My Mom spoke at a women’s conference in Colorado two years ago. One of her keynote sessions at that conference, was called “What I Learned About Raising Boys, While Training My German Shepherd.”
Now, my mother could talk about just about anything and engage a room, she’s a phenomenal public speaker- and just a captivating human, in general. But this particular content will be forever near and dear to her heart- and to my entire family.
It all started with a Kri.
The Christmas after I turned eleven, the dream of most children happened to me and my three brothers. But it was not in the form of a golden retriever puppy, with a red Christmas bow taped to it’s head. My parents are much more mysterious, and enjoy a good show. Mom and Dad packed us up into the suburban, in our pajama’s… (hot chocolate in spill-able mugs and all- lesson never learned, clearly)… and told us we were going on a short drive. As it turned out, that short drive was from suburban Atlanta, Georgia… to Bell Buckle, Tennessee. It was there, that we met our purebred, descended from a German Champion, black and tan beauty.
She was everything that we had dreamt and more- Unlike the catastrophic pets we had attempted in the past….
- a springer-spaniel with doggy bi-polar and rage
- a beagle puppy named Jolie- that would exhaust even Richard Simmons
- and a few turtles found in our creek… who were… you know… turtles…. So entirely boring and un-enchanting to keep, for longer than it takes three kids to name said turtles
I could tell you thirty terrible stories about those animals- but I could tell a million wonderful stories about Kri.
Such as the time she and my Dad (in his boxer briefs), scared a Delta bag-deliverer in the middle of the night, with a butcher knife. Or the time she laid a (live) possum at my grandmother’s feet as a gift, we called animal control and animal control told us… “just grab it and throw it outside.”. Or the multiple times, she protected me from uninvited and suspicious male attention while out walking.
However, I just want to tell you about how she influenced our view of leadership.
If you watched Cesar Millan, Dog Whisperer in the early 2000’s… this is for you. Through training Kri, we learned about pack-leadership and dynamics. Dog’s sense insecurity faster than you can blink. Dogs defer to other dogs with stronger dominance. If a dog is too insecure to be part of a healthy pack, they don’t baby it into oblivion… they correct it.
I mean come on…. There it is- Right. There.
How many Christian leaders do I know who ignore, condone, or straight up nurture the insecure, unsafe actions of those around them. The dog world wouldn’t stand for that. Dog’s are pack animals- the hierarchy of their pack, is important to them. Healthy dogs LOOK actively, for the obvious pack leader in their midst- or they become it. They do not, live with the insecurities of other dogs, effecting the overall strength of their pack. The pack-leaders fight- not because they themselves are unstable… but because the design within them, says that mismanaged un-health in some is deadly to the whole.
All of that isn’t even the most interesting thing. The most interesting thing (to our family, at least) is summed up into three buzzer words…
C a l m
A s s e r t i v e
L e a d e r s h i p
We learned that for a human to assume pack-leader role over a dog, instability won’t fly. Because as I mentioned before, dog’s sense insecurity and feel the need to take control.
Cesar Millan, teaches that to control a dog, you don’t need to raise your voice, you don’t need to threaten, or even to physically control. You can control them by your steady, unprovoked, quiet assertiveness that knows that you are in control and not subject to their reactions. This kind of bold, yet subtle combination is what creates steady tempered dogs…. and as Mom believes, steady sons.
She discovered that in raising boys (or girls)… demanding respect won’t get you anywhere, unless you quietly, confidently believe that you are to be respected. As a parent, we watched Mom’s passionate nature, be tendered by the notion that children (boys specifically) respond strongly to calm assertive leadership.
Cesar would also teach that almost all insecure and unstable dogs can be tempered with this method. He says that dogs crave it- and they act out, not because of a firm hand… but because of the lack of it. Mom, would say similar things about sons. That what boys crave most, is not an absence of leadership (even from their Mother)… but actually, a desire for the correct kind. Just like dogs, they are acting out because they have a need to squash insecurity. Mom gained a new level of respect not only for her role in her sons lives, but a strength and a reasoning that was inspiring to her boys.
I learned, that in leadership- instability shouldn’t be allowed. People, will fail you- always. Grace… ought to abound, as Jesus tells us. But ignorance, or leadership that turns away from the necessary conflict to change a group dynamic for the better… is not grace- it’s actually detrimental.
I am most definitely not one of those carry-my-puppy-around-disney-world-in-a-princess-costume people, but I am a grieving.
We are saying goodbye, to the Shepherd that taught us how to lead with calm, assertive boldness. Just like the lessons she taught us, she was kind-natured... while still a wild soul, with a free-running spirit.
Thirteen years under her belt, and cancer has gotten the better of her.
So goodbye, loyal friend.
We will keep telling stories about what God taught us, through your design.
*pictures below, are of her last days. My brother Jack and I giving her last bath, and our final few memories with her, as a family.