Dogs and Kids Alike


Back when we first got Charlie, I kinda lost my marbles.

Charlie came to us as an eight week old puppy that looked more like a teddy bear than a German Shepherd. He was fuzzy and sweet, and we could hardly imagine him growing into his massive paws and becoming an intimidating protector. That was the goal, though, and we prepared ourselves as best as we could, reading and studying up on how to train a German Shepherd, knowing that the day would come when he would be big and powerful. We made it our goal to train him up during that brief window of time we had in puppyville, knowing that waiting until he was full grown would lead to a dog that was out of control. The methods? Maybe a little unconventional, but that’s what the experts were telling me to do, so I did it.

What did it look like? I became an alpha dog. (Yes. I lost my mind for a while.) I put my hands all over his food every time I fed him so that he’d know the food came from me. I forced him to walk behind me while he was learning to walk on a leash and made him follow me. When he attempted to jump on me as a puppy, I’d turn my back on him and ignore him until he learned to stop jumping altogether, and the one time he bit me on the foot, I got up in his face and growled, baring all of my teeth at him and showing him that I was a far crazier dog than he was. (Darn right.) He housetrained in a week’s time, basking in the simple affirmation I gave, and at just a few months old, he was running five miles a day with me, happy to follow behind me like we were a two-dog pack. He learned to sit and lie down on command, and the vet was full of praise each time we went in for another visit, telling me that Charlie was both the biggest German Shepherd he’d ever seen and the most well behaved.

But it wasn’t easy. I remember thinking at the time that it was hard work, being constantly vigilant with an exuberant puppy, consistently training him and leading him, trusting that it was going to be worth it in the end. Charlie is now almost eight years old, and it’s true – you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But that’s fine because he learned the right things at the right time. There was such a small window of time to teach him, to train him, and to lead him into becoming who he was meant to be, and if we’d missed it… well, there was no getting it back.

I was thinking about this the other day as I was having a conversation with the girls. They were talking about school and about friends, and it struck me that this far into their lives, they’ve already formed a good deal of their views on the world, their ideas about wrong and right, and basically who they are and are going to be. But we’re not done yet. There are still some formative years left (praise God), even if a good bit of them have already passed and the moments along the way are gone. It hit me, as I listened to them talk, that they’re becoming little adults so quickly and that there’s such a small window of time to train them up in God’s ways and lead them, just like there was with Charlie. I’m not saying that my kids are animals (though there are times that they call that to question), but I think of that time we spent with Charlie, intentionally training him, noting the parallels that exist with our children. Scripture is clear that they’re given to us for a season to parent and to guide, and if we miss that brief window of time that we’re given because we’re too busy, distracted, or overwhelmed with everything else going on… well, that time is gone, and we can’t get it back.

Trying to keep this in mind and be intentional about the days we have left…

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