During this last move, our kids said they wanted to bring a living and breathing part of Nicaragua back to the States with us. We want to say “yes” to your kids as much as humanly possible, especially when going through a big life transition… so this is how our ginormous four-legged Nicaraguan-native found himself learning about snow and the yummy stuff that drips down inside of dishwashers and doggy daycares (a.k.a. the place where we boarded him during a recent long weekend away).
We moved into a house with a four-foot tall fence around the backyard and figured that was perfect for Gunner. It was, until showed up at the front door one day. Did someone leave the gate open, I went yelling through the house? Nope. And then he started disappearing mysteriously out of the fenced yard. So, one day we tested him, with one of us in the backyard and one calling him from the front yard, and watched as he cleared the fence completely, in the blink of an eye.
When Wyeth had to spend a few weeks traveling, because of work, the dog got bored. So, he became a neighborhood regular, going out to make the rounds for hours on end. He found out where the local skunks hang out, made friends with two of the free-range dogs who roam around, and even discovered a nearby stream (we assume, based on the way he looked when came home that day).
Eventually, his amazing ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound became more of a liability. He got to be so “friendly” that some people actually called us to come get him (thanks to my number being on his collar). And when you let him out to take a quick pee before going to church, it’s quite disconcerting that he immediately takes off and makes you late for church because you’re out looking for him…
Enter the electric fence. My dad and husband ran the wire around our existing fence and hooked up the electricity. We put the collar on him and waited. I let him out, and a few minutes later he barked at the front door.
So I did what any frustrated pet owner would do, I searched Google: “what to do when dog doesn’t care about underground fence.” Guess what… there’s a fix for that. Two days later (thanks to Amazon Prime) I put our new “stubborn dog” collar on him (yes, it’s really called that). I actually forgot all about it and went to take out the trash, leaving the garage door open behind me. A minute later, I hear what can only be described as the loudest, most pathetic cry I’ve ever heard come out of an animal. He had run through the open door—which had the wire running around it—and gotten shocked.
I had to take the collar off him and drag him back in the house. He hid for the rest of the day. “I feel so bad,” I complained to my husband. “Not as bad as you’d feel if he got hit by a car,” he replied.
Gunner has stayed clear of the garage since then. Great, I thought, but what about the fence? I actually had a nightmare that he was jumping the fence, got shocked in mid-air, and fell to his death. I told my better half and he assured me that wouldn’t happen by saying I clearly didn’t understand physics (true).
It didn’t take long for us to find out how he’d respond to that. My husband was doing some work in the yard and left the side gate open. The dog decided to make a break for it. Only, he didn’t anticipate that wire buried under the open gate.
He got shocked again. After he came inside, he hid again.
After that, he pretty much refused to go outside at all. I tried to coax him out, one of the girls tried to entice him with treats, but he was earning that “stubborn dog” collar… until my husband put on his shoes and walked outside with him. Gunner was very tentative, staying only to the clear center of the yard. You want to know how long he had refused to go outside up until that point? Well, he relieved himself for a solid two minutes if that tells you anything.
Here’s what got me to sit down and write this: after receiving a completely unexpected shock, our dog may have initially hid and avoided the situation, but ultimately he decided that the best way to navigate the world post-shock was to stick right by the side of his master. When Wyeth came back in the house quickly to grab some tools, Gunner came with him and waited by the door the whole time. I tried to let him back out but he refused to go outside—into the perceived danger zone—without Wyeth.
Smart dog, I thought. In fact, he’s a lot smarter than most of us in that regard.
More often than not, when I receive an unexpected shock, I blame, avoid, and question my Master. I want to tell everyone how poorly I’ve been treated or how hurt I am, before running to the One who loves me more than anyone else. And then when I have to go back into the place or situation that first caused the problem, I either try to avoid it altogether or go in with guns-ablazin’. Neither tactic usually works that well.
I’m not trying to over-spiritualize our dog or his antics. I’m just saying that when I witnessed my dog’s reaction to re-facing something that previously hurt him, I was struck by the parallels to my own life. When facing danger, he realized that his safest place was in the shadow of his master. Isn’t that how we all should respond?