My Dog and our Flesh

Posted on: January 12, 2013


Photo by Lisa McCoy

I have a 100 pound black lab named Chance.  He’s not 100% lab, but he seems to have inherited 100% – and then some – of all the Sanguine characteristics for which labs are famous. He’s the first to notice each of our cars whenever we arrive home and prances at the door to greet with wags that can leave welts, licks that are messy and sniffs that are truly embarrassing.  He believes every single visitor has come for the sole purpose of seeing him.  If we don’t kennel him when company arrives, they are victims of his wags, licks or sniffs.  If we do kennel him, he barks sad, torturous protests from his soft, treat-filled kennel.

We had to leave him for a week at Christmas while friends checked in on him.  He hasn’t chewed anything except his bone treats since he was a puppy, but that week he found and chewed Bill’s, Joel’s and my sandals.  One pair each.  He still had bone treats left. He’s a lab, and for a lab there is no greater sin than separation.

That means he’s also a boundary-pusher.  Bill set really great boundaries for him the first four years.  He was not allowed on the wood-floors of the living room or dining room, but had access to every carpeted room in the house, over half of our living space.  He was also not allowed on furniture or beds.

This past year, because Bill has no trouble saying no to a dog but great difficulty saying no to me, he let me call Chance into the forbidden wood-floored living room to give me comfort whenever I was there. One day he walked out of his office to find us sitting in the living room together, Chance up on the couch.  Bill gave me that look, the one that spouses everywhere give when the other has just done something they’re not thrilled with. Then he weighed the options.

“Is it important for you to have the dog on the couch?”

I nodded sheepishly and gave him the look spouses give when they really, really (really) want something they know the other isn’t thrilled with.  It had been a rough day, and having the dog next to me really did feel comforting. Bill conceded.

“As long as it’s about you, it’s okay.  When it becomes about Chance, he goes back to the family room.”

I understood.  As long as I needed Chance close by, I could have him.  If I no longer needed him so close, he should return to his former boundaries. Chance, however, doesn’t speak English.  He speaks lab.  His ears perked when he heard Bill say his name, and everything he heard after that was a variation of, “Once on the couch, forever on the couch.”  He wagged furiously from his new perch.  From that broken boundary forward, there would be no return to the old that wouldn’t be interpreted as punishment. Separation is unbearable for a lab.  Give them a living room and they’ll take the couch.

Bill spent some long weekends away last year sailing with his brother and aunt, which were incredibly therapeutic for him.  In his absence I called Chance up on his side of the bed a few times to keep me company at night. Somehow he understood that when Bill was home, he’d better not try it, and we didn’t have an issue.  Until the other night.  Bill was working late, and I, being part lab myself, patted the bed and up Chance jumped. He didn’t need to be asked twice.  I loved it, and he was conveniently back on the floor before Bill turned in.  Then came the next night.


Mommy? May I please?

As soon as we climbed in, Chance appeared on my side, laid his head on the bed, and did that begging thing with his eyebrows going up and down that is so hard for me to resist.  I petted him a few times, told him he was a good doggie, and tried to ignore him, but his eyes kept asking, “Mommy?  May I climb in?  Please?  Pretty please??”  I know I shouldn’t have been, but I was aghast.  In five years, he had never asked to climb into bed.  I was undone by his charm, and said to Bill, “Help!  He’s asking to climb in with us, and I can’t say no!”  Bill gave me that look again and then firmly said, “Down Chance!  Go lie down.”  But that smart dog only revved up the begging, adding a soft whimper – and never took his eyes off – me. Bill told him no again, this time more sternly, “Chance!  Go lie down!'”   To our shock, he didn’t even acknowledge Bill, but started wagging, still staring at me. And with those eyes!  I lay there with a new-found guilt that went something like, What kind of person could deprive this adorable dog of a bed?  Bill, not so moved, got up and led him back to his own pillow. His own fluffy pillow.  On the carpeted floor.  Next to his bone treat.  In a warm room.  Compared to his ancestor’s digs, this dog lives at the Hilton, rent-free and meals catered.

chocolate-chocolate-31167407-522-522Fast-forward to this morning.  I’m making the bed and get to thinking about Chance’s ever-encroaching mindset.  So, what is it about this dog’s behavior that seems so eerily familiar?  Ah, yes, I remember – the flesh.  Give it a chocolate once, and it comes alive at a new level and says, “Say, I liked that!  May I have another?  Please?  Pretty please??”  If I do it again, it asks for another. And then another. It usually isn’t long before its requests turn to expectations and demands. The flesh, that part of my nature that is zeroed in on my own pleasure and self-interests, will never be satisfied. I don’t mean we should never eat chocolate, but that I shouldn’t be surprised when once a treat is given, once a boundary’s moved – even an inch – that my flesh gets quite comfy and asks for more.  Give it a chocolate and it’ll take the box.

I have another slightly embarrassing story that illustrates my fleshly chocolate-loving nature.  Well, I have a lifetime of them, but am only sharing these today. Several years ago I was happily working away at my desk when I happened to walk over to my husband’s office and noticed he had a flat screen monitor.

“Whoa!  Look at all the room you can save on your desk with that thing!  May I have one?”

He rummaged through his shop and set one up for me.  It was wonderful, and I was happy.  Until I was back in his office a few weeks later and noticed he had two flat screens. On the same desk.

“Wow!  How many tabs I could have open at once (and how much work I could breeze through) if I could just have two monitors at once!”

When a  client later switched to a laptop I became the happy owner of two flat-screens.  Life was good.

And then, yes, I was back in my techie-hubby’s office balancing accounts with him when I noticed the strangest thing on his desk.  A mouse with no wire attached.

“How can that be?” I asked.

49043_Global_No_Packaging_angled_1He told me it was wireless.  I gave him that look spouses give when they want to hint they really, really want something, and on my next birthday I had a hot-pink wireless mouse (yes, I picked it out). Clickety-click, away I went.

To be a little more fair to myself, I do a lot of paperwork and these tools did make my work easier.  That said, I’ll spare you the wireless keyboard part of this story.

And then one day my mouse stopped working.  A frozen screen in the middle of many open projects can be a frightful thing.  Bill wasn’t home, and I asked our precious Patrick what was wrong.  Ooops, I forgot Patrick was in this story or I probably wouldn’t have started it.  I’m here now, so let’s see if I can keep going.

“Batteries are dead,” he said.

I rummaged for a battery, but had none in stock.

“No problem,” he said, “I’ll reattach a wired mouse for now.”

It’s embarrassing for me to write that for a week, I looked at that wire with irritation.  Every time I had to push it out of the way, it reminded me of the batteries I hadn’t bought yet, errands I hadn’t run, tasks I hadn’t completed, all the projects still undone.

And then one day I realized that my flesh had just eaten that box of proverbial chocolates, burped, and demanded more. It wouldn’t be satisfied with a wireless mouse – there would always be one more thing to pine for, more things to come along and irritate.  I had to make an about face to begin counting my blessings again – beginning of course with the Lord, blessings of home and family, work in a shaky economy, a computer to even have a mouse to be wired to, and on and on.

Sugar-cream-openI think that was about the same time I was battling sugar ants in the kitchen. I’d reminded kids to put the sugar canister lid on tight, and not leave traces of food on the counter at night. With high school and college kids there seems to be a whole lot more night snacking that goes on. I was doing everything right to get rid of the ants, and was  winning the battle.

One morning, I flipped on the kitchen light to see traces of food on the counter, alongside the sugar canister, lid ajar, and a trail of sugar-drunk ants staggering back to wherever they came from – apparently some invisible pin-prick hole in the wall that only appeared when they gave the secret sugar ant tap.  You can imagine how my flesh responded.  “I want, I need, I deserve, I have the right to…” filling in these blanks with “an ant-free counter and kids that listen.”  I am so thankful I was the only one up, and had the sense and grace in the moment to see that my flesh had just made the leap to the couch.  I got up my courage and said, “Down Flesh!”  And began counting my blessings again.

And just last week I was raking with Joel when I found five or six freshly dug holes in the lawn, telltale signs of an armadillo.  I had spent months last year trying to capture one that wreaked havoc in our lawns, and many hours repairing the damage.  We had finally trapped it, and Bill drove it miles away to release it.  I couldn’t believe we had another one.  I threw my hands up in disgust and turned to Joel.

“Noooo! “ I cried.  “Not another armadillo!  We just got rid of the last one!  Look at all this damage!”

Joel, nonplussed and Sanguine as ever, beamed a bit of a sarcastic grin and put his hand on my shoulder.  Patronizingly, I might add.

“Mom.  Seriously?  These holes are making you angry?  What if we were living in a broken-down, one-room apartment, didn’t have groceries, we couldn’t pay rent, and the sleazy, drunken landlord was banging on the door  for us to get out?  You’d be pretty happy to trade that for an armadillo in the yard, wouldn’t you?”

I looked up at that 6’2” frame and into those twinkling blue eyes .  They were twinkling because he knew he was right and he enjoyed having the edge on me.

“Okay, you’re right,” I sighed. “I really am thankful for all I have, armadillo and all.”

I gave him a kiss.  And with that I could just see the flesh backing off the couch and returning to its former boundary.  Yes, that’s right – Down Flesh, Down.  I’m back to counting my blessings once again.


Patrick and Chance, 2010

11 Responses to "My Dog and our Flesh"

So what am I supposed to do with the armadillo that is back in our yard??? LOL

Hey there Sweet Neighnbors and friends! Bill says this next one’s your if you want it! 😉

Do NOT send it back to ours, Neighbor! LOL

That was fantastic!

Thank you, Lisa! Many blessings, Mardy


I still have yet to meet you. So much wisdom…boundaries are all around…and while most of the time I like to think I don’t want boundaries, they really are a good thing and we all NEED them. Boundaries for our kids, our marriage, our friendships and especially for ourselves! Thank you for Sharing!

I look forward to meeting you some time, Ashley. Blessings to you…

Great post, Mardy. We really have far too many blessings to let small things produce irritation and steal our joy. Even so, I don’t want ants in the house or varmints in the backyard. Hope you capture your armadillo soon.

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