Sam and Change

I have had to facilitate a change in my life recently. I love the outdoors, and more specifically I greatly enjoy hunting waterfowl. I developed this hobby when I moved in 2015. I also love dogs, and during my first duck season I decided it was time for a new Labrador retriever. Before I knew it, I had adopted Sam (an eighteen-month old black lab) into my family. With a lot of work and training, we were hunting together by the end of that first season.

Towards the end of our second season together, it became clear that Sam was developing some bad habits in the duck blind. Specifically, he whined – a lot! Maybe he didn’t like the cold. Maybe he was still suffering from the way his previous owners had neglected him (although, an animal psychologist I am not). Maybe he was simply high strung. During the off season I read everything I could get my hands on about curbing a hunting dog’s tendencies to whine, I worked with him daily, I even had him fixed, but nothing helped.

Quickly in our third season together I noticed that a change needed to be made. Ducks would fly in on us, Sam would see them before I would, he would get monstrously (weighing in at 105 pounds) restless, the whining would begin, and then his whines would turn to howls. I love to duck hunt. Sam loves to retrieve. I don’t think he quite made the connection that if he howled at the ducks, then they would spook, fly away, which would prohibit me from taking them, which would prohibit him from retrieving them.

Long story short – Sam is no longer welcome in my duck blind. He is, however, still a vital part of the team. He helps me put out the decoys (he’s a very smart dog). We play a little bit in the dark, muddy water before sunrise. And then he goes back into his crate (which is in the bed of my truck), lays down on his warm, soft bed, and goes back to sleep (until it’s time to retrieve the ducks off the water, or find birds that have lost their way). That’s what I call win-win. Sam gets to retrieve, and I get ducks.

But this change was not an easy one to make. I had to recognize the problem, I had to take it seriously, and then I had to do something about it. I worked with Sam on this specific issue for over nine months. When those efforts were not fruitful, I moved on to Plan B, and it has worked marvelously. But I miss Sam in my duck blind, and his annoying, noisy, obnoxious, impish, pesky, wet, wonderful, best-dog-in-the-world self. That being said, we are a stronger waterfowl-harvesting team now than we have ever been.

So what about you? For the remainder of this article, I have recruited a top-notch team of professionals to help us transform into new people by changing the way we think (as Paul puts it in Romans 12:2). They each have a word of wisdom to share with us on this journey of change and growth.

  • I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination” (Jimmy Dean) – There are many circumstances that are beyond our control, but that doesn’t mean we give up or do nothing. We grit our teeth, roll up our sleeves, and get to work.
  • If there is no struggle, there is no progress” (Frederick Douglass) – Anything worth doing is going to entail challenges, difficulties, struggles, and conflict. We are not looking for ease, we are looking for growth.
  • Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me” (Carol Burnett) – Personal growth is just that… personal! We have to own our shortcomings, and be willing to invest in ourselves if we want to experience growth.
  • Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world” (Harriet Tubman) – There is more potential inside of you than you could ever imagine. I know this because God is the very one who has placed the potential there. I pray you live into your God-given potential!
  • If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude” (Maya Angelou) – Perhaps the greatest change we need to make is internal, our attitude and our thinking (since this is what drives our behavior).
  • Change your thoughts and you change the world” (Norman Vincent Peale) – When our thinking/attitudes change, our behaviors change, our hearts change, then the world changes for the better. The internal and personal growth we experience floods our networks and neighborhoods, revealing the truth that the fruit of our labors are not limited only to ourselves.
  • You must be the change you wish to see in the world” (Mahatma Gandhi) – We can no longer say, “Somebody do something about that.” You want to live in a better world? Then the question is, “What are you doing about it?”

One last thing before we get started. Personal change is quite impossible without external help. As a Christian and a pastor, I know that this sort of growth will not happen without the presence of God and the participation of others. But with God’s help, and the support of good people, all things are possible.

Grace and Peace,

Steven (and Sam)

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