Some of you may not have been introduced yet to Joey, our red heeler. If that’s the case, you may want to read “It All Works Out” or “No Empty Chairs” in your spare time. This particular post is the latest in the saga of our dog’s life, and his subsequent misadventures. Forget Joe The Plumber, we’ve got Joe The Dog! Here is the latest “teaching moment” he has provided us:
The Parable of The Dog and The Chili Can
A few weeks ago our little city entered the modern age by instituting Recycling!
One afternoon a large shiny blue cart with wheels showed up in our driveway, complete with instructions attached. The brochure gave us a list of approved products (with corresponding “thumbs up” icons) and a list of those things banned from the large blue cart (“thumbs down”). The instructions also emphasized how simple it would be to save our planet, right here in our neck of the woods! One effusive comment stated that it was not even necessary to wash out our plastic and cans. Just throw them in the big blue cart, and – Presto! Environment Saved!
We eagerly found an extra trash can to gather all of the “recycle worthy” items within our home, and set it beside our current kitchen garbage container, (which was still needed for food items and soiled paper products). Each time these inside containers filled, Mr. MoSop would take them out to the larger bins in the driveway. We noticed that our big blue recycle bin was filling up much more than the ugly “bad” bin! Life was good! We patted ourselves on the back for how efficient and earth conscious we were being.
As usual, just when “all is well”, something comes along to shake us out of our comfort zone. This was no exception. “It” happened on a quiet, average evening last week. I was at a rehearsal. Mr. MoSop was watching an exciting football game in the den downstairs. Our teen girls were playing a video game in another corner of the house. This created the “perfect storm” for our dog Joe.
That evening, a heavy duty can of Chili con Carne had been opened, emptied, and dutifully deposited into our recycle bin during the dinner hour rush. Although someone had taken the extra (and “unnecessary”) time to rinse it off a bit, there was still plenty of tempting residue hiding deep within. I imagine Joe double checked his unusual good fortune when he realized that his humans had left him all alone with not one, but TWO garbage bins! He seized his opportunity, and took the chili can out of the recycle container. Normally, Joe would not do this. He has a very good and generally obedient soul. But the temptation was too great. Of course, he knew full well this was strictly against the rules. He would never do this with someone looking on…but maybe “just this once”? He also knew this would definitely earn him many shaming “Bad DOG!’s” once discovered. But there it was shining before him. The chili can’s delectable smell enticed him to devour the prize quickly, and savor his sweet success. Who knows, maybe he even planned to cover his tracks and redeposit the can back into the recycle bin, so no one would ever have to know? However, there was a complication. The leftover chili was hidden just out of his tongue’s reach inside.
A little while later, the football game hit Half-time, and Mr. MoSop came upstairs for a snack. At the top of the stairs, he noticed a fresh dark stain in the carpet, and became startled as he recognized a thin trail of blood leading into the kitchen. When he flipped on the kitchen light switch, he was met with quite a frightening sight. Joe Dog was laying on the floor covered in blood. His snout and face were soaked in fresh bright blood, and there was a large pool of darker blood on his front legs. He also noticed the tale-tale guilty downward tilt of the head, and apologetic “tail-between-legs”. Gingerly kneeling down next to the dog, Mr. MoSop assessed the situation.
He noticed blood dripping out the dog’s mouth. Laying on the floor beside Joey was a tin chili can. Or, at least Mr. MoSop thought that is what it had been, in a prior life. At that point, screams of panic burst behind him as our two girls came around the corner and viewed the gory crime scene. Being a man of action, my husband immediately sent them off for old sheets and towels, and located the nearest emergency after-hours vet clinic listed in the phone book. Bundling up the dog in a sheet, and gingerly placing the can CSI-style, safely into a plastic freezer bag, [“because” as he reasoned calmly, “they might need to see the evidence”] the family took off for the Animal Emergency Room.
On the way, our girls were relieved to notice the bleeding had stopped. After a bit of a struggle [and necessary muzzling] in the Dog ER, the experienced Vet determined that Joe’s bloody legs were actually not injured, and just a result of licking. The injury was exclusively contained in his mouth. After a thorough exam it was also determined that stitches would not be necessary, as the cuts to the tongue and lining of his mouth were not too severe, and would heal in a few days.
Miraculously, even after gnawing on heavy duty metal, no teeth were loose. Upon closer inspection of the mutilated industrial weight can, the vet shook her head and pronounced that Joe was “one very lucky dog”. After a good cleaning, a bottle of antibiotics and paying a hefty office fee, my little family group headed home. On the return, a big winter blizzard hit suddenly, turning the trek into a nail biter. On top of that, since the snow plows had no time to react and had not been out, it was impossible for their car to make the final slippery ascent to our driveway.
Thus, Mr. MoSop parked at the bottom of the hill, unloaded the troops, and trudged up the snow laden sidewalk to safety. Joey was perfectly thrilled! With the trauma of the doggie ER behind him, he turned this new adventure into an opportunity to gorge happily on the frozen goodness all around him as they hiked up the hill. [This ended up being a great remedy for his oral swelling, and I think speeded the recovery process]. The End.
Pondering The Parable
Now that things have calmed down, and Joey seems no worse for wear, [and the blood stains in the carpet only show “if you are really looking”], we have had some time to ponder the whole drama. It has presented us with an interesting spiritual parallel. A “modern living parable”, if you will.
Joey saw and smelled something enticing and satisfying which lay just beyond his reach. He ignored the warnings of those he should trust. He knew he was doing something that was off limits, but he couldn’t resist the draw of his imagined reward. He probably got a little bit of immediate satisfaction, due to a few drops of chili escaping the can, but the meaty reward was farther off. This motivated him to sink all of his effort (and in this case, teeth) “doggedly” working to gain the reward. You would think that after the first piercing pain he felt, he would have dropped the can and realized that it was harmful – but no!
On our inspection, the can has a minimum of 25 deep punctures! He kept going back over and over, gnawing at the can again and again trying to get at the reward, in spite of the fact that what he was doing was causing pain and harm. Frankly, incredibly stupid. But then, how often do human beings do the same thing?
Many things come to mind for a parallel to this story. Gambling. Pornography. Tobacco. Alcohol, Infidelity….just to name a few.
And then there’s MONEY. In these days of financial crises, it doesn’t take long to look around and see thousands of folk who were enticed by the “chili can” called Greed. The reward of having it all has been an irresistible lure since the beginning of time. It only took a few overnight success stories for millions to flood the banks for their chance of the “Good Life”. The lenders schemed together for bigger and better incentives to entice the rest of the crowd in and increase their profits.
Our people took out loans for startling amounts. We purchased the latest and grandest possessions, despite warnings, and against better judgment.
The lure of the reward was just too great. Even when we began to feel significant negative effects of our largess, we didn’t stop. We actually increased the pace, and kept “doggedly” taking on more and more debt, hoping that if we just suffered a little longer, that great imagined success would finally pay off…
We all know the “end” of the story. We’re living in it. Unlike Joe the Dog, the wounds are deep, and the consequences are far reaching. In many cases, irreparable.
In hindsight, Mr. MoSop wished that he had noticed Joe was not at his feet downstairs, and had been watching him closer. I blamed myself for not foreseeing danger and placing a locking lid on top of the recycle bin. But hindsight can’t turn back time. Although it was a bit of a traumatic experience, and a very pricey lesson to learn at Joe Dog’s expense, we have now taken many extra precautions so this will never take place again.
One of life’s great truths is that we can choose our actions, but we cannot choose the consequences. In his last great address to his people, the great Book of Mormon Prophet-King Benjamin said:
“If ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, … ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not” (Mosiah 4:30).
I have thought much about what King Benjamin meant by the phrase “watch yourselves.” Often in the scriptures the Lord speaks of watchmen on the towers and of watchtowers themselves (for example, Isaish 21: 5,8, D&C 101:12, 43–62, Habakkuk 2:1). A watchtower is generally raised so that someone can climb to the top and see a greater distance. In this way, they are alerted to danger or threat much sooner than they would otherwise be. The same principle holds true in our lives. We can raise watchtowers that help us deal with threats before they actually descend upon us. Most importantly, we can listen to wise counsel from the Lord’s servants on earth today, who continually watch and send important messages to warn, encourage and protect. Sometimes, like Joe the Dog, we will ignore the warnings, make a bad choice, and suffer consequences. In most cases, although the consequences may be painful, there is hope for healing and change. Unlike Joe the Dog, we have the opportunity to learn, to listen and to improve our choices.