Bringing in the sheaves

Of learning new tricks and rewards

What in the world does an old time hymnal have to do with training a dog? How does the fall harvest and the fall festivals and the triumph of learning something new have any corelationship? Well, I’ll try to make sense of it all, or maybe I’ll just let it all be messy and we’ll chase bunny trails.  That’s what Honey would do.

With the beginner training classes for our ambitious golden doodle, we are learning some new tricks.   For instance, how to turn away from bad behavior. Also how to load the clicker reward system.  And how to walk with a dog instead of being in resistance training.

The most important training in puppy class happens to the pet parent.  Keeping the brain on the right train track might be more challenging than ever anticipated.  Having a smart dog means I have to work smart at keeping her occupied.  Sometimes though sending her busy body outside to chase cats is the easier option.

They say one is never too old to learn new tricks.  Teaching myself a new training technique wouldn’t be so bad if I were an octopus.  There’s the hand for the clicker, the hand for the treat, and the hand to hold the leash, and I need an extra hand to make the symbol that goes with the command.  The first night at class I was sure a squid could train my dog better than I could.  I felt like a goat with all this new stuff.  Really the only thing added was the clicker, but I felt like both fists had suddenly emophosed into hooves or something.

Two class sessions later and ten days of practice, and Honey immediately goes for the watch-me-sit-down-pose when the clicker is removed form it’s basket near the treat bag.  So we have to go out into the cat world and breath the nippy fresh air to get a “distracted” training session in.  And if anyone hasn’t figured me out yet, I do not like the cold air.  It simply bites.  So on come the layers.  By the time I finally arrive outside for a brief brain train, Honey has all her energy spent on the cats, and she’s too chilled to sit still even for a frisbee toss.  Well, I would say this is going very well!

Not so much.  Today was a low energy day for me.  Every fifteen minutes this morning Honey either wanted out or wanted in.  So I took the time to teach her how to shake.  Everytime whe went out I said “Goodbye, see you later.” Everytime she came in, I said,”Hello, I’m mom. Is your name Honey? Nice to meet you Honey.  Can you sit?” (Response) “Good sit Honey. Can you shake?” (Response) “Very good. Other hand?” (Response) “Good girl, Honey.  Would you like a cookie?” (Hand signal down, followed by response)  I gave her a cookie and went about my business.  this occurred probably three or four times.  Thus passing the morning in very interrupted training sessions of Honey ringing the bells and me getting our of my chair to let her out.  Then letting her back in when she barked.

I remember my dad telling me some joke about exercise and letting the dog out and putting the dog in.  Don’t remember the joke.  Sorry.

The better new trick I learned this past week was actually in bread making.  All these years I thought I might kill the yeast if I stirred it too much.  Come to find out its really only temperature related on whether the yeast fails.  And I also wasn’t kneading the dough enough.  More time playing with the dough even after the dough hook in the mixer has had its share of time is actually quite fun.  So the recent attempt that I had with the bread making went quite well.

Another new thing I learned by trial and error was that cookies need a test run.  I get so into being done with the making process that I force them into fast pace.  That really doesn’t work.  Bars are better for the fast pace kitchen mode.  Cookies take time.  Thirteen minutes each tray to be exact.  My husband has always loved cookies though.  So I’ll probably continue to trial and error my way through the world of cookies. Hopefully Honey doesn’t decided I should homebake hers too.  Store bought ought to be good enough for her.

So today as I thought of the fall harvest and the emptying fields, the old hymn came to mind “Bringing in the Sheaves.”  There is a line in the song that just wont leave my thoughts. “Sowing seeds of kindness… fearing neither clouds nor winters chilly breeze… our spirits often grieve… We shall come rejoicing bringing in the sheaves.”

While this song is all about the reward for our labor, so too training my puppy is all about reward. The clicker is “loaded” with treats, In the minds’ eye, each click is equal to a treat or rather each work is rewarded by a click/treat.  Some day the click will be reward enough.  Some day… The joy in the harvest. With the recent mass shootings in our country much thought has gone to who is winning. Is the enemy winning when Christians die?

My most recent Talking Book is one that is the History of Christianity. While the concept of scattered seed is familiar to the farmers in my area the law of sowing and reaping crosses into society as an instrument of propagation in a way that defies the odds. Persecution has spread Christianity throughout the globe in a truly supernatural way. Thus reward based training is not a new concept. The joy in bringing in the sheaves is a God-thing.

So, my thought process though simplified to the click and the treat for my golden-girl, keeps me moving on toward far more eternal purposes. While I struggle with simple things, God reminds me that sowing seeds of kindness will reap a reward of rejoicing. I am blessed to have simple challenges. And my prayers will continue for those who face difficult life issues. May they find their eternal focus.

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