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Revelations: Alpha dog power struggle

Jan. 21, 2011 at midnight
Updated Jan. 20, 2011 at 7:21 p.m.

Staff Photo - Jennifer Preyss

BY JENNIFER PREYSSI've heard in passing that parents often reflect on life lessons from their children. Well, since I don't have any children yet, I find myself reflecting on life lessons learned through my beautiful black and tan miniature pincher, Sadie.

Now 4 years old, Sadie has finally outgrown some of her destructive behaviors - of which I'm still lamenting the loss of so many expensive designer pumps - and becoming more willing to obey.

I say willing because Sadie is, quite frankly, the most obstinate animal I've ever known. And, I guess I can understand why she's been difficult to train. I rescued her from a severely abusive home, where she was beaten and literally starved beyond mention in the care of her previous owners. So, even though she's highly intelligent and has become a beloved member of my family, she hasn't yet reached a level of obedience that I'd prefer.

Some of her more charming qualities include running away for fun, ceaselessly barking at strangers, burying slobbery bones under my covers, stealing food out of my hand when I'm not looking, pretending to bite guest's faces off when they come over for a visit, hiding earrings and other small objects in the couch, and maintaining a profound interest in all things that may kill her.

In 2009, we visited the emergency room twice because she ingested hazardous regular household items that clogged her intestines. Those were fun evenings, let me tell you.

Yet, around those she trusts and knows well, Sadie is a perfect angel. She has a wonderful energy and knows how to make her human friends smile when they're least expecting it. She also loves to cuddle, which goes over well for animal lovers. At least twice a day, she'll nuzzle her long snout under my hand to invite me to rub the back of her neck. That's her spot.

And in the evening, around 10 p.m., after our nightly walk, she'll climb under the bed covers and wait for me to come to bed. She's a good little sleeper, too. Her small, short-haired body warms through the night, and it's almost like sleeping with a breathing hot potato against my legs. If you can't already tell, I've grown quite fond of my little nightmare dog.

Every few months, I notice slight behavioral progresses. I'm still working every day with training commands, and attempting to socialize her as much as possible by having people drop by regularly and give her delicious treats, so she'll eventually connect yummy chicken with visitors. It's coming along, slowly, but surely. And she's made huge strides since she first moved in with me.

The other day, while chasing Sadie around my house to connect the leash to her harness, I started thinking about my own progress as a Christian, and how many times I've acted just like Sadie when the Lord asks me to do something for Him. Even though I know how I'm supposed to behave, out of reverence and obedience for my master who gives me life, I often find myself fighting Him tooth and nail because I think my method is superior. A similar Alpha power struggle, if you will.

That same day, Sadie and I were out walking and I looked down at her on the leash. For a moment, I considered how similar the life of a God-follower is, to a defiant dog on a leash. We run forward, and sideways, when we should glide next to our master. We stop when we should move forward, and move forward when we should pause. We bark at those around us, for fear of new relationships, and sometimes even test the limits of God's restraints. And even while we're acting poorly on our leashes, God doesn't necessarily correct every act of defiance, or poor behavior. But He's always there, walking nearby with a watchful eye, prepared to pull us out of any grave danger. If we need correction, He gives it. If we need a tug, He tugs. If we need assistance, He helps. If He feels we need a "Good girl," or "Good boy," he gives it. And no matter what, He never disconnects the leash. We belong to Him. Because He is, after all, our master.

There was something so comforting about seeing God and my relationship through a random dog-walking experience that day. And I've found myself thanking the Lord for bringing my crazy little dog into my home. I hope she'll continue to teach me fun things about life and God. She reminds me everyday what amazing patience our Lord has with His children.

Jennifer Preyss is a reporter for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach her at 361-580-6535 or jpreyss@vicad.com.

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