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Teach Me to Heel
Photo: Colin Eaton
I love dogs and have shared my heart and home with two of them during my life. As a responsible pet owner, I always trained my dogs to act as pleasant, cooperative family members (for the most part). They knew not to jump on houseguests, steal food off the table, or climb on the furniture. I even taught them a few commands like sit, speak, lay, shake, and roll over in exchange for doggie biscuits.

Yet, there remained one command my dogs failed to grasp: Heel. I tried to teach them, but I lacked the necessary patience and consistency. Therefore, walks (especially with my 120-lb Rottweiler) resulted in my hanging on for dear life to the end of the leash while my beloved pet leaned into his collar, itching to run ahead. Plus, the sight of any cat, rabbit, squirrel, or person created instant distraction and change of direction. The only thing that effectively stopped my dogs was an intriguing scent. If they found an interesting smell to sniff, I was suddenly the one yanking the leash to get them to budge. While not entirely horrible, dog walking was more a game of tug-and-war. Clearly our neighborhood excursions might have been a little more peaceful had my precious pooches learned to heel.

I can think of at least one Bible character that mastered the art of heeling. The Bible tells us that Enoch walked with God for 300 of his 365 years on this earth. (Genesis 5:21-24). I’m not sure exactly what “walking with God” means, but God certainly seemed to approve. Hebrews 11:5 says, “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.” Perhaps, among other things, Enoch simply learned to heel.

Dog Walks Calmly

I found a great explanation of heeling on the web at www.bullwrinkle.com. It says that the dog walks calmly at your left side and will remain at your heel as you walk, run, stop, or turn. The dog will not attempt to run ahead or veer off course, and he will not yank at the leash to pull you along.

Certainly, walking with God—heeling, as it were—means attentively following God’s lead step by step. It is not allowing worldly distractions to pull us off the path. It is not running ahead in pursuit of our own plans. Nor is it lagging behind or balking when we don’t fully understand or trust God’s ways.

One dog training web site (www.do-behave.com) says that when heeling, the dog “moves without command to your every step and change of direction, adjusting his pace to yours, and sitting automatically when you stop. A beautiful heel is a joy to behold.”

What joy might we both experience and exude if we learned to properly heel to our Master! 

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By Hannah Henry. Copyright © 2007 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ® 2007.

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