Wednesday, May 12, 2004

The Dog's Dilemma

A dog of average (which is say almost no) intelligence lies in the dirt, gnawing a bone. The bone, once a vital part of some cow’s structural integrity, is now depleted of marrow and moisture, worthless for anything beyond stimulating the canine’s gums and exercising his jaws.

You approach the dog, hands behind your back; he eyes you, suspicious. You speak kindly; he wags his tail slowly, smiles a doggy smile and places a paw on top of the bone, sniffing the air uncertainly.

After a moment, he returns to the bone with a lick, and is about to resume gnawing when you bring your hands from behind your back, revealing half a pound of fresh-ground beef. This maneuver captures the dog’s attention and he wags his tail appreciatively while covering the bone again with his paw. You have to pay respects to a human with fresh beef — he knows this but can’t remember why.

You smile and straighten your arm a bit: the one with the meat piled on the end of it. The dog smiles back and licks his lips. You take half a tentative step forward, extending the meat as if to offer it to the dog and he, after a moment of frozen indecision, stands to his feet and picks up the bone, never taking his eyes off you.

You take another half step forward. Nothing has changed, you’re still smiling, still offering the burger, and you would think, since he is your dog, who sneaks into your bed after you fall asleep, who licks fried chicken grease right off your hand and drinks from your open toilet — you would think the beast would see your approach as nothing if not promising — but incredibly he backs away, his eyes mapping out an escape route lest he become cornered and you do something terrible. But this is not your intention at all. You seek only his good and offer half a pound of lean ground chuck as proof. And so what if there is the tiniest bit of doggy medicine mixed with the beef — that too, is for his good and you expect if he knows anything at all he would know this. And to be fair, he suspects it in a vague, dreamy way — you are the one who goes away and then comes back so marvelously and he has no idea how you do that but he is mightily impressed every time. And you are the one who appears on occasion with food or a ball or a piece of whadaya-call-it…rope! and what great fun that is until his gums bleed and you pin him to the floor and say “No more!” so sternly, and he’s not sure why you have to be so strict, but he loves you and gets excited when he hears that noise that means you’ll come through that wall opening that appears and then disappears so suddenly, and how in the world does that work, he wonder, and now here you are with meat! You have meat and boy does that look good and his nostrils flare as you wave that tasty treat in front of him, and he doesn’t really know why he’s backing up with that nasty bone when you’re right there with a huge chunk fresh USDA inspected beef and all he has to do — he knows this somehow as his tail drops, still wagging between his hind legs — all he has to do is let go of the bone, just drop the bone and you’ll almost certainly — he doesn’t know why you would, but it’s not his to question; he hasn’t, as far as he can remember, done anything to deserve it, but you’re so good that way; it’s part of why he loves you — you will almost certainly give him the meat and all he has to do is drop the bone and golly does that meat look good and boy is this bone ever dry, and he would, he would take the meat in a second because he trusts you and believes in you and you’re holding meat right out in front of him almost touching his nose and his tail is between his legs and hardly even wagging anymore — it’s just one too many operations under the circumstances — and the circumstances are that you have the beef and he’s pretty doggone sure you’ll give it to him if he’ll just drop the bone but you gotta understand, the beef is just a promise, and he knows it may not be much but he’s got the bone.

That’s the dog’s dilemma. You see his problem don’t you?

— from Posers, Fakers & Wannabes by Brennan Manning and me

The Dog's Dilemma is available as a video download (featuring the talented Brian Boyle).

jim hancock

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