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A reader in Newark recently sent me this poem (title and author unknown), and I'd like to share it with you: God summoned a beast from the field and He said, Behold man, created in my image. Therefore adore him. You shall protect him in the wilderness, shepherd his flocks, watch over his children, accompany him wherever he may go -- even unto civilization. You shall be his companion, his ally, his slave. To do these things, God said, I endow you with these instincts uncommon to other beasts: faithfulness, devotion, and understanding surpassing those of man himself. Lest it impair your courage, you shall never foresee your death. Lest it impair your loyalty, you shall be blind to the faults of man. Lest it impair your understanding, you are denied the power of words. Let no fault of language cleave an accord beyond that of man with any other beast -- or even man with man. Speak to your master only with your mind, and through your honest eyes. Walk by his side, sleep in his doorway; forage for him, ward off his enemies, carry his burdens, share his afflictions; love him and comfort him. And in return for this, man will fulfill your needs and wants -- which shall only be food, shelter and affection. So be silent, and be a friend to man. Guide him through the perils along the way to the land that I have promised him. This shall be your destiny and immortality. So spake the Lord. And the dog heard and was content. Some of us are fortunate enough to experience dogs as God may have intended. But all too often, as most dog owners can attest, these creatures do not turn out to be this idyllic. I suppose the irony of the situation rests in the fact that while God may have provided an ideal companion for man in the form of a dog, He provided the dog with a less than ideal master in the form of man. Nevertheless, we have one redeeming quality as masters. Humankind has the distinct ability to learn from his mistakes. And with the tremendous numbers of dog bites that occur each year, for example, a lot of mistakes are clearly being made. Raising children can be difficult enough. Parents must walk a fine line to preserve the enthusiasm, wonder, and spirit that their children come into the world with. A delicate blend of patience, tolerance, imagination, encouragement, and discipline must accompany an endless stream of love. Positive outlets must be supplied for the abundant energy present in young, growing bodies, and knowledge about how children learn best is a powerful ingredient that must be added to the mix. In addition, it is critical that we as adults participate in a continual process of growth and maturation to overcome our inherent defects and the scars inflicted on us by our parents as a result of their own flawed child-raising efforts. By improving ourselves we become better parents and more effective role models for our children. All of these same principles hold for raising that ideal canine companion. In a single puppy consultation, I am continually delighted to see owners marvel at the positive responses their puppies display when they are given a variety of easy and effective parenting skills. If we hope to raise a companion, as God intended, that we can enjoy and be proud to keep for the duration of its natural life, we must exercise the finer tools He bestowed upon us -- particularly the ability to improve ourselves and pass the benefits of these changes onto the lives we touch.