“Leap of Faith” is a wonderful movie from 1992 that stars Steve Martin in the role of an evangelical preacher/faith healer who travels from town to town selling salvation from a big tent complete with soul stirring music and big time theatrics. One of the people Martin’s character meets in the town is Boyd, a young boy who is unable to walk due to an auto accident that killed both of his parents. Near the films climax, Boyd pushes his way to the front of Martin’s revival show as he is “healing the sick” and asks to be made to walk.
The reverend, knowing he is a fraud and has no power to heal, declines but the townsfolk are insistent and demand one more “miracle” before the night is over. Reluctantly he allows Boyd up on stage and tries to discourage the boy from trying this. Undaunted, Boyd pushes past the reverend and makes his way to the statue of a cross with Jesus. He slowly, but with increasing confidence, begins to walk as the crowd cheers. They have their miracle and the show closes with much joy and celebration.
Later that night, Martin’s character, the reverend, is alone in his show tent preaching a different and more cynical message to no one. He laments that everyone is a sinner and that everyone is a sucker when he is interrupted by Boyd who wants to talk with him.
Reverend: “Hello, Boyd. Why aren’t you out signing autographs? Or dancing?”
Boyd: “I need to ask you a question. I wanted to know when you planned to leave town.”
Reverend: “Leave? A couple of days, I guess.”
Boyd: “Well, I wanted to know if I could go with you.”
Boyd: “I can do things. I’ll earn my keep.”
Reverend: “You’re a little too old to be running away with the circus.”
Boyd: “No, it’s not that. Look, you made me walk again. Many people tried that, but they couldn’t.”
Reverend: “Hold it, kid. I had nothing to do with you walking.”
Boyd: “Sure you did.”
Reverend: “I run a show here. It’s a lot of smoke and noise and it’s strictly for the suckers! I’ve been pulling scams since I was your age. If there’s one thing I know, it’s how to spot the genuine article. That’s what you gotta watch out for. Not the cops. You can always get around the cops. But what you can never get around is the genuine article. And you, kid, are the genuine article.”
Boyd: “Are you saying you think you’re a fake?”
Reverend: “I KNOW I’m a fake.”
Boyd: “What difference does it make, if you get the job done?”
Reverend: “Kid, it makes all the difference in the world.”
There are lots of “shows” out there in the dog training world and many of them will “get the job done” when it comes to getting your dog to sit or stay or whatever you need. But the words of Martin’s character ring in my head each time I work with a client or a dog – “What you can never get around is the genuine article.” And that is what I strive to be – the genuine article.
Does it make a difference if a trainer is “faking it” or using subtle tricks to get the dog to perform behaviours without really learning them? Does it make a difference if the dog is happily working WITH the trainer and not just doing what ever is necessary to get out of an uncomfortable situation?
As the good reverend says to Boyd, “Kid, it makes all the difference in the world.”
Be the genuine article.