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The Value Of Training


I've been bitten by dogs. Once in the butt, when I was a twelve-year-old paperboy, by a customer's loose German shepherd ex-police dog. Another time in the face by my cousin's Great Dane, Zander, whom I made the mistake of saying "Hey, Zander!" to as I walked too close to the car window he was looking out of.

So whenever a big dog likes me, I'm best friends for life. One such dog is my therapist friend Bhakti's yellow Labrador "therapy dog," Gaura. Gaura is 'uge (so big, there's no room for the 'H'), but very well-trained. He's in the room during all Bhakti's therapy sessions, and his big, strong physical friendliness makes it easy for clients to loosen up and talk. There's nothing quite like having a hundred-pound dog shower you with affection. If you're like me, carrying some bad doggie baggage, it makes your day.

Yesterday on the beach, I saw a tall, older man with three unusually large black German shepherds. When he released them from their leashes, I was momentarily filled with dread. But then he pointed to the ground and they immediately lay down. He walked about ten yards away, quietly called back to them, and pointed to a spot on the sand. One dog got up, ran to the spot, and lay down again. The other two stayed put. The man walked another ten yards, called again, pointed at the ground, and another dog got up and lay down where he pointed. He walked on, as his dogs remained on the ground, ears up, tongues out, waiting for his next signal. He called and pointed again, and the third dog ran by the other two and lay down on the spot.

This sequence repeated a couple of times, the man walking, calling, and pointing, and his dogs getting up one after the other to run a few yards and then lay down again. I stood and watched, thinking, "my hat's off to you, man." My wife later told me, "I bet they were military or police dogs; trained to kill if needed, but because they were under control, you didn't feel afraid."

So how to apply this to spiritual practice?