Prayer: Because sometimes you need to be dog-whispered

October 5, 2011 | 19 comments

Back when we had cable, I used to be a big fan of the Dog Whisperer show. I don’t even have a dog, but it was fascinating to see how Cesar Millan could take all these bad dogs and turn them into happy, obedient pets. One of his most common techniques is to pinch a dog quickly on the side of its neck while making a sound that is hard to convey in writing, but goes something like, PRSSSSCHT!!!

By mimicking the corrective nip that the top dog in a pack might use to keep his subordinate canines in line, Millan gets the dog’s attention and snaps him out of whatever he might have been fixating on. It’s amazing how well it works. In one of the last episodes I saw, this one dog had a problem with obsessing about rocks. He would run up to one, growl at it, bite it, run around it, bite it some more, and this could go on for almost an hour. Normally he was pretty good about listening to his owner, but when he’d come across a rock, it was all over. You could practically hear the dog thinking, “NO SHUT UP DON’T TALK TO ME I’VE GOT TO GET THIS ROCK! ROCK! IT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD! ROCK! ROCK! ROCK!” And then Millan would dog-whisper him with that PRSSSSCHT!!! thing, and he’d break out of it and look up at his master like, “Oh, hey, sorry about that! I guess that rock isn’t that important after all.”

I hate to admit this, but the dog kind of reminds me of me.

Whenever I’m good about sticking to regular prayer times, it breaks me out of whatever I’m fixating on. In fact, I usually don’t notice that I am fixating on anything until I stop what I’m doing and focus on God. I’ll be walking around, just like the dog, saying, “NO SHUT UP DON’T TALK TO ME I’VE GOT TO GET THIS ROCK! ROCK! IT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD! ROCK! ROCK! ROCK!” Just replace “rock” with some item from my to-do list, and that’s me.

Then the hard stop of prayer time comes along, and it’s like Cesar Millan’s PRSSSSCHT!!!

When prayer time first approaches, I shrink away, convinced that I simply must keep obsessing about whatever it is that has captured my attention at the moment. But when I actually enter into silence, both internal and external, it’s such a drastic change from my normal mode of living that it startles me into a new frame of mind. Contemplating the eternal instead of fixating on the temporal requires such a huge shift of mental gears that it breaks me out of whatever short-sighted rut I’d been in. Like the dumb dog, I finally stop chewing on my silly worries of the moment, and pay attention to what my Master is trying to tell me.


  1. Jessica @ Faith Permeating

    I love this! (Particularly your interpretation of what’s going on in the dog’s head–perfect!) I am super-guilty of over-fixation when I’m working on a project. I’ll put off things like going to the bathroom or eating food until I physically can’t stand it anymore. Which is dumb, because no project is that important!

  2. Catherine

    We just began perpetual adoration on Mondays through Fridays at my Church. Well, I went 3 or 4 times; then, on one visit, I ‘heard’: “Come and see Me more often. Really! Please. Do that!” It had been a wonderful visit, and I noticed, BIG TIME, how peaceful I was upon leaving. I then decided to go twice a week.

    The next time I went, which was 3 days later, I realized just what you are saying in this post, Jen. He is always there, always available, always ‘waiting’, as it were, for me to show up. The ‘temporal’ things that I worry and spin about, when I consider them, do not alter anything in a permanent way, in my life. I just waste energy (and time and love and, and… 😉 ruminating on them. This was a HUGE enlightenment for me! I was so thrilled and very grateful.

    That was 2 days ago, and since then, I have been “busy”. Worldly things, you know; things that need to get done. But I noticed today: that incredible deep peace was being edged out by an anxiety… Uh-oh. I didn’t know what to do about this: “I should pray”, I told myself, “But I am too busy right now”.

    Jen, thank you for reminding me: I am NEVER too busy. For Him, I am never too busy.

  3. Betsy

    Thank you! I needed this today.

  4. DebbieQ

    Sigh. I was cleaning out files yesterday in anticipation of starting a “100 Days of Clean Out” challenge that I have set my self. And I had in my hand a newspaper article, from I don’t know what year, that talked about the liturgy of the hours. I looked at that piece of paper. I wondered why I had even cut it out, I am not Catholic and I don’t attend a liturgical church. I hesitated for a moment and then chucked it in the garbage bag. And then I dumped several other garbage cans worth of paper etc. on top of it.

    And now I have had to rummage through that bag to find the article after reading this post. And there were some nasty things in that bag. But I found the article. At least the bag didn’t go out to the curb for garbage pick up which was today.

  5. Lizzie

    What a fantastic and hilarious image that completely fits me too! I have so many things in life at the moment that need prayer rather than obsessing and you sum up that ‘I’m my master’s presence’ thing so well. I’m off right now as the master is calling …
    God bless you and yours

    • Lizzie

      Obviously,I meant IN my master’s presence!

  6. Tootie

    What a neat analogy! I enjoy Cesar’s show, and I don’t have dogs either!

  7. paige

    *sigh* – i need more posts on prayer…
    i’d love to hear more of how catholics *do* prayer. i hear terms like “adoration” & “rosary” & i wonder if there is a whole different experience in how a catholic prays…
    i’m finding as of late – that my experience is the opposite of this post – that i get fixated on those things for which i am praying – & i’m almost unable to enter in to *LIFE*! i know it’s partly because i have some heavier things on my prayer request list lately, but more thoughts on prayer would be really helpful.

  8. Michael

    So much busyness in a day. Any pause for a “sanity check” is welcome, but especially when it is a chance to reconnect with the Father.

  9. Jennifer G.

    Thank you for such a simple analogy! Once again, you’ve hit home with me.

  10. Jenna

    You’ve got to give me some prayer tips. I am so that way. I fixate on my list and I am unbreakable! It needs to stop!


  11. Liesl

    I knew you were going to connect this to prayer… but all I could think about in the first few paragraphs was Dug from Up – “You are my master, and I love you… Squirrel!”

  12. Courageous Grace

    Happy (belated) Feast of St. Francis to you, too 😉

  13. Melissa Spence

    Love this analogy of the Dog Whisperer (we love Cesar!) technique and how prayer and the graces God gives affects us.

  14. Shirley

    Loved this analogy! I have a lot in common with the dog too!

  15. Antique Mommy

    So true. Love they way you see things and how you tell the story.

  16. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    We don’t have a tv, I’ve never seen Cesar Milan in action, but Malcolm Gladwell wrote an essay about him (I read it in his What the Dog Saw–the collection bears the name of Milan’s essay) and it was FASCINATING.

    Such an interesting analogy. In the spring I was excellent about sticking to regular prayer times, but with our carefree summer schedule I fell out of the habit. (We were usually at the pool when the noon church bells–which I can hear from my house–rang).

    I’ve been thinking I need to get back to this….thanks for the kick in the pants.

  17. even one sparrow

    I really needed to read this tonight, especially in light of the sermon today. Our pastor talked about scheduling in daily quiet time with the Lord, and although I do it (add God to my to-do list – gosh, that sounds awful, right?), I tend to rush through it. I don’t actually still myself. But lately I HAVE been getting glimpses into the eternal — the reality that the to-do list will always be there — it will always be the same thing — but the only reason we’re here at all is to glorify the Lord. So why do I ever make the things on my to-do list my “ROCK” — my priority over the Father?

    So thanks for this post. 🙂

  18. Jennifer

    Great post. This is right on for me too!

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