Friday, January 29, 2010

Lessons from Dogs: Teddy the Teacup Poodle

I was on the front porch of a family’s home before a family assessment interview. Before I knock, I always pray that the Lord will help the interview go smoothly, since I have never met this family but will end up asking them intensely personal questions about everything: events experienced in their childhoods, details of their current monthly expenses, their beliefs on discipline of children, and much more.

Immediately after I pressed the doorbell, I heard the high-pitched yap yapping of a small dog from inside. As the homeowner showed me in, our greetings were interrupted with “No Teddy! No, no, no!” and other reproofs that were lost on Teddy, the teacup poodle. (And he had a pert little red bow in his groomed topknot. Something is just wrong with a male dog wearing a bow, even if he is a teacup poodle.)

He continued to bark and complain about my entrance. As I sat at Homeowner’s kitchen table, set up my laptop, and began the interview, Teddy busied himself about my feet. I looked down to see him gnawing on the strap of my canvas laptop bag. Sure, his teeth were teensy, but I figured they could do some damage, so I hauled the bag onto my lap. I typed more of Homeowner’s answers into my computer, and Teddy began chewing on my leather bootlace. An expensive lace on a nice, expensive suede boot.

I did not want to bring out my Alpha-Dog Self, to swell my chest (ha, if only. . . ), glare, bare my teeth, and hiss at the dog. Indeed, that usually makes both man and beast back off. I had barely met this woman, and my next questions were about events of abuse in her childhood, so instead, I gently pushed Teddy away with the toe of my boot and dutifully went on typing her responses to my questions.

Teddy was undaunted. Once I said, “Now Teddy, you can’t have my shoelace!” hoping Homeowner would remove Teddy to another location, but she didn’t. She reprimanded him strongly, but he was oblivious to her remarks. He continued in his determined attempt to chew my bootlace to a rawhide pulp. While she was responding emotionally about why her first marriage had failed and what she learned from it, I put my laptop bag down on top of my feet, between my suede boots and his sharp tiny teeth. He began to work on the canvas strap again.

Whew, expensive suede boots saved. I hurried through the interview as quickly as possible.

As I reflect on Teddy, I learn a Lesson from Dogs.

Gnawing on people’s stuff is annoying. Teddy’s behavior distracted me. I could not fully engage in Homeowner’s responses because of the insistent troubling of a small thing underneath the table, at my feet. Grrr, thank you, Teddy; I, too, sometimes “gnaw on people’s stuff,” their imperfections, their flaws, the smaller aspects of who they really are. I see what a royal pain I am when I persistently bite, nip, trouble, and bother someone about a small thing. I need to let it go.

Gnawing on people’s stuff can do damage. Fairly insignificant, my bootlace and laptop bag strap. Teddy’s little teeth left only tiny marks. But given enough time and persistence, I think eventually my expensive boot could have become a valueless dog toy. I, too, can diminish the value of my relationships by adding another, and another, and another nick or mar.

Gnawing on people’s stuff makes you less loveable. Teddy was a cute little boy, and with different behavior I might have taken him onto my lap and we could have enjoyed each other. As it was, I carefully chose what I carried and what I wore the next time we met; I was prepared to avoid him.

Oh, so sad.

1 comment:

  1. WOW! Thank you! I am just like this...and I use the excuse that I am just trying to help...I wonder how much better my relationships would be if I had not been this way. So much to change but thank the Lord HE is here to help me! Thank you again Mrs. Krebs!