Mark Kelly

Stories of faith and life

We bought a dog last year. Our very first family dog, in fact. She is a beautiful Border Collie with a gorgeous black and white coat, and we have named her Charley. When we went to have a look at her, she had about seven other siblings with her, and two things attracted me, in particular, to her. The first, and most apparent, is she has two different coloured eyes. One brown as you would expect, the other is blue (a bit like you’d find more traditionally in Huskies). Apparently, it’s not really blue, it just looks that way. Something about inheriting a Merle gene from one of her parents and therefore a lack of brown pigmentation. Whatever the reason, she is very striking to look at, and I thought it wonderfully quirky.

The second reason was intelligence, or at least what I interpreted as the potential for being intelligent. Border Collie’s, as a breed, are regarded as the most intelligent of all dogs and so with a little patience and a lot of love they can learn some amazing tricks. As I looked down at this gaggle of pups (I don’t think that’s the plural for puppies, but we’ll go with it!), I observed her, and her brother’s and sister’s, behaviour. She certainly wasn’t a shrinking violet, unlike a few of her siblings who were just meekly sitting in a corner, looking like they were wondering what was about to happen next – Charley was the thing that was happening next. Yapping and running, nibbling and sniffing, she just came across as a doggy individual who wanted to know her environment and control her environment! I knew straight away, she was going to be the dog for us, and even though I also thought that the behaviour she was exhibiting might mean she would be quite strong-willed, I thought myself up for the challenge, if it brought with it a dog that would listen and learn.

This brings us up to now, and yes, she has turned out to be as trainable as I thought, with lots of tricks in her repertoire. Charley is about about 19 months old now, and there are still things we need to work out. Like how to get her to walk to heal when she is on the lead, and not run off to try and play with other dogs she doesn’t know when off the lead. Some folks say this behaviour will actually get better with age. We’ll see, there are signs of her calming down, so they may very well be correct.

The fact is, she is an intelligent dog and loves to speak back. The chorus of howls she expects from the family when we all return home to her is something to be experienced! She’s also a big lover of bread and cheese. Apart from her own food (and walks, and footballs), these are her very favourite things, and she’ll often sit waiting at our feet, and sometimes on our feet, while we make sandwiches.

There was an occasion, just a couple of days ago in fact, when I thought I’d give her a rare treat and let her have some of my crusty bread. I ripped the roll into two. As I was about to give her half, a crumb fell to the floor and bounced a little way. She pretty much knew she was going to get the bigger bit as I’d told her as much, but despite her high intelligence and her awareness of the situation, she couldn’t help but chase after the crumb, even as I began to reach down with the larger piece. It was like every instinct in her felt that instant gratification for the smaller part was better than waiting for the potential of a greater reward.

You might see where I’m going with this.

Amazingly intelligent people can also seem not to have the patience or wisdom to wait for the greater reward, or preferred outcome, even if the promise has already been made. Some of us seem to prefer the hit of instant gratification and even seek this out in lots of different ways: money and sex, just to name the first few that come to mind. We don’t save, we use credit and sink further into debt, we prefer to sleep around rather than commit to a longer-term relationship, one that could provide comfort and support.

We can be tempted by the immediate and in doing so possibly sacrifice our future.

A story in the New Testament tells us of a time when Jesus was tempted in the desert by satan. Three times He’s promised all sorts of quick rewards if He would only bow down to satan and in doing so give over His future and, in fact, the future of all mankind, to a kingdom of darkness and hopelessness.

The good news for us is that He refused each temptation, He knew the plan and purposes of His Father and committed Himself to a victorious future.

Are you finding yourself tempted by what’s easy rather than learning to wait and possibly needing to work a little harder at getting? I’ve mentioned two earlier, but where else in your life do you think you might need to change how you approach it? Relationships at work maybe, where the quick, thoughtless put down of a colleague makes you seem the funnier guy, the one with all the wit. You might make ‘friends’ quickly, but you’ll find yourself trapped in a character you’ve had to create, one that needs to take things further each time, to keep up with your reputation and being with the ‘in’ crowd. Sarcasm and cynicism become your currency which you spend for cheap laughs and empty support.

Wow, all this from a dog preferring a crumb?

Yep, I’ve been patient, sitting on this moment knowing there was a word to bring and an encouragement to give. Why don’t you try and be the person who is prepared to wait, the person prepared to work at what is really meaningful and see what greater rewards might come your way?

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