The Mighty Wonder Buck is learning at a fairly enjoyable rate. The other day I was able to take him to a newly refurbished town park and actually let him off the leash! I call the park “refurbished” because it has been closed for 20-plus years, and has recently been reopened by the efforts of mountain-bike enthusiasts who have teamed up with the city to make some sizeable improvements. This particular park is a largely wooded area, fenced in by ancient barbed wire (of questionable efficacy), and includes the boundaries of the historic Deepwood Cemetery (established 1869), an active railroad track, and grazing cattle on one side and fairly impressive bluffs on the other. Various parts of the park lay under water when it rains, or is at best soft and muddy for days afterward. The biking/hiking path that has been transposed upon this small sample of local geography winds its way through a small creek (three times) as it takes the participant up, down, over, and through woods and rocks on what is mostly hard pack hidden by leaves and punctuated by tree roots.
In other words, it’s hilariously fun!
And especially fun if you’re a dog like Buckley, with Labrador blood coursing through your canine veins. Once he and I reached the park, walked over the sturdy wooden bridge, and hiked back into the woods to the fork in the path, I just had to venture taking him off the leash. He had his multiple identification tags jingling on his very secure collar, so at least if he did run off, some kind soul might be able to expedite his return. The sound of his tags also gave me some assurance of his whereabouts.
And off he did go! Dog heaven! What a joy, a real joy, to see the Buck do what he was created to do—run! What an athlete! What grace and agility! All of his senses were keenly engaged in this outdoor environment, and he was absolutely loving it, absolutely loving life at this very moment.
There were, however, a few things to consider. For starters, it was very important that he learn to stay clear and on this side of the fence. The barbed wire was dangerous, and even though Buckley was well able to squeeze through and back again, it would eventually cause him harm, even without him knowing it at first. That night at home, in fact, it was my husband that noticed the Buck had been bleeding from some thankfully superficial lacerations to his underbelly, obviously procured when slipping through the fence. Thankfully, also, it only took twice for me to give the command concerning the fence; the third time, as he approached it, Buck looked at me, and when issued the “no”, he obediently took off in the other, safer, direction, thus sparing himself further harm, even though he might not as yet been cognizant of the self-injury he had already inflicted. Good choice!
Secondly, as I walked along the path, very consistently staying on my predictable course with my predictable speed, (which is considerably slower than my dog’s), I occasionally called for Buckley to come to me, purposefully interrupting his activity and calling for his interests to acquiesce to mine. This willingness to be immediately obedient is extremely important if a dog is to be trusted off the leash. And my consistency on the path is important for him to feel safe, knowing where I am at all times. He is allowed to range freely, but only within the sound of my voice.
These two thoughts bring me to a clearer understanding of our dealings with God, as our Shepherd and personal Handler:
- First, we must learn to recognize and accept the boundaries that God has for us, since they are for our good and protection. We may think that we can squeeze “through the fence” and back again at will and remain unscathed, but we delude ourselves. Eventually, the lacerations from the barbed wire of sinful choices will become apparent, and sometimes to others before they are even clear to ourselves. We must be responsive to God’s loving “no”, and turn to enjoy the full expanse of the area He has provided for us to enjoy, rather than seeking what He has wisely forbidden.
- Secondly, Jesus walks a consistent path of love. His truth is knowable; His commands are not burdensome and His assistance is always immediately available. Around this path He graciously gives us much room to range and explore, as long as we stay within the sound of His voice and come immediately when called, even at what we first perceive to be our own inconvenience. Just as I would reward Buck with a small treat simply for obeying, which is in itself the true lesson, and send him on his way again, so God is interested in our obedience for obedience’s sake, for He knows the success of all other assignments rests on this imminently important life skill with Him. We must become trustworthy to His Voice.
As with many progressive community movements, certain “improvements” preclude other freedoms. This particular park is no longer open to dogs not on leashes. As a recreational cyclist myself, and based on the level of cycling difficulty with the pathways in this one area, I not only understand, but sorrowfully acquiesce. That is, Buckley and I just don’t go there anymore. In its place, however, we have found a private area that has creek paths, fallen trees, and plenty of forested fun, and that without all the fences and barbed wire as much as before! Plus, now that Buck has proven himself to respond to my voice and command, he has increased space to explore his talents.
Perhaps that’s what God has in mind for us also…
#dogs #Godsvoice #fences
(excerpt from God Loves Dogs, by Dawn Jones)