It’s a good thing Dr. Owen is open for the holidays….
Indeed, ’tis the season that people will say, “Peace, peace,” but there is no peace. As a matter of fact, I have observed a pattern that people are likely to be least peaceable the day before a holiday. I cannot properly exclude myself from this peaceless population.
I’ve been walking in my neighborhood while my treadmill is down, its worn belt redolent of burning rubber. I have enjoyed the signs of optimism evidenced in major improvement projects various neighbors are undertaking. One couple is having their entire yard recontoured and landscaped, and adding a stone patio and retaining wall. Another is having wood floors installed. People are out cleaning up their yards and generally showing pride and satisfaction in the neighborhood. But today, the day before Thanksgiving, the Undertoad washed ashore. The Precor technician is coming Tuesday to replace the belt in my treadmill, and it isn’t soon enough.
I freely confess that when it comes to dog restraint laws, I am a Pharisee of Pharisees. When it comes to responsible dog ownership, I hold rights far above neighborship.
The first confrontation turned out to be a dud, but I couldn’t know that until the mopheaded barking device stopped at the edge of its lawn. The mailman had left a package in the dog’s owner’s mailbox. The dog was in the house. For some reason, the mailman had second thoughts, and rang the doorbell. Someone answered the door, the mailman presented the package, and the braindead cur streaked out the door, right at me, barking fiercely. It didn’t matter in the least that it weighed maybe six or eight pounds. My under-medicated Addisonian brain was ticking off the sequence: Can’t meet the stress of a dog bite. Emergency room likely. Wound healing hindered by autoimmunity. Need extra hydrocortisone. More side effects.
While the dog was in motion, I called out, “Call your dog!” No one did or said anything, but the dog halted at his property line. I walked on, grateful for no worse encounter, and hoping I hadn’t seemed upset. Why should I worry about seeming upset, given that the dog was traveling extremely fast, barking menacingly, coming right at me, and given what I’d have to go through if the creature sank its evil teeth into me?
Cold and tired, I proceeded around the corner toward my home. Another neighbor was working in her front yard with her dog, a Lab, on her front porch. I have seen this dog harass other walkers before. The dog is psychotic but not stupid; he knows a mark when he sees one. He lunged into the street at me, barking and baring his teeth. The neighbor did nothing. For the second time in five minutes, I shouted, “Call your dog!”
This neighbor would probably invoke a “bad background” defense if she became a mall shooter. She didn’t say or do anything. I looked at the dog and said, “Bad dog! Go home!” and pointed to the unconcerned neighbor. Then Miss Manners emerged from her oblivion and said, “You don’t need to be rude.” It was clearly time to be going, but of course I had to add, “It’s a little rude to let your dog run loose and charge at people in the street and it’s against the law.” The law! I’m good at that.
I tormented myself over putting The Law! above my neighbor. I’ve never spoken to her, because, frankly, she’s weird; and the household as I’ve observed it streaming in and out of the house is an uncountable mess of children and adults, all genetically unaccounted for as far as anyone I know knows. I could have tried to gush over the nice doggy and asked the girl what she was planting. But that isn’t me. But either, it seems, is being a charitable neighbor.
Providentially, John Owen had something on the subject where last I left off, and I pored over my seventeenth-century therapist’s wisdom.
“Who can declare the dejections, sorrows, fears, despondencies, and discouragements that believers are obnoxious unto, in the great variety of their natures, causes, effects, and occasions? What relief can be suited unto them but what is an emanation from infinite power. . . .Hence God ‘creates the fruit of the lips, Peace peace,’ Isa. lvii.19; produceth peace in the souls of men by a creating act of his power, and directs us, in the place before mentioned, to look for it only from the infinite excellency of his nature.”
Before I reached my front door, I realized I had wished for justice and restraint, but not once had I simply invoked God’s protecting grace. But my longsuffering Savior brought forth a reminder through Dr. Owen, to rely upon the excellency and power of God’s nature, and not to wish the impossible and try to improve my own. Self-sanctification, thankfully, foiled again.