My Dog Ate My Shoes! – Part III

20180510_163753In the first of this three part series, I talked about choosing the right dog for your family and your life stage. In the second, I talked about why your dog hates being alone and what you can do to help. Today, I want to talk about training.
Dogs need direction both when they’re with you and when you’re not there. There was a time when I shied away from training our family pet. He was a member of the family and didn’t need to know tricks or how to behave like a show dog. A sit and a stay were all we really needed, or so I thought.
Then, along came Rosa. Rosa was the result of an accidental breeding. She was the last of her litter, being given away for free in the Walmart parking lot. My soft-hearted husband brought her home for the kids. From the very being, she was very fearful, which later developed into aggression. Knowing what would happen if our dog bit someone, we went out in search of training, which really changed my perspective on dog training.
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My Dog Ate My Shoes! – Part II

In my last post, I talked about the importance of selecting the right dog for you, your family, and your lifestyle, which can go a long way in ensuring a happy relationship between you and your dog. This week, I want to talk some about why dogs so often destroy their owners’ homes when left at home during work or family outing.
Dogs need two things. Direction and company. This week, we’re going to address the issue of company.
Dogs are pack animals. They HATE being alone. Seriously, they HATE being alone. Everyone heads off to work and school, and the poor dog is left alone. They hate that. If you don’t believe me, install a camera in your house. See what you dog does when you leave. Even if he isn’t tearing apart the house, your dog’s face will break your heart. You have work and friends. Your dog has only his family. You’re his everything. If your dog is tearing apart the house, he’s telling you he’s bored, and he’s lonely.
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My Dog Ate My Shoes! – Part I

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people complain or post on Facebook how their beloved family dog ate their shoes, couch, children’s toys, etc. People are always amazed that their darling pets could be so destructive when they leave the house. The dogs are, after all, supposed to be defending the house not tearing it to pieces.
I encounter this so often that what I planned to be a single post turned into three. Many times, it becomes such a problem that the owners end up rehoming the dog, which despite good intentions often goes terribly wrong.  Many people don’t realize that their untrained house pet will be euthanized at the county shelter or that the lovely wife and children they interview are actually picking up bait dogs for their dog fighting husband/father.
So…  Why does this happen?  Why do people end up getting rid of the dog they dreamed of having and just couldn’t wait to get home?
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Finding God in the Natural World

I recently had a conversation with a woman at church, who said that we couldn’t find God in the material world. I think that’s a big part of our problem in America. We don’t make the distinction between the man-made material world and the God-made material world. God is everywhere in the material world, because God made the material world and revealed God’s self in that world.
For so many years, theology has separated the spiritual world from the physical world, but how do we know God? As Christians, we know God through Christ–the physical manifestation of God. If God meets us in the physical world, why would we try so hard NOT to meet God in the physical world? Doesn’t it only make sense that we try to meet God in the world God created, especially this time of year when we’re walking with Christ as he approaches death and resurrection?
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The Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals

A few months ago, I was named the USA Representative for the Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals (AWSA), whose purpose is getting animals on the agenda of the Christian Church. Founded over 30 years ago, the organization is called to make Christians and others aware of the need to care for the whole of creation, and in particular God’s creatures, and believes that God has given us a responsibility towards sentient beings with whom we share God’s world. Their activities include the following:

  • Encouraging churches to include animal welfare concerns in their prayers.
  • Encouraging and helping churches to hold animal blessing services and to be aware of the need to care for God’s creation.
  • Through education and lawful action, advancing the conservation and well-being of animals.
  • Co-operating with other organizations, religious and secular, that have similar aims.
  • Production of Animalwatch (free to members) containing articles and information about animal welfare issues, interests, and events and providing a means by which the members can share ideas, stories, and concerns.
  • Publishing a series of pamphlets about animal issues, ensuring that materials are balanced and theologically and scientifically sound.
  • Helping to arrange major services and events focusing on animal care.
  • Promoting awareness through exhibitions, meetings, talks and preaching.

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Homemade Dog Food and Treat Recipes

With all of the pet food recalls lately, many of us who adore our canines are looking into making our own food and treats, which can be cheaper and healthier. Let’s face it.  The only way to know for sure what your feeding your dog is to make it yourself out of whole foods.
Before you get started, make sure understand your dog’s dietary needs. Dogs are omnivorous and need both meat and plants.  Also, consult with your vet to be sure you understand and needs specific to your dog.  Remember that if you do switch to homemade dog food, do so slowly, since quick diet changes can cause digestive issues. Research the effect ingredients have on your dog’s health as you develop your recipe.  Whole Dog Journal offers a great article with all the basics you need to get started. Continue reading

A Dog A Day…

Very few people know just how much I’ve struggled with depression and low self-esteem.  Some have seen my success and just assumed I was happy.  Others have seen the positivity in my outward interactions with others and again have just assumed I was happy.
Sadly, many Americans achieve in an effort to escape their unhappiness and low self-esteem, hoping that just one more win will make it better.  Not all, but many.  In addition, many people struggling with depression make a serious effort to be positive, because they don’t want to burden others.  Both have been the case with me.

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Meet Tank

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m taking some time to introduce the four-legged residents of Appy Creek Farm.  Next up…  Tank.  Tank is a 17 month old Great Pyrenees/Bull Mastiff mix.  We picked him up from a farm in Shelbyville.   Since his bitch was a working livestock guardian, he was born and living outside.  He was covered in fleas and sores from scratching at the fleas, but from day one, he was and is the happiest dog I’ve ever met.  While Bear wins on gentleness and compassion, Tank wins on sense of humor.  You can’t keep a straight face around this dog.

Like any good Great Pyrenees, he wants to be outside on patrol.  When he’s inside, he’s glued to a window, and when he’s outside he’s watching every square inch he can see.  His job is definitely protecting the family.
I’ve also learned that the breed is incredibly smart and very independent.  Tank loves to let us know his opinion in any given situation!  His favorite move is when Dad tries to take him for a walk, and he wants Mom.  He will literally park himself behind me and hug my leg until I either give in or make him go to Dad!

Every dog teaches us something.  Tank is teaching me patience, sense of humor, and persistence!
He’s only completed a basic obedience course.  It will be a while before he’s ready for a more advanced class.  He’s smart and learns quickly, but he still has a problem with attention span. In my experience, extra large dogs don’t really mature until they’re two, so I expect that training results will get more consistent then.  For now, we just keep the practice consistent.
I fully expect that someday Tank will be a very well-trained, highly obedient guard dog, who loves to snuggle and keep us safe.

Meet Bear

Over the next few weeks, I want to introduce the residents of Appy Creek Farm, starting with our sweet therapy-dog-in-training Bear.  Bear is a 5 year old Lab/Dane mix, who got a rough start in life.  When we met him at Rutherford County PAWS, his adoption fee was only $15, because he’d already been at the shelter for more than 60 days.  At 90 days, he would be euthanized.  He was picked up as a stray and had a collar but no tags.  No one claimed him, which means he was probably abandoned.  At almost a year old, he weighed 85 pounds.  His age and weight mean his chances for adoption were pretty small.
My daughter and I were at the shelter because she had lost her dog of 7 years.  She was heartbroken and wanted to give another unwanted dog a home.  We were only looking at dogs with less than 30 days left.  She walked nearly every one, but I didn’t feel the others would be a good fit for our home, where we had a rather cranky, dominant senior dog.  She was ready to give up when I spotted a dog laying in the back of his cage.  He looked like he had given up hope too.

After convincing Kelsey to take him for a walk, they walked slowly out the back door.  She sat on a bench and started to cry.  Bear climbed up on the bench next to her and licked her tears.  She hugged him as if she was hanging on for dear life.  I knew we were taking him home, which is where the adventure started.
He had little to no training and was an 85 pound nightmare on a leash.  He refused to get in the truck, so the two of us had to pick him up together to get him in.  When we went to the pet store for supplies, one of us shopped, while the other used all her might to control our new unwieldy beast.  We decided to take him to a friend’s farm to let him play with her dogs.  Unfortunately, one her dogs decided to go after a horse, and poor Bear got caught in the crossfire.  The next morning, a trip to the vet revealed he had a broken toe, so for the first 6 weeks, he would have to leash walked despite our big fenced in backyard.
The next few weeks were almost as bad as having a new puppy.  Bear threw up almost every night for 3 weeks.  The first time we left him home with our other dog, we didn’t have a kennel his size yet, so we used our gates to keep him in the kitchen where our other dog was kenneled.  He ate the window sill.  🙁  Kelsey decided she didn’t want him, but I didn’t have the heart to take him back.  He’d been through enough and deserved a second chance, so he became my dog.  One of the greatest blessings of my life!

We enrolled Bear in a basic training course with our favorite dog trainer Cynthia Hollis of Sit-n-Stay in Christiana, Tennessee.  He was the star of his class.  During those six weeks, he and I bonded.  I too was going through a very difficult time in my life.  I had lost my horse, my grandmother, and my Dad.  Losing Kelsey’s dog hit me hard.  I was soon going to endure one more loss–my big brother Steven, which also hit me hard.  During that time, Bear was always at the ready with snuggles.  He never left my side.
In the past four and a half years, Bear has gone everywhere with me and is helping to fulfill my dream of having a therapy dog.  Bear and I are working toward registration as a therapy team with Pet Partners, after which I hope we have many years of comforting others!  He is a constant remind of God’s love and compassion.  Being with him has taught me how to slow down, how to love myself, and how to being a more compassionate and loving person.  I thank God every day for this wonderful creature!

A Confession

For a Christian, there really is no bigger sin than having hate in your heart.  Christ tells us that the most important commandment is to love God and the second is to love each other.  Pretty clear that hate isn’t a part of a Christian life.
I confess…  I HATE people who have animals and don’t treat them with loving kindness.  I don’t just hate the obvious abusers, but I hate people that don’t treat their animals well.  I can’t pray for them.  I can’t love them.  I just don’t know how.
Yesterday morning as I was pulling in to the local gas station/grocery on my way to work, the truck of one of the regulars was in the parking lot.  No surprise.  But the dog in the bed of the truck was a surprise.  I had never seen a dog in the truck before.  It took all of three seconds for anger to flare up in me.
It was 19 degrees.  Animals struggle as much as we do when the weather see-saws back and forth from 70 degrees to 19 degrees, and any dog who lives in Tennessee isn’t really equipped for 19 degree weather.  What makes this jerk think his dog wants to sit on a cold, metal truck bed when it’s 19 degrees?  Imagine how cold it was back there when they were traveling the 45 miles per hour (or more) on the road to get there.  The poor dog was exposed to subzero windchill for what?  To protect his upholstery?  Meanwhile, he’s in the cab of the truck enjoying heat and no wind.
What was this jerk doing while his poor dog was lonely and cold in the back of his truck?  Eating breakfast in a warm seat across the table from one of his buddies.  How do I know the dog was lonely?  First, his body language screamed Yellow Zone–uncomfortable and unhappy.  Second, dogs are pack animals.  They NEVER want to be alone.  Instinctually, alone equals death.  What dogs crave most is the company of the pack, whether that pack be us, other dogs, or other animals.  So this guy was depriving his dog of the one thing his dog wants most, so he could eat breakfast with his buddy.  Nice.

You can see how quickly I escalate and how angry I get.  God made these animals for the sole purpose of loving and serving us.  I get so angry when I see someone clearly defile that love.  The correct, Christian response would be to pray that through Christ the person’s heart is opened to the love of his animal and through that love to God’s love as well.  Instead, I fume.  Sometimes for days.  Not only does it not bring the guilty party closer to God, but it also separates me from God.  It’s sin.  Plain and simple.
Even with the best of intentions, losing sight of God’s great love for us and all his creation happens in the blink of an eye.  One minute we’re rejoicing in his Grace, and the next, we’re mired in hate and anger.  I shouldn’t stop caring, but I certainly need to find a better way to do it.  I need a way that gives God a chance to show me his wondrous mercy and perform miracles even on heartless jerks who leave their dogs alone in the bed of a pickup when it’s 19 degrees.
No one ever said it would be easy.  Christ only said, “What is impossible for people is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27 NLT)  Possible but not easy.
Today, I pray that God will give me the strength to seek and serve Christ not just in those I want to love but even in those I don’t.  I pray that God will soften my heart to love even my enemies.
Which of your “enemies” do you struggle to love? to pray for?