Dog training for people

A Christian Science perspective on daily life

I would never have guessed that when my family sat down one Friday night to watch "The Dog Whisperer" on TV, we were going to be given a spiritual metaphor that's still bringing fresh inspiration.

The show is about how trainer Cesar Millan works with dogs, often very difficult dogs, in a nonviolent way. We watched how to train nervous little dogs. Mr. Millan was saying that very often when little dogs are anxious, fidgety, nervous, testy, and yippy, it's because somewhere along the way, they've been given the message that they are in charge. They think they are in charge of their environment and those in it.

In order for them to relax, Millan said that they need to be given a new message that they are not in charge and that there is a controlling force in their environment bigger than themselves. When they understand this new message of control, it's as though the little dog sighs with relief and calms down.

Our family laughed as we began to see that, at times, each of us had been a lot like a little dog - anxious, nervous, and, yes, even testy. We could see that we, too, often act this way when we believe that we are in charge and not commanding the control that we want. We feel vulnerable, and that makes us frustrated, stressful, and anxious. It also makes us difficult to be around.

We agreed that the only way to find a reliable calm that we all wanted is to accept a different kind of message altogether, the spiritual training that teaches us Who is ultimately in charge of all life, all action, all being, and all consciousness. As my teenager says, "That would be God."

This truth becomes very comforting, especially when we understand that God is not only in charge but that He is all good. He is also all power, all action, all knowledge. The Book of Psalms clearly states, "Power belongeth unto God" (Ps. 62:11). And it is all good.

In "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy described God as "The great I am: the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal" (p. 587). She also wrote, "All is under the control of the one Mind, even God" (p. 544).

Since seeing that show, tense moments have eased into calm. Every time I am tempted to want to be a "control freak" (yes, I have been accused of this by my precious teenager), I find myself taking a moment to pause and remind myself again: "There is a bigger power governing my life and my family's experience. I yield up my will and planning to Him. I can let go of all stress and pressure. I can feel the presence of omnipotent God who is bringing all good into our lives."

I have enjoyed realizing that there has never been a moment when God said, "Here, I am turning my creation over to you today. You are in charge." God, divine Love, has never relinquished control of His universe to me or anyone else.

Believing that someone other than intelligent Mind could be in control is a type of ignorance, and, just like a little dog, I need to be reeducated - spiritually. The new message is that God, good, is in complete control - always has been, always will be.

It has become a kind of family code for us. With a twinkle, we will smile and say, "You are the little dog." It is our shorthand for "Relax, take a deep breath, and remember Who is in charge."

As a little child relies
On a care beyond its own,
Being neither strong nor wise,
Will not take a step alone,
Let me thus with Thee abide,
As my Father, Friend, and Guide.
John Newton, Christian Science Hymnal, No. 291

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