Walking the dog in the dark this morning, before heading off to a weekly men’s Bible study group, I was in a rush. Poochie appeared to be responding to my urgency, walking right beside me, neither ahead nor behind.
This is good, I thought.
Of all the times when I needed him to be obedient and not chasing squirrels or dawdling and sniffing trees, this was it. I was racing the clock, hoping he’d do his thing so I could get on with the larger agenda I had in mind for the day — none of which he could understand. (He’s a dog).
So we’re hustling back to the house and, as I come out of the park, I turn quickly on the ball of my foot and — wham — there he is, underfoot in the dark continuing straight, almost tripping me. (Our dog is black and hard to see.) I nearly went sailing.
Then I realized…
He had never really been following me at all. He’d merely been giving me the impression he was following.
As long as I was walking in a straight line, on our usual route, all was fine. When I made a quick turn however — when I demanded something new of him — he simply continued on under his own will… under his doggie-brained momentum and instinctive expectations of what I should want of him… what I’d usually wanted of him.
His self-centered doggie intuition had overridden any real obedience in-the-moment to my higher will. He was not really paying attention to my direction as a live, thinking, superior being but merely following ritual. It didn’t make any difference until I asked something new of him. It was almost impossible to tell.
In accepting the leash three years ago when we rescued him, he was, in a sense, “saved” — from starvation, from getting run over by cars, from getting mauled by coyotes and ticks in the woods where he’d wandered. But even after walking with us twice a day for all that time, he had shown that he’d not yet committed to making me lord and master.
It became clear, in that moment in the dark, that he was not taking all his cues, moment-to-moment from the one who saved him. He appeared to be following… until he was asked to do something special or different. Then his lack of obedience became counter-productive, even dangerous.
Food for thought…