of what I’m sharing here, and the lessons learned, will be understood by those who have dogs or who have raised puppies. Those people may actually be smiling and nodding their heads as I share these words. So too when we share our love and passion for Jesus with those who share the richness of His life, are both encouraged and spurred on to know Him even deeper.

Our pursuit of Jesus through His word, through discussion with others, through prayer and simply walking with daily Him also forms our character, our boundaries, and our spiritual maturity.

  • Curiosity and wonder consume great blocks of time, and form her character in the long run.
    – Jessie is constantly watching, listening, sniffing, and following her curiosity anywhere it will take her. We can already see how that curiosity is forming her personality, her boundaries and her intelligence. Our pursuit of Jesus through His word, through discussion with others, through prayer and simply walking with daily Him also forms our character, our boundaries, and our spiritual maturity.
  • Our puppy sees a grape as a fabulous toy rather than a food source.
    – Since Jessie likes virtually any kind of food, I have tossed her a grape from time to time which she simply plays with on the floor, rolling it around and jumping back, rolling it around in her mouth to feel the texture, but then spitting it out to play with it some more. She never actually eats the grape. How many times do we take the good gifts of God which could change our life and understanding, but instead just play with them, never allowing them to be a part of our life and experience? Never benefitting from their true value.
  • Our puppy sees the outside world as a mysterious and intimidating place not to be ventured into. (Yes, this protects her, but it also robs her)
    – Just as Jessie prefers the safety and security of the familiar, so we tend to also choose what is comfortable rather than venturing into the adventure and even the unknown of Christ’s life.
  • Times of great excitement and activity are followed by exhaustion and simply flopping down to rest.
    – After company leaves our house, or after an exciting time of play, I love to see Jessie flop down, curl up and fall asleep, peaceful and satisfied. Scripture also reminds us to stop from time to time and rest, to be renewed and recreated in preparation for what still lies ahead.
  • When startled by an unfamiliar sound or someone new, our puppy responds aggressively, noisily, and with a challenging demeanor. But when she realizes the person or sound is familiar/safe and not challenging, she resorts to being calm, affectionate, and peaceful.
    – We too, when frightened or startled by the unknown tend to a fight or flight response. But when we realize that God is with us, protecting us, and equipping us, we can shift to a place of confidence, reliance, and rest.
  • Our kitchen floor has never been to clean! To get rid of crumbs, find someone/something that likes crumbs!
    – In our kitchen whenever Jessie hears me chopping something, she comes running and waits for something to fall from the cutting board. Though she would prefer large chunks of food, she is happy with crumbs or tiny pieces that find their way to the floor. I often want life changing revelations from God, from His Word or from Christian experience, but God most often feeds me crumbs and small Nuggets which both satisfy my appetite, and form my character. I’m starting to watch more and more for crumbs rather than expecting or desiring chunks.
  • Biting is a natural form of puppy play and affection. (Affection can easily be mistaken for aggression)
    – Jessie nips and bites at any fingers or clothing items that are nearby, not out of anger or threat, but out of affection and excitement. I have seen in church life how Godly passion can, in some people, end up drawing annoyance or blood… even though intended as a positive reaction.
  • The process of getting washed can be traumatic, but the result is glorious!
    – We just had Jessie groomed last week for the first time. The grooming included a bath, complete with shampoo and the combing out of not entangles. Not fun for her to be sure. For each of us being washed clean of sin, bad habits, temptations, personality quirks and a multitude of other imperfections can be painful and uncomfortable. The result however is a taste of the very image of Jesus, and who doesn’t love that?

Well, I could go on and on, but I think I’ll leave it at that and just encourage each of you reading this Blog to learn the lessons that are available in all the small mundane areas of your life. God is always speaking, let’s tune-in!

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