A Tale of Two Puppies

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….

Actually, the times are pretty good, but they have their challenging moments. My dog Sam has made it onto this page before, but he returns this week with a friend. Sophie, a Great Dane Pit mix, belongs to my youngest daughter who is currently in China. Sophie is a sweet dog, enthusiasm enfleshed, whose primary purpose in life seems to be to rid the world of squirrels (although she gladly joins Sam in the daily warning of impending doom as the mail carrier arrives in the neighborhood). Normally Sophie lives what I would consider a privileged life, one that Sam is denied. That is, she’s allowed on the furniture in her home, she has a seemingly endless supply of stimulating toys and she is a frequent visitor at an upscale doggie daycare that is, in essence, Disneyland for dogs. So, Sophie came into our home accompanied by expectations, and she seems genuinely confused when she is shooed off the couch or visits Sam’s tragic little toy basket only to find bones with the life chewed out of them and squeaky things whose squeak was laid to rest long ago.

Nonetheless, Sophie is a delight to have in the house and, not having had the fearful beginning to life that Sam had, is attentive and affectionate.

But.

Early morning and late afternoon walks are a minimum in our home, often supplemented with occasional unscheduled jaunts. Sam loves these outings and, ears up, eyes scanning the world, trots along beside his human companion dutifully attending to the possible threats posed by bicyclists and unfamiliar humans.

Sophie surges. Tied up with two leashes and a harness guaranteed to prevent pulling (ha!), Sophie shoots out the front door with a mission on her mind – get as far out as fast as possible while dragging your human behind you. The amount of power she possesses is remarkable. I’m no lightweight, but Sophie has the power to pull me off my feet (and often does) if there is an unfamiliar smell beyond her reach. Every walk is a contest to see who will prevail – Sophie or the human who is suffering from rope burn from double leashes pulled tight into flesh. She sniffs something interesting and, filled with curious joy calls out the Great Dane power within her while I, leaning backward, both hands on the leashes, keep my feet dug into the sidewalk as her front feet rise in the air in an effort to lunge ahead. In doggie-thought, Sophie is thinking “Can’t he see how important this is? Doesn’t he realize that what I want is more important that what he wants?”

In reality, sweet as she is, Sophie is a poor companion on the way.

I suspect that I have many of my own Sophie-moments, times when I am convinced that my way is the best way (or even the only way) because I thought of it or I want it. In those moments, I tend to loose sight of the needs or wants of others, certain that my urge, if it is good for me, must be good for everyone else. In those moments, I have placed my ego at the center of things – the ultimate and most seductive form of idolatry as my certainty blinds me to seeing other possibilities.

Sophie will only be with us for another week. If she were staying longer, I would expend the energy and effort necessary to reshape her behavior into something more acceptable for long term companionship. I, however, intend to continue with my Master for the balance of my life and need to work constantly to make myself a better companion on the Way.