As many of you undoubtedly know, one of my passions is training my dogs. I have two Labrador Retrievers, Huck and Walker. I train them for AKC Hunt Tests and Field Trials. These tests and trials simulate a duck hunt. There are three levels (Junior, Senior, and Master) and the levels become increasingly difficult as you progress through them. When a dog reaches the Master level he is performing some very high-level talents. I will not bore everyone with the details here, however, if you are interested just let me know…I can talk about this topic for hours!
Recently, my dog Walker passed his fifth Master Hunter Test. This pass earned him the AKC “Master Hunter” title and qualified him for the Master Amateur Invitational. (Only about 650 dogs in the nation are invited to the Master Amateur each year! In the very small world of dog training this is quite a significant accomplishment.) While I was driving back home after his qualifying pass I reflected on his success and marveled that a dog can have the drive, skills, and intelligence to accomplish the tasks that he regularly accomplishes. One of the true marvels, for me anyway, is that he can sit next to me and I can tell him that there is a retrieve out there that he did not see, and I help him find it. He looks out and I line him up using only verbal cues. (“Here” makes him move his head to the right, “Heel” makes him look left.) Once I am satisfied that he is lined up well I give him the command, “Back”, and he takes off running. I mean he sprints like he is taking off for a steak dinner. If he starts to get off-track I blow my whistle (this is called a “sit whistle”) and he turns, sits, and looks at me, waiting for me to give him directions using a hand signal. The hand signals tells him to go a little right or a lot right, a little left or a lot left, or maybe just straight back to his right or left. Once receiving the hand signal he turns again and runs in the direction I sent him. Eventually he will get to the retrieve that has been planted in the field and returns proud and triumphant with his reward. It is quite a sight to behold; blind retrieves at the Master level are regularly over 150 yards and often involve getting in and out of water multiple times.
I share this with you because, well, I told you that I like talking about it, but mostly because I want to share the reflection Walker’s latest accomplishment stirred in me. I marvel at the amount of trust Walker has in me. He has learned that if I tell him something is out there for him to get then there must be, and more importantly, he knows I will lead him to it. He trusts that when I tell him to go one direction instead of another then he should do that, so he will eventually end up at his goal. Have you ever tried to get a dog to run after something he did not see? It is not easy. This process starts when he is about 6 months old and is perfected throughout his life…with many ups and downs. The same is true with us and God. Providence often lines us up, He tells us that there is something out there for us if we will just trust His directions. There are many “sit whistles” in life when God blows His whistle and asks us to sit so that He can tell us that we have gone off course and we need to get back in the right direction. I think it is worth asking ourselves, do we even go when He tells us to? Do we trust that what He wants for us is out there lying in the proverbial field and we need only listen to His directions to find it? When we do start, will we listen to His correction when we inevitably go off course? I think these are all questions worth pondering and one of my sincere prayers is that when we hear God directing us we will be like Walker and take off with reckless abandon and full trust in Divine Providence.
AUTHOR: Jay Boren, Headmaster