Hopi is our dog. As I understand she came from Champion Golden Retriever and Grand Champion Australian Shepherd breeding lines. Regardless of her lineage, with her natural instincts, devotion to the pack and sweet disposition she is the best herd dog I’ve ever known. The offspring of two work breeds, to say she naturally has high energy levels is an understatement. To keep her calm, happy and fit she needs lots of exercise daily.
After we moved from our rural home to a suburban condo, many of our habits changed; for one, from a third floor apartment Hopi became a house dog. In inclement weather we could no longer simply open a door and turn Hopi loose outside. So, more than ever before, daily walks became as important to me as to Hopi.
The harsher Midwest winter weather interrupting our daily routines brought even more change. After couple of weeks of ice storms and weeks of deep snow we discovered a change in Hopi. Instead of getting right down to business outdoors, she would sniff the snow and get so obsessed doing that, she began ignoring my commands. One evening instead of walking at my side as usual, Hopi bolted out the door ahead of me to meet another smaller dog, frightening the dog’s walker. This was radically different from her usual behavior which all the new neighbors had initially enjoyed.
For the first time in years I had to harness and leash Hopi to protect her and other tenants, reinforce her training, and keep her attention on me, which had previously been her second nature. We became more careful to exercise Hopi as much as possible and continually work her through her paces regardless of the weather. Now we enjoy happy adventures most every day again and during inclement weather we explore the indoor hallways and stairs, visiting with the neighbors on the way.
There’s a noteworthy parallel between Hopi’s first winter in the suburbs and the Christian walk. When circumstances cause us to change our routines it is very easy to become distracted to a degree that is not always best for us. An exciting television series can lead to the set being on habitually and valuable attention to other tasks can gradually be lost. Skipping an exercise routine to have coffee with friends can become the rule rather than the exception, or enjoying one extra snack after doing some extra running one day and then another the next day too, and before we realize it we’ve put on a couple of pounds.
Regardless of one’s faith base, daily meditation, devotional time, prayer, reading Scriptures or attending worship services can slip away into oblivion after rearranging schedules to include other tasks too. Whenever I did any of that, I soon noticed I was not as patient or content with my life as I typically am. Even after identifying what changed, it took strict personal discipline and help from God just to get back in the habit of putting everything aside for foundational enrichment.
Like Hopi, we all need exercise and socializing as well as discipline and spiritual nourishment to be well balanced individuals. Variety is good – provided it doesn’t undermine the groundwork of our purpose in life. With so many choices and distractions in our world pulling us in many different directions, routine discipline can be a mainstay to keeping that balance. Without it we could all be chasing rabbits and scaring the neighbors!
“No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” Hebrews 12:11 (NLT)
Preceding is a slightly edited repost of an original Roo’s Ruse Blogspot post from 2009. Much has changed in my world since I wrote the article; Hopi and the rest of the fur kids have gone on to await us at the Rainbow Bridge and I now live with Roan and Opal in North Texas. However, like The Scriptures the message still rings true.