Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Breaking Rules and Stretching Limits
By Janice Price

At eight months of age, Buddy is thirty-five pounds of lean muscle, selectively “untrainable.” In other words, he learns exactly what he has an incentive to learn, no more and no less, and he does his own thing, regardless.

Food is the primary love of his life. He can learn anything necessary to reach food. He learned to climb the chair bed/stairstep I made for my oldest cat to climb onto the washing machine. She used it to reach her food; so did he. She moved to the dryer and the shared food bowl was moved to a cabinet between the washer and dryer. He learned his way around the stool blocking his path and onto the cabinet, where food for six cats tempted him. He would crawl, climb, squeeze through — whatever it took to reach his favorite crunchy snack This was temporarily resolved with a two-pound weight in the cats’ food bowl to keep it from tipping, as much as possible, and a two-pound weight on the tray beneath it.

He is tall enough now to stand on his hind legs, lean against the stool and snag Jenny’s bowl on the dryer. I turn my back for two seconds while fixing a sandwich and he filches bread or toast from my plate on the kitchen table or steals my dinner when I carry a plate in to eat at my desk. Catsup, mustard or peanut butter already spread? That’s the slice he will steal first. And when I stare at my plate, thinking, I know I had two slices of bread, Buddy will stare at the plate, as if he, too, can’t imagine how the other slice disappeared. I can see the little wheels in his head turning: I thought you still had a few bites of hamburger left. Those cat critters must have taken it again.

I already know he is a lot smarter than he wants me to know he is. But the other day he took the prize for canine ingenuity. The large dry cat food bowl, with its tray and two-pound weights, now sits on the highest cabinet in the kitchen. Buddy can almost, but not quite tip the bowl over to steal food.

I walked into the kitchen and stopped dead. A kitchen chair that was supposed to be at the kitchen table was across the room in front of the cabinet. Buddy’s two hind feet were firmly planted on the seat. His two front paws were resting solidly on top of the cabinet. His head was deep in the bowl, with mouth wide open, about to scoop up as much dry cat food as he could fit in his mouth at one time without including the two-pound weight.

“B!U!D!D!Y!,” I yelled.

Now, Buddy knows when my voice has that many decibels (!!!), he is in b-i-i-i-g trouble. Did it bother him? No, he calmly backed down from the counter, turned on the chair seat, jumped lightly to the floor, and then ran like the blazes to crawl under the couch.

How can a dog that can’t remember where he left my half-eaten sneaker figure out how to access the unattainable?

I have learned a lot of lessons from my pets. In some respects, dealing with them is much like dealing with children. They need rules and limits set to keep them safe, healthy and happy. And then they expend a lot of energy finding ways and means to break those rules and stretch those limits.

People seem to do the same with God. Ever since Adam and Eve, God —like a good parent who cares about his children — has given rules and limits to keep men safe, healthy and happy, while men have expended a lot of energy finding ways and means to break those rules and stretch those limits. People also can be selectively “untrainable.”

It’s all right. We have to change with the times. Today, homophobia is out and homosexuality is in.

According to the law, I don’t need any reason to divorce my spouse, other than irreconcilable differences. But if you want to be technical about it and quote the Bible, divorce is permissible for reason of sexual immorality. I’m already involved in an affair with another person, so it’s okay to divorce my mate.

I have never stolen anything in my life! Well, maybe a paperclip or two - Well, yes, I have eaten an apple or three, and maybe some grapes, and I guess I should count the candy bars I ate occasionally while shopping.

So I copy and paste stories to send to all my friends to forward to all their friends. And, no, I don’t bother to ask if it’s all right with the author. I just delete the name and other information with it and – well, what’s the harm in that? The Internet wasn’t even a gleam in God’s eye when the Bible was written.

I don’t read the Bible. I can’t understand it. Besides, all these folks who write books about the Bible know what they’re talking about or their books wouldn’t sell.

It doesn’t matter what I believe.

I’ve never told a lie in my life. What do you mean, I just told one?

What’s the matter with being a Christian on Sunday and an aggressive business shark the rest of the week?

Why should I forgive him? After what he did to me, God would never expect me to forgive. Yes, I know Jesus is supposed to have died so I could be forgiven of my sins, but I’ve never done anything that bad to anyone.

Buddy will continue to test new ways to break the rules and stretch the limits, but he really is not “untrainable.” Patience, correction and love, along with age and maturity, will gradually change him into a more obedient pet.

Christians are not “untrainable” either. God exhibits greater patience than I will ever have with Buddy, and because he loves us, he administers correction when necessary.

We all sin and fall short of God’s perfection, but, still, we must age and mature in Christ. Jesus never made excuses, broke the rules or stretched the limits.

© 2005 Janice Price

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