Monday, September 5, 2011

Pleasant Places

Asherel should have known better than to put a hotdog down on the floor of a room swarming with dogs. The hotdog was supposed to last for the full ten minute warm up period before she was to do her first run of the day at the Dog Agility Trial.While no food is allowed in the agility ring itself, hands smelling like hotdogs are allowed. And if a dog's attention is fully secured before entering the ring via highly desiriable snacks, she was more likely to sustain attention during the critical moments.

Thus, the hotdog was in Asherel's hand as she was dutifully stretching Honeybun's legs the way our dear mentor, Polly, had showed her. Asherel always would line up about ten minutes before her run was to commence, plop Honeybun over on her side, and gently stretch each leg just like Polly had taught her. Polly had warned her that this simple technique would help prevent injuries and allow our dog to run the course for years to come. Asherel always stretched the little dog's muscles before her runs.

However, this time, Honeybun was somewhat resistant, so Asherel needed to put the hotdog down so she could use both hands to convince Honeybun to lie still. A proven axiom with Honeybun, the once starving dog, is that if food touches the floor within a quarter mile of her radar, she will be on it before you can say "corpulent canine."  When Asherel looked back, the hotdog was gone. She had no choice but to pull out another hotdog to finish the warm up session before her run. Somehow, with two hotdogs busting from under her belt, the little dog made a beautiful run and qualified, completing her Novice title. As she waddled  from the ring, tail wagging, I thought she looked happier than usual. Later, hearing the hotdog story, I knew why.

A short time later, I went back to where Asherel was sitting with Honeybun, to see her munching on a full large bag of gummy worms. Gummy worms are to Asherel what hotdogs are to Honeybun. Our friend, Danielle, upon watching Asherel qualify and secure her last Novice Agility title, had given her the bag of gummy worms. Two of my favorite creatures on earth gazed up at me, with happy, gut-filled eyes.

Later, as the agility judge signed Asherel's junior handler forms required by AKC when a junior handler's dog qualifies, she asked me how old Asherel was, and how we had come to start agility. I told her that Honeybun had been an aggressive dog, towards both dogs and people. Asherel had always wanted to do agility, and despite Honeybun's overwhelming issues, she began training Honeybun on her home-made agility course in our backyard. In that difficult first year after finding the half-dead, starving, vicious dog, we had been strongly urged to euthanize.
"But we just couldn't euthanize her in the end," I said, happily collecting not just the signed paper for the first class, but a second form as well. Honeybun, filled with energy and surprising focus, had qualified in her second class, too, and placed second. That class was the harder Open division,  and a much larger class.
"It really shows the value of persistance," said the judge.
Persistence...and hotdogs, I thought, glancing at my daughter, and gummy worms.
And friends. I hugged Danielle, wondering how on earth she knew gummy worms were more precious than diamonds to Asherel.

I had been thinking all week of the blessings in my life. Like most people, I had balanced that against my chronic complaining over what I didn't have, but as I looked over the room teeming with happy dogs, and people, and our now gentle and sweet little rescue dog, I felt deep satisfaction. Oh Lord, I thought, watching the full bag of gummy worms slowly disappearing, the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.

Psalm 16:5-7

 5 LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup;
   you make my lot secure.
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
   surely I have a delightful inheritance.
7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
   even at night my heart instructs me.

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