Shannon and I's first "home" together was a small loft apartment in a renovated attic of an old home on a downtown street in Toccoa, GA. It was maybe 400 square feet total and had a steep set of stairs that went two stories straight-up. Real estate agents would have called our loft "cozy with lots of character". . .
We only lived there two months but it was the source of many of our early animal anecdotes (which will be told in full in the forthcoming marriage memoirs entitled "There's a Kangaroo in the Kitchen: What Happens When an Animal-Liker Marries an Animal-Lover" Be looking for this book in early 2015.) The loft was also home to my first dog, Caleb.
My family was not an animal family. . .we only had experience flushing goldfish and the one harrowing account with Snowball the Demon Bunny (see also: Kangaroo, 2015). But my wife is Crocodile Hunter, Jack Hannah, Beastmaster, Horsewhisperer, and Jane Goodall combined. . .so we adopted a stray black border collie puppy with blue eyes and one white sock who we named Caleb.
He was a smart puppy but still a puppy. We taught him some cool tricks like speak and how to hold a biscuit on his nose and then catch it. . .but again, he was still a puppy. He would burrow under the wooden fence and run amok. He would dig up the post holding his leash line and run amok. We left him alone one time in the loft and he chewed amok. Wild and unbridled, Caleb was a free puppy.
There was another dog in my life those first two months as well, a dog that wasn't like Caleb at all. The neighboring yard to ours was home to a Doberman Pincer named Buddy. Now, I had never been a "dog" guy my whole life and I especially wasn't a "Doberman-Pit Bull-German Shepherd-Rottweiler" kind of guy. I wanted nothing to do with Buddy.
I could, however, observe Buddy from a safe distance high up in my loft. He was the stereotypical lean Doberman, a coiled spring of energy and muscle, with ears and head held perfectly at attention. But Buddy also had OCD, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or at least that's what I diagnosed him with as an Amateur Animal Psychologist. From our 3rd story vantage point I could see all of the neighbor's yard and in the midst of the green of the lawn there were numerous trails of brown where the grass had been worn away by his ceaseless pacing.
Buddy had an obsession and it was squirrels (Yes, not unlike our friend from the movie UP, though Buddy predates Dug by over a decade). There were massive oaks in his yard that were home to a monkey-like menagerie of squirrels who Buddy would endlessly track. He would trot back and forth on his worn circuit, head scanning the canopy, hoping to catch a glimpse of the fuzzy-tailed vermin that he may lecture them with his stentorian bark. . .
He never left the paths. Ever. His food and water bowl were placed on the paths. He dropped his little brown surprises right off the path. He had worn a path right by the fence so he could at least jog by when we came home to see if we were trouble (or harboring any squirrels?). We never got more than a cursory glance before his nose was pointed again to the skies. . .
One of the things I'm struck by more and more as I continue to minister in churches is there is an obsession with dichotomies, or systems that set up two things against each other. Or in another way: the Either-Or mentality. It's either this way or that way! There can be no Both-And--it has to be Either-Or! The mentality lends itself to a combative environment, where each side fears they are in error or danger if they allow any of the "other" to creep into their thinking or their practice. . .
These false dichotomies pop up in a multitude of settings in our churches and create fear, division and bickering . . .but one in particular I want to explore in the next blog is the battle set up between the Buddy Way, stick to your paths and keep your eyes on what really matters (squirrels) and the Caleb way, there are no boundaries, do as you wish and live free.
2 dogs. 2 very different approaches to life. Buddy and Caleb could've
learned a thing or two from one another and perhaps found a healthier
level of existence for each of them. . .
. . .to be continued.