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This is a devotional blog relating dog training to Bible principles and Christian living.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Walk with Me

I have started running. I am doing a walk/run program to prepare to run a 5K by the end of the summer. Bison isn't able to go with me due to an injury, so Grizzly is my running partner. The last few times I have gotten ready to go for the walk/run, Grizzly has tried to run and hide. At first I was very concerned that he might be injured, but after talking to my dog club friends, I think he is bored. Bison isn't a big fan of walking either. He would much rather play ball. The other club members indicated that going for a walk was also not the favored activity of their dogs. A couple nights ago, I got the leash out and let Bison in the house then stepped out on the deck. Grizzly ran to the other end of the yard and lay down. Whenever he wants something, he lays down, so this obviously indicated "I want to stay out here." I didn't call him because I knew he wouldn't come, but I tried everything to coax him to come with me. I tried talking to him, treats, and even going out the gate and leaving it open. It was clear that he didn't want to walk with me. My feelings were hurt. I finally had to grab him, put on his pinch collar and drag him to the sidewalk. Once we started walking, he was fine. He seemed to enjoy himself sniffing and trotting along.

Later, I thought about how sad I was that my dog didn't want to walk with me and wondered if God feels like that too. So many times we choose not to walk with God, we think that other life choices will be more fun. God coaxes us back through preaching, blessings, and even letting us fail. How hurt he must feel when we still don't want to walk with him.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tracking is the first phase in Schutzhund. It simulates tracking down a bad guy who has escaped. The dog must follow a track in various terrain and weather. They must navigate turns/corners in the track and find dropped “articles” (See definitions for more information) left by the track layer. The length and complexity vary based on the level. For example, a level one track is 300 paces and an advanced title is 1900 paces. This is a stylized tracking. It is desirable to have the dog’s nose deep in the vegetation sniffing each step. When they find an article they must go to a down position with the article between their paws. (At least this is the style most trainers choose) To get this result, handlers place a small piece of food in the toe of each foot print. The dog then follows the food scent and stops to eat the food. The handler often puts a handful of food, jackpots, on top of the article to use this as a rest and reward for the dog. This creates the habit of nose to the ground and downing at the articles. Through time, the handler reduces the amount of food until the dog tracks without any on the track in competition. I used to really hate tracking. It isn’t Bison’s favorite. Every stage and every new thing to teach was a struggle. He just doesn’t seem to like it. Grizzly, on the other hand, is a natural. His extremely high food drive makes him really enjoy finding a whole trail of little treats. He is good at it, and he makes tracking fun for me! I started him at 8 weeks on a 5 pace track with an article at the end and gradually worked up adding in corners and articles in the middle of the track. No matter what I throw at Grizzly, he meets it with enthusiasm. In fact, the harder the track, the better he does. One Saturday, I decided to throw caution to the wind and really see what he could do. The most I lay for Bison is about 150 paces, maybe 200. For Grizzly, I laid a 300 pace track with 4 corners and about 6 articles. It went through short and tall grass and a clover patch. Once the track is laid, then the handler lets it age giving time for the scent in the air to settle. Then the dog follows the track laid for them without leading from the hander. They have to navigate by using their nose. Each track is laid with a lesson in mind such as navigating corners, finding articles, stamina, or just putting it all together. The handler holds the leash and follows behind the dog and usually another club member will walk along to offer advice or comment on what they see. Our club president was walking with Grizzly as he tracked that day. I told her how complex the track was and said, “I know he is only 6 months old, but I figure I will never know what he is capable of if I don’t try.” Grizzly did great! The scent pattern as we entered the tall grass/weeds threw him off a bit, but with some gentle guidance, he was back on the track quickly. He found all the articles and was able to focus more after each. I was so proud! I had to brag a bit on him to the other club members. The same day, Bison blew his 70 pace track and I had to take him back to the car without giving him his reward at the end of the track. This experience came to mind a week later. Something I read caused me to reflect on a concept that I had learned years before. A friend who was also going through infertility struggles said that she looked at the situation as a compliment from God. “He doesn’t give trials to people who can’t handle them. He allows trials and temptations in a person’s life because He knows they can handle it with His help.” This concept comes from 1 Corinthians 10:13 “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” We see this applied in the story of Job. God has confidence in Job that he will withstand the trial that He allows Satan to throw at him. He says to Satan, “Have you considered my servant, Job?” I am sure there were other people who were followers of God on the earth at that time, yet God selected Job for the privilege of representing Him. We see at the end of the story how proud God was of Job. Job had no idea that all this was going on behind the scenes, just like we often have no idea the reason for the struggles that we face. Sometimes they are the result of our own sin, but sometimes it is just God laying a really difficult track to see what we are made of. As I saw the potential in Grizzly, He sees something in our obedience and faith in Him that makes Him believe that we are ready to be tested. He leaves little jackpots along the way in the form of encouragement from friends and treasures from His Word. Like the articles on Grizzly’s track, these are places to rest and focus on what the Master wants us to do. There may be places along the way that we might need some extra guidance to stay on track. Ultimately my desire is to keep focus, learn the lesson, and finish the track and make my Heavenly Handler proud of me, rather than heading back to the car in shame, missing my reward.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Active Waiting

One challenge of having two food driven dogs is feeding time. Because Moose already had food guarding issues, we fed him and Bison in separate rooms. I decided when we got Grizzly that I didn’t want to worry about seporate rooms or food fights and attempted to make it “normal” to eat next to each other. From the first day, they were fed at the same time with their bowls about 3 feet apart. I, so far, have seen success with this. I believe it is because I have a strict routine with rules that MUST be followed. Rule #1- You must sit politely and wait while the food is being dished out, no pushing, lunging, or grabbing. Rule #2- You may not eat until you are given the “free” command. Because Bison is more advanced, he has the additional requirement that he has to look me in the eye to wait for his release command with no whining. Rule #3- No approaching the other’s dish before or during feeding. The ability to abide by these rules did not come naturally; it took weeks and months of training. To start a puppy with these rules, I dished out his food out of his reach, then hold him by placing my hand on his chest. I set the food down then say “free” as I let go of him. After he learned to “sit”, I gave him the “sit” command and hold him in place until I say “free”. As they advance, I no longer need to hold them in place. Then I can add in additional requirement, like “no whining” or “look at your handler”, by not giving the “free” command until they are quiet and looking me in the face. The result of this training is that after their morning potty, they run in the house to their respective bowls. They both sit with barely contained energy often drooling profusely, but they don’t move until they hear the word “free”. It is the epitome of anticipation. This activity is exactly what I thought of with a lesson that God recently taught me. Still grieving the loss of my husband, I find myself wondering if I will ever feel happy again. Each morning, I muster up the strength and courage to face a new day with new challenges without him. One particularly tough morning, I opened my Bible for comfort, choosing the Psalms where I left off in my typical evening reading. I read a couple chapters before coming across what felt like a big hug from God. Psalm 27:13-14, “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” What this passage means to me is that I can’t give up believing that I will again see the goodness of God “in the land of the living”. Other widows tell me that the first year feels like a deep cloud of despair, but it does eventually lift and you go on. Their words and this passage give me hope. I don’t have to wait until I arrive in heaven to be reunited with Lester before I am happy again. Even though, at times, it seems impossible, if I am courageous (Means resolute) and wait, God’s healing and strength will come. What a wonderful promise. The word “wait” in this passage isn’t a passive word. It is active. The Bible concordance defines it as “look for, hope, expect look eagerly for”. It is like the dogs, full attention and quivering anticipation waiting for their food. I choose to follow their example, to have the courage to eagerly expect the strength of the Lord and to strive toward the advanced lesson of doing this with “No whining” and “Eyes on the Master”.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Author's Note: This isn't a dog posting, but I wanted to post this somewhere. This is the eulogy that I wrote for Lester. It was read at his funeral.

During this last hospital stay, one of Lester's doctors came in to check on him while he was still sedated from surgery. We talked about his condition and about his disease, diabetes. He told me how he once saw a pamphlet title, “Living the Good Life with Diabetes” and how it made him angry because he saw what diabetes does to people and gestured to Lester. I told him that as difficult as things are sometimes, we have a very good life and believe that everything happens for a reason. He said, “I know, I just don’t know what the reason is.” I thought about what he said for a long time after he left. It occurred to me that Lester’s life was not measured by the fact that he couldn’t see out of one eye, or couldn’t walk, or needed dialysis to keep him alive, or was losing his fingers and maybe his hand. His life was measured in the many people who loved him and the lives that he touched. He would be the first one to tell you that he had a good life and he was thankful for it. It is evidenced by those of you who are here today and I would like to thank you all for coming. Lester would be so pleased with the overwhelming support shown to me and our families since his passing. He was a very devoted husband and a good man. There were so many wonderful things about him and so many good memories, and I would like to share just a few of those with you today.

Lester and I met in college, and within a few short weeks of knowing each other, we became good friends. Lester was a very intelligent man, his IQ well into the genius range, yet he was never condescending. He was a very humble man. He never cut down other people; he never gossiped. He loved God. No matter what the situation, he could always make me laugh. These reasons and so many more are why he quickly became my best friend. When people at college saw that we were spending so much time together, they began to ask if we were dating. Our answer was “No, just friends”. Our dorm mates became so irritated with this answer that we continued to say that well after we were engaged to be married! It started as a joke, but this was how our lives were together, more than anything we were best friends and I will miss him dearly.

When we got married, it was very important to us that we worked together as a team and planned to be in Christian ministry. We prayed for several months about what God wanted us to do together for Him. We felt strongly that God was leading us to minister to children. We both attended a college class where we learned how to do gospel magic, ventriloquism, and other gospel artistry. We attended many conferences and Lester, already a master of object lessons, learned as much as he could about using illusions to tell children about God. Our mentors, the Clothiers, took us under their wing and taught us many things. When there was a VBS meeting that they couldn’t take, they referred us and we had our first meeting! We planned and planned and planned. There are no words to describe the joy that we felt that first night when we looked into those dear children’s faces. We knew from that time on that this was EXACTLY what the Lord made us to do together. To Lester, there was nothing more important in life, than the ministry to children. He poured in his time, his money, his vacations, and even sometimes his health. I saw him crying in pain before a service, yet still run up on the platform and give every bit of his energy to the children. Then he’d go home in tears because the pain was so bad. The next night he went back and did it again. He led the Jr. Church ministry for several years, taught seminars for children’s workers, and led somewhere around 30 or more Vacation Bible Schools. His only discontentment with his declining health was that he could no longer hold VBS meetins. The day before he died, he was still talking about ideas of things that he could still do for ministry.

Lester also loved animals, particularly our dogs. They were a comfort to him and made him laugh. He loved to have people over to play games. He enjoyed researching any and everything, playing computer games, reading, hunting, gun collecting and shooting, electronic gadgets, and even cooking. He loved to give to other people. If he knew someone needed something, he would find a way to give it to them if he could. He was very generous. There were several times I saw him empty his wallet to give it to someone else.

He always made people laugh. He used his humor to make it through the tough times. He joked about being a pirate when he lost sight in his eye and had to wear a patch. He joked about pedicure discounts when he lost his toes. He joked about saving money on shoes when he lost his feet. When facing losing his hand, he joked about not needing to clean his fingernails anymore. He had his down days like anyone, but he was the bravest person I have ever known. With all he went through, he still had a smile on his face. In fact, my last glimpse of him still awake was of him laughing and making all the nurses who where wheeling him in to surgery laugh. I like to imagine him up in heaven right now, making all the angels laugh.
Lester was a private person and he didn’t always know how to express himself to people. He didn’t like to talk on the phone. As I write this, I think of who may be present and I want to tell you how much you all meant to him.

To our church- So many of you have been like family to us when ours could not be here. Lester so many times talked about how much he appreciated all your prayers, cards, visits, and love. Thank you for the Lester Drennen day. I am so happy that HE got to hear how much you all loved him and appreciated him. Thank you so much for being there for us!

To our work friends- For those who worked with Lester, he talked about how much he enjoyed working with all of you and continued to think of you after he left work. To my HR friends, Lester and I are both so thankful for your flexibility with my schedule and the support that you gave me to allow me to be with him through everything. You will never know how much this meant to both of us.

To the health care workers- We often thank God for all of you who helped us last several years. Lester just mentioned a few weeks ago how blessed he has been with good doctors and nurses and other staff. All of you gave him the best quality of life he could have, you kept him comfortable, you gave him hope, you cheered him when he was down, and you kept him with us longer than we thought possible. I will be forever grateful to each one of you.

To our friends- There are so many of you who have been a support to us with a kind word, a laugh, or a hug. Thank you especially those who jumped in to care for the dogs, weed my garden, rake our leaves, shop for groceries, do car or repairs, run errands and so much more. Lester was so thankful for your support of me so I could be with him.

To those from churches who have allowed us to take part in your ministry to children- Thank you! This was truly Lester’s passion. He never took lightly the responsibility of teaching your precious children and it was his deepest burden that he was not physically able to hold any meetings these last two years.
To all those who knew him as “Mr. Lester”- He loved each and every one of you kids. Each time he heard that one of you was praying for him, he would get tears in his eyes because that meant so much to him. Thank you for all your prayers.

And to our families- I do not have words to say how much your support over the years has meant to both of us. For dropping everything and rushing to get here when things were bad, for making arrangement for him to keep his mobility, for your prayers, your phone calls, your texts, and for your love. Lester often talked about you all from planning how to pick on the nieces and nephews to planning to see the brothers and sisters again. He missed you and loved you all.

Lester and I always knew that our time together would be short. When his kidney’s failed, we knew that we only had about 3 – 5 more years to live if he did not get a transplant. We talked about his health and our future and we determined that no matter what, we wanted to live our lives to be a testimony to God. We wanted to live in a way that would point others to Him, so they would want to know Him too. We never wanted to do or say anything that would cause anyone to think badly of our God. We wanted to be an encouragement to others, to always appreciate those who cared for him, and to treasure every day we had together. I don’t know that we were always successful, but this is what we tried to do.

Some of you here are Christians and I want to say to you that God has a plan for your life and He will give you the strength to live that life. Some of you here are not religious; you don’t have a relationship with God. You know that Lester was not the kind of person to shove his faith down your throat, but it was very important to him. He dedicated the last 20 years of his life to teaching children about how much God loves them and how they could know for sure that they would go to heaven when they die. I know that he would wish that every one of you here would just consider where you stand with God. Do you know him? Have you accepted Jesus as your Savior? He would not pressure you, but I am sure it would have meant the world to him if you would just think about it. Lester often said to the children that we taught together, “If you don’t listen to anything else, know this one thing, God loves you!”

In closing, some have mentioned to us in the last few years that you admired our love for each other, our strength, our joy. I want to tell you all. If you saw love, it was from God. If you saw peace, it was from God. If you saw joy and happiness; it was from God. If you saw strength, it was from God. Give Him all the thanks and all the praise.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Grizzly New Comer

Big news! In the very busy month of May we had a new addition to our family, Grizzly vom Buchonia, a little eight-week ball of fur.

Grizzly at 6 weeks

Grizzly is a very good puppy. He is very serious, aloof, and thoughtful. He gets into his share of puppy mischief, but can also just chill and relax chewing on a bone. This is quite the contrast to the mile a minute baby Bison and fun to have a different personality to train. As trying as it can be sometimes, it is still fun going through the process of teaching house manners and routine. It is so exciting and rewarding when he "gets it" for the first time.

Lester would completely disagree! He has decided that he hates puppies. Well, not the puppy himself, but the puppy stage. He wants the puppy to arrive already knowing everything and contributing as a well functioning member of the household. I think this is partially due to the fact that I do all the training. From his standpoint, the dogs just magically know what to do. (I am not being critical, typing this with a smile on my face. This is his own admission and I find it adorable) I had to laugh a little bit the first day when he was looking at Grizzly very seriously and telling him "SIT!". Grizzly cocked his head and promptly jumped up and tried to bite him! I am constantly reminding Lester, "He is a puppy! He doesn't know that yet." A few days ago I overheard Lester talking to Bison. He was saying, "You are such a good boy! I didn't realize what a good dog you are until that Grizzly came here. You are MY buddy aren't you?"

Reflecting this evening, I came to the conclusion that this funny household dynamic sadly happens in church all the time. When a person is new to church and/or newly saved, we expect them to immediately be a fully functioning member of the congregation. We forget that they don't automatically know how to "sit". Sometimes they don't use the right "churchy" vocabulary. Some don't act or dress like we think they should. Some might speak out of turn, or horror of horror sit in some-one's favorite pew. Because so many do not participate at all in the training or growth of a new Christian, we think that they should just magically know what to do. We may even piously approach them and command them to do right, and are shocked when we are given a "biting" response. We don't give new comers the time or help to learn and grow, instead, we find ourselves frustrated or embarrassed by them. We then circle around the old timers who already know the way, our buddies, and hope these new people will get with the program.

I "get" the puppy training thing. This is my fifth time through it, but I know I could do so much better supporting new Christians and new Church members. How about you?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Face Seeking

Author’s Note: The long gap in posting is due to Lester’s extended stay in a rehab facility and then back to the hospital to have his left leg amputated below the new. Now back home and getting back to life.

One of the earliest things to train a dog is to look at your face. It is desirable for attention and for earning points in competition. In SchH style heeling, handlers train their dogs to look at their face all while they are walking. One teaches this behavior by reward and repetition. I have done this a couple ways with my different dogs, but my favorite is using a clicker. (See “Definitions” for more information on clickers) Clicker and treats in hand, wait until the dog makes eye contact then click and give a treat. Repeat several times until the dog purposefully makes contact then start adding in a command each time the dog makes eye contact. After multiple repetitions, the dog will recognize the command and make eye contact on command.

This is a particularly easy command to teach a German Shepherd because focus is natural to them. From the time he was a tiny puppy, Bison has stared at us. He looks intently at our faces like he is just waiting for us to give him a command. There are times when he sits next to me and stares so intently that I feel uncomfortable.

It is this behavior that came to mind when reading Psalm 105:3 -4, “Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD. Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore.” I read this verse one evening when I was feeling very tired and down. Lester was in the rehab center. I was home alone and wondering how I could face getting up in the morning. I was so tired. Reading this passage was so refreshing, understanding that we can have joy and strength by seeking the Lord. The phrase “seek his face evermore” was so real to me. I looked up from my Bible and saw Bison staring at me. It hit me that “seeking his face” is an attitude, not an action. German Shepherds, like Bison, stare because they are biddable animals. They are looking for any opportunity to please their master. They follow them they listen; they look to their face for any sign of communication. This is exactly the attitude that we should have for our Master, the Lord Jesus. Looking for any opportunity to please Him, “seeking his face”

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Be Still to be Free

One of the cool things about training with a breeder is that the club members get to help “socialize” the puppies each time a new litter comes along. This helps the development of the puppies to be exposed to a variety of different types of people and to be touched and held. Last week, I picked one of the 7 week old puppies we were playing with and she started to squirm violently and scream a little puppy scream. I learned the hard way with Bison that you can not let go of them when they act that way. If you do, they learn that screaming and squirming gets them what they want. Instead, you need to calmly hold them until they are still and quiet, then let them go. She squirmed and kicked and threw such a loud fit that the whole club turned to look at us. This went on for about 30 seconds before she finally held still for a second and I let her go. She ran immediately to my breeder friend to tell her what a mean lady I am.

It seems backward that freedom comes from stillness. Maybe that is why it is such a hard concept for us to grasp in our Christian life. As I write these words, I sit in the hospital with Lester. The doctor told him this morning that his health is declining. His right foot is not healing and if he doesn’t have it removed, he may not be healthy enough in 6 months to have it taken off. We were prepared for the eventuality of the foot and lower leg being removed. But hearing his health assessed in such plain terms was hard for me to hear. I can not imagine life without him and this stark reminder is tough.

I was feeling a little overwhelmed at the possibility of this being our last Christmas together and wondering how I am going to help him get around while he gets used to walking with a prosthetic. I logged in to my laptop to check e-mail and read the daily devotional e-mail that I have sent. Boy what timing! The scripture passage was a phrase from Isaiah 30:15, “in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.” The definition of quietness is “Free of turmoil and agitation; untroubled.” and confidence means “Trust or faith in a person or thing; the state or quality of being certain.” I really needed that reminder today. God knows the plans that he has for Lester. He has a plan for how many Christmases are to come and what the path between looks like. By trusting that my loving God knows best and resting from “turmoil and agitation”, I will have the strength to face the days ahead. I think of how He has always been there for me and how I always seem to have the strength that I need for each day. He isn’t going to fail me now. So again today I choose to trust Him even though I want to kick and scream. Just like the little puppy fretting and whining and wiggling, I finally find peace when I just sit still.