Friday, January 17, 2014

Big Lesson from a Little Dog

It was a fine Saturday morning. The sun was shining brightly over Kandern and the confused little German birds were already starting to sing their songs of spring. It’s been so warm in Baden-Württemberg lately that the poor little dears don’t realize it’s only January. I can’t say I that mind too much because I absolutely love listening to bird songs while I run. In my opinion, the sounds of nature are infinitely more preferable than listening to an ipod (unless, of course, you are one of those people who have bird songs and ocean surfs on your ipod…)

As I run, I love listening to the crunch of the gravel under each footstep, the wind rustling the trees, and the watery splash of any forest streams that I happen to encounter along the trail. I enjoy the sound of my slow, rhythmic breathing (except for when I’m going up a hill, then I kind of have to give up on the whole “slow, rhythmic” thing).  Even so, I just love the peace and tranquility of Saturday mornings in Kandern.

There is another group who I have discovered is also rather fond of Saturday morning exercise. I like to call them “the Kandern dog-walking association.” Every weekend morning, I see a random assortment of German dog-walkers leading their fine furried friends along the network of splendid hiking trails. Oftentimes, the dogs trot along unleashed beside their masters, enjoying not only the sounds of a Saturday morning walk, but also the tantalizing smells that the forest never fails to offer.

It so happened that on this one particular morning, I saw two women walking about 25 meters ahead on one of my favorite trails—Fasenengarten. A few meters ahead of these women was a small, curly haired dog with white fluffy fur and a cute bouncy way of prancing along down the trail. With over 14 years of running experience, I have come to learn a few things about running past dogs. Number one: they will inevitably come to visit you. Number two: they may snap at your heels, sniff your hand, get in your way, run along beside you, bark uproariously, or at the very least stare you down with undivided doggie attention. So with these two cardinal rules of dog-running in mind, I proceeded, if not a bit more tentatively, down the trail and towards the little ball of white fluff.

As I approached, the dog noticed the sound of my footsteps and immediately stopped prancing. “Here it comes,” I thought as I prepared myself for an onslaught of excitable yips, tail wags, and sneaker-sniffing. To my complete shock and amazement, the dog stood completely still on the trail. He didn’t so much as look at me when I ran by. Instead, his eyes were fixed earnestly upon his master. He was waiting for his master’s voice, his master’s guidance on what to do next. I continued down the trail baffled by what I had seen. Never before had I seen a dog with such calm patience. He had ignored all distractions and had just waited patiently for the command of his beloved master.

As I continued down the trail, I couldn’t help but linger upon that image of the little dog, staring down the trail, waiting only for the command of his master. (Here comes the part of this post where I learn a valuable life lesson.) I began to think about my own life and how I am so often distracted by the things that are around me. As soon as a tough situation or a new worry come running my way, I almost immediately turn my head to get a better look—and that’s how the trouble starts. Instead of being like the little dog and keeping my eyes fixed upon my Master, I start to fear what is approaching. I forget to look to God first as my source of direction and guidance. I forget to wait for my Master’s voice. It is only when I stay focused on God and his plan for me that I am able to safely navigate the running trails of life. So, thanks God, for sending me a little dog to teach me a big lesson on a fine Saturday morning in Kandern.

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