Are you down for this?

I have a dog whose nickname is Gronk. He was named for tight end Rob Gronkowski because I’m a Patriots fan. (You can form opinions about my team choices later.) I mention my dog because as wonderful as he is, he tends to fret. It’s odd because he’s a seventy-pound Mastiff/Shepherd mix. The Shepherd in him kept him from growing to full Mastiff size, so I like to call him “the world’s biggest runt.” I know he frets because whenever someone comes by he doesn’t know, or whenever he sees something out of the ordinary, he barks. We used to have a guy come out and mow our lawn. On the days he would come over, we’d bring Gronk inside so he wouldn’t go nuts. (The dog, not the lawn guy.) After the lawn guy would leave, we’d let Gronk out into the fenced backyard and he’d bark a few times at the grass because it looked and smelled different. “Yeah, Gronk. Great job at defending us against cut grass. It almost got us.” If one of us is at the front door or in the driveway talking to someone and Gronk hears it (and Gronk hears all), he barks nonstop.

The only way to get him to quit is for one of us, usually me because he’s my dog, to go find him and put him in a “down stay.” When he was a pup (of only 13 pounds) we enrolled him in puppy school. They say you’re enrolling your dog, but really the training is more for the owners. Anyway, Jane and I did this because we knew if we didn’t, he’d be really hard to handle when he got older. Enrolling him in puppy and then dog class at PetCo was the best thing for him (us). Gronk has turned out to be a great companion and a very obedient dog, especially to me. So, when he is doing his fret-barking, I find him, point to the ground and tell him: “Down! Stay!” “Down” means he lays all the way down and “stay” means “You stay where I put you until I come get you.”

For a dog, being down is a position of submission. It’s the position a dog takes in submission to the Alpha dog. It’s also the hardest command for a dog to learn. You would think, “But that’s so easy!” Really? What about when God tells us “trust in the LORD,” “delight thyself also in the LORD,” “commit thy way unto the LORD,” “trust also in Him,” “rest in the LORD?” Why is the Lord giving us so many “down, stay” commands in just the first half of one psalm? Because even for humans, “down, stay” is the hardest command to learn.

But why put Gronk in a “down stay?” Because it forces him to yield and to trust. “Down” snaps him out of his barking mode and “stay” is a promise. “Stay” means “I am putting you here now, but I am coming back for you. Just chill in the meantime.” Usually, when I do this, Gronk will chuff and it makes his cheeks puff out, but at least he’s quiet. When I come back to him, I shower him with praise and give him his release word: “Okay!” and then he’s all wags and doggie smiles because he knows that everything is fine because I said so.

God wants us to have a similar attitude toward Him when things get stressful. He knows we are fretful creatures. It’s why He’s always telling us “fear not” and to “rest in the LORD.” The question is, “Are we down for that?”

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Photo of Gronk wearing glasses by me! (Those are my glasses.)

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