Mimsy is only truly content when she knows her humans are nearby. She doesn’t feel the need to be right next to you, she’s not a velcro dog but wants to know that you are nearby. Mimsy is a Japanese Chin. They were bred to be companion dogs and Mimsy is true to breed.
My daughter was gifted an Australian Shepherd puppy. The dog was beautiful and smart, but my daughter had to find a new home for it because it kept trying to herd the kids by nipping at their heels. This dog had never seen a sheep and I’m willing to bet that you would have to go back generations and generation in this dog’s linage to find an ancestor who actually herded sheep, yet she was hard-wired to herd. She was true to breed.
Humans don’t come in breeds. We come in different sizes, colors, and shapes, but we don’t come in breeds, we are not hard-wired to any behavior. Instead, we are given this terrifying thing called free will. We can be taught behaviors and attitudes directly and by example, but we have the choice to keep or abandon those behaviors and attitudes. There are individuals who were taught to be racist and intolerant, but have abandoned those attitudes and chosen to be tolerant and loving. It works the other way also. You may have been taught to be generous and caring, but make the decision to be selfish and self-centered.
We humans have a tremendous range in which we can operate, we float between angels and demons. No one is 100% good or 100% evil, but history provides examples of those who have gotten pretty close to either extreme. We have examples of those who have sacrificed their lives to save others and examples of those who have destroyed lives with no thought given to their victims.
Every day we are provided opportunities and scenarios, interactions with other travelers where we make decisions which direction on that angel-demon scale we want to move. Most of us will never come close to either extreme, but there is a lot of latitude in which to engage. We can respond to a sleight or insult with equal rudeness or choose to offer forgiveness and care.
Terriers were bred to hunt and chase vermin, they are true to breed. If I see an Airdale terrier, with good accuracy I can predict how that dog will respond if a rabbit runs across its path. I can identify most dog breeds on sight and knowing the characteristics of that breed can make predictions on how that dog will respond to certain situations.
Since humans don’t come in breeds, I can’t predict any potential behaviors based on how someone looks. I have to get to know them. After time spent with them, I may discover that they are much closer to the angel side of things than I am, or I may discover the converse, but I can’t tell on sight.
In the beginning, God made one version of humans and we are still on 1.0, you will find no examples of people operating on Humanity 2.0 or even 1.3, we are all equal and operating on the original software, no one has gotten an upgrade that others haven’t. Some of us are smarter or dumber than others. Some are more caring and giving than others. Some are crueler than others, but in God’s eyes, we are all equal and all his children. I would be well served if I could get to the point where my first thought, upon seeing a fellow human, is to think, “Oh look, another child of God.”
Mimsy quivers with excitement when she sees someone coming toward us on our walks. Bred as a companion dog, Mimsy loves everyone she sees and assumes that they will return that feeling in kind. I can’t explain to Mimsy the complexity of humanity. I can’t explain that while most people will pet her and tell her how pretty she is, there will be others who will view her as a dirty animal, a carrier of germs and dander. I can’t explain to Mimsy, though as small as she is, there will be people genuinely afraid of her.
I can’t explain humanity to Mimsy and in truth, I don’t understand us myself.
3 thoughts on “Where I Attempt to Explain Humanity to a Dog”
Beautifully said, Tim. But that we were all Mimsys.
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I love what you said about freedom–which reminded me of the conclusion of a book I just read by Ron Hansen, MARIETTE IN ECSTACY. It’s a very Catholic novel (and quite strange and wonderful and miraculous) that was also highly regarded as a successful literary work. Really, for a faithful person, it’s as much a spiritual meditation as a story. Anyway–about freedom, the main character says, after living a life as a failed nun but very, I’d say, successful Christian: “We try to be formed and held and kept by him [God], but instead he offers us freedom. And now when I try to know his will, his kindness floods me, his great love overwhelms me, and I hear him whisper, Surprise me.” Those last two words–“Surprise me”–I’m trying to keep in my mind. How can I use the freedom I have to surprise God (in a good way!)? And, likewise, how can I be open to being pleasantly surprised by all I meet–each and everyone, as you say, a child of God. Thank you for such a good thinker post!
Love your columns!