Lessons from a Dog
A few days before Thanksgiving of 2001, I got an urgent call from a former client of mine named Bob. He was finally retiring after merging his company with one of his competitors. He wanted to celebrate and also show his appreciation for my services over the past 10 years by taking me on a duck-hunting trip. In response to his invitation, I pondered to myself – “how early do I have to get up?” I gave him an excuse that I only had a rifle and not a shotgun. Bob was prepared for my excuse and told me he already had an extra shotgun picked out for me, and I just had to bring myself to the trip. He also hinted that there would be some people who I might find interesting to meet as possible future clients. After getting only a few hours of sleep, I was off to the hunting site, one hour north of Sacramento.
The dog selected for the hunting trip was trained for pheasant hunting and not duck hunting, so off we went on a 100 acre hunting trip looking for pheasants. Up until this point, I’ve never hunted a pheasant. I was more experienced with wild-boar hunting, which requires much less walking. It turns out that the course was a three hour hike through mud that stuck to my boots and weighed me down the whole time. For a guy who opts to drive any distances longer than 100 yards and always takes an elevator over stairs, this was way too much work. I immediately regretted signing up for the hunt. Despite my reluctance for physical exertion, after walking and chasing after the dog we harvested 2 sizable birds. These birds became our Thanksgiving Dinner a few days later. In retrospect, the most edifying part of the hunting trip was not merely the birds and definitely not the new people I got to meet, but rather the lesson I got from our guide dog named “Lucy”.
Most hunters know that shotguns have a very short range, so when a dog flushes out a bird too far ahead of the hunters it is a lost cause. Lucy, Our hunting dog, knew when she was too far ahead just by listening to the tone of her master’s voice. She would wait for us or with a simple motion, she would know to return to us. When the command was given, she would jump into any landscape or situation even if it was foul smelling dirty standing water or a dangerous situation. Even while engaging in her own play time chasing rabbits or other small game, when her name was called she would freeze what she was doing and follow the command exactly – a pinnacle of obedience.
As we continued on our trip, the first bird jumped up without any warning. Not having enough time to prepare, I shot from my hip and got lucky. However, the second bird was shot quite differently. Lucy simply stopped in the middle of the trail and looked in our direction. Bob whispered to me that Lucy was onto something and I should get ready. So I got on my knees and was ready to shoot. Sure enough within a few seconds, Lucy kicked up a bird. Without any effort, I bagged another prize. When I expressed how impressed I was at Lucy’s sense of smell, Bob added that a year prior, Lucy followed the scent into the brush and came back out with a pheasant in her mouth – a perfect example of knowing how to use one’s talent.
When we returned to the cabin, we cleaned the bird. After having a can of Coke and some snacks, I wanted to kick back and relax. Lucy however was not done playing and began pulling on my leg. She did not care for any snacks and rather just wanted to go another round of hunting. Bob explained to me that most bird-dogs can take out 3 teams in a single day. Looking at Lucy, I realized that she wasn’t doing this to get more snacks or a word of appreciation from us. Rather, with no reward in mind she just simply enjoyed doing what she was doing – another trait which should be emulated.
Let us take a look around our daily lives for example and compare. Are we constantly seeking to hear a voice from above? So much so that even with a slight change in His tone we can read His intention? Let us analyze our workplaces. Are we proactive in performing our tasks and when the orders are given, are we out-performing even our superiors? In addition are we doing all of this without seeking any extra compensation because we truly enjoy what we are doing?. This “dog-like” employee is the kind of employee that is second to none.
In an ideal Christian world, imagine a lay person who clearly understands the concept of “Priest of all believers”. Not only does he live according to the teachings of the bible, but he also attempts to seek out non-believers in a way that is rare even by a preacher’s standard. After bringing these non-believers to church, a “Priest of all believers” should take care of them until such time when the non-believer begins to believe, and furthermore teach them to follow all of Christ’s teachings. To top this off, the lay-person actually does all of this at his expense, not seeking any reward, title or recognition but rather ministering because it is fun and because the bible instructs us to do so. This is the kind of person that God is calling us to be. I want to be a “dog-like” Christian.