Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

Snake Training!

“You need to train your dog to be afraid of rattlesnakes,” we were told. “Dogs are naturally curious, and unless a dog understands a rattlesnake is dangerous, he may approach a snake only to be bitten.”

My husband and I thought the reasoning was sound. We once had a horse that was bitten on the nose when he was two years old, and a dog that was bitten, as well. (Both survived without antivenin—which is woefully expensive.) We don’t see many rattlesnakes on our property, but apparently enough to be a hazard. So we paid $64 for our young dog to attend a snake training class. My husband was there to observe as the trainer used a shock collar to demonstrate to our pet (among others) that a rattlesnake (the one on hand had its fangs filed) is something to be avoided. Each time the trainer led a dog on lead near the snake, the dog was shocked enough to get his attention. Our rescue mutt is smart and quickly got the idea to give the snake a wide berth. He passed his class with praise. We were delighted. At last we had a dog that would stay away from snakes and thereby forewarn us as we walk with him in the woods.

We were probably annoying when we bragged to anyone who would listen about our dog’s wonderful achievement. In fact, we were extolling his virtues as we strolled along a wooded path before he stopped to sniff a bush beside the trail. We were about to urge him to walk on, when my husband noticed where the dog was standing…with his foot on top of a snake! Okay, it wasn’t a rattler, but it was a snake—probably a bull snake. We moved the dog, and the snake moved himself. Neither seemed to be fazed by the encounter.

Whether our beloved canine will henceforth and forevermore avoid rattlers is a question we’re afraid to answer. We can hope so. And what did we learn? A warning doesn’t always suffice—no matter how dramatic or factual the warning might be. Why? We’re distracted. In the case of people, they’re distracted by their own personal concerns. They pay attention to that which seems to impact them the most—even though they may be heeding deceitful propaganda and not facts, at all. If they’re lucky, the snake isn’t something that will harm them significantly, because they’re standing directly over it.

Recently, my husband and I rented the Netflix DVD THE COURAGEOUS HEART OF IRENA SENDLER, based on the true story of a Polish woman who managed to save thousands of Jewish children from the Holocaust by smuggling them out of the ghetto and into the homes of other sympathetic Christians. One of her obstacles was the families of the children themselves who couldn’t believe the rumors that the government “resettlement camps” where ghetto residents were being sent were actually death camps. They wanted to believe the Nazis were a civilized people—too civilized to indulge in mass murder. They were standing on the snake. For some, their reluctance to accept reality caused their families to be cruelly wiped out.

Reality has many sides; some are pretty; some are not. But, unlike the sun, looking directly into reality cures blindness and gives us options of who we want to be and what we want to do next.

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