Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Perils of Loving a Tomato Picking Dog

My dog picks tomatoes.
I wish I were joking but I'm not.
The first time we found a tomato on our bedroom floor, pocked with doggy teeth marks, we were such proud parents. Did you see what Our Smart Doggy did? He even picked a ripe one! What an amazing pooch, copying us like that!

As we gushed on about his intelligence, Tanner just ducked his head in embarrassment, the same way he does when we catch him stealing crackers off the counter, or when we discover he's spent the afternoon hiding out with a highlighter, turning his entire snout day-glo yellow. He stared at the ground and scratched a paw at the floor, as if to say, "Who, me?"

But as the summer progressed and the tomatoes grew even more delicious and fewer in number, I began to get annoyed. Tomatoes began showing up daily in random places in my house. Another tomato ruined? I began to resent all the Resolve I had to spray when Slobber Dog lost self control and mauled his homemade spaghetti sauce all over the carpet.
This resentment felt faintly familiar.

I pondered it a moment and a light bulb flashed. Yes! This was just like the time he learned to open doors with his doggy paws! We were so proud, at first. That dog had watched us and copied the flick of our hands on the french doors. Wasn't that amazing? We clapped and petted and invited neighbors over to watch. We even took video and posted it on youtube. But then he started letting himself in during a dinner party, grinning at us and waiting for applause. What happened, he seemed to say as I locked him in the den. Why doesn't Mommy let me climb my 90 pound body onto the people's laps? They love me! Everyone does!

I had to feel a little sorry for Slobber Dog. He was just doing what comes naturally.

Yes, Tanner is a master copier. When anybody hugs, he'll cry and bark until we help him stand on his hind legs and join in. (Yes I know, it's a little silly looking. Don't tell anyone.) And that's not the worst of it. We have to keep him inside whenever Todd has to plant anything or else that dog will follow at his heels, digging polka dot holes all over our backyard.

We even planted our tomatoes on an old coffee table, just to keep Tanner out of the dirt.

So how does he pick them? I am still trying to figure it out.
He's a different species, obviously, with no nimble fingers to grasp the fruit, to twist it gently until it falls into his palm. I'm guessing he adapts by using what God gave him, those yards of flexible jowling made for cradling birds, the extra facial skin my middle child calls his glibber.

I've hidden outside with the video camera, hoping to get the heist on tape, but no such luck. I just get hot and sweaty and attacked by bugs, while Tanner stays cool in the AC and watches me from the window. Smart dog.

I guess that's the danger inherent in our natural tendency to imitate. I see it in my kids as well. They may copy my friendliness with the grocery store clerk, but they'll also copy what I say when somebody cuts me off in traffic.
And it's no different with grown ups, I'm afraid.
I'll hang out with my friend Susie, and before you know it I'll have picked up the generous way she listens, making you feel like you're the most important person in the world. Suddenly I've picked up "Hugs to you," typing in her sign off as if I thought of it myself.

But then I'll spend a few moments around negativity, and I'll hear it coming out of my own mouth. What? I didn't want to copy that!
Negativity has no part of the imitation I want to live. I'm a Christian, literally a "little Christ." (Now that's a daunting title, don't you think?! It makes me want to stay locked in the house with my mouth taped shut! ) I want to do what Ephesians instructs:

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Ephesians 5:1-2

Live a life of love.
It seems impossible, too big, too ambitious in this world. God is a different species of being. God is so much bigger and greater and full of love than anything I can think of. I'm puny and small and human and weak. I can try my best, but how can I even come close to imitating God?

I can use what God gave me: God in human form, Jesus, the living example. I can study Christ's life and do my best to imitate His love. I can pray for help. And when I fail in my journey, I can cling to grace and try again.

Now, if I can just share the love with my tomato stealing dog. Maybe a short fence around the coffee table garden? As if it doesn't look ridiculous enough!

What helps you in your journey to imitate The One?
And while you're at it, any ideas on tomato crime prevention?

Have a great Wednesday, y'all!
Love, Becky
PS. Here's the video of Tanner showing off. And just so you know, I don't usually talk like a high pitched Snow White. It's my mommy's-got-a-treat-for-you voice. Enjoy!


Alise said...

No ideas on the crime prevention, but what a great story!

That imitation thing is crazy. I have so completely adopted the word "delightful" into my regular conversation due to my best friend's frequent use of it.

To be a better imitator of Christ, I try to ask myself, when doing/saying something, "Is this loving?" When I remember to do that, I think it makes me a little bit more like Jesus. Certainly when I don't do that, I'm a lot LESS like Jesus.

Jean Wise said...

Love this story! Quite a lesson in persistence - something that would help me in my journey to imitate Christ better. When I pray for a single focus - eyes and hearts on God alone - that helps me. I think Tanner does the same thing with tomatoes. Thanks for a great lesson this morning.

Paula Clare said...

Hi Becky!
I LOVE Tanner the Tomato Stealing Dog! He's so precious that I cannot imagine getting upset with him...over ANYthing!

Our furry family members are such good imitators of us, aren't they? Oh to be such an imitator of God! I generally question my motives..."WHY are you doing this?" For you? For them? For gain? For glory? For God? That is enough to keep me on the straight and narrow...with examples like Jesus and Francis of Assisi, it feels a lot to live up to...but then, there's a place in God's kingdom for us who are more like the Tomato Stealing Tanner...we TRY. Our efforts are frail. But we occasionally come back with a tomato for our trouble. :-)

Paula Clare

Anonymous said...

Clever dog! Great Snow White voice!
I cringe when I think of what my kids imitate of my behavior--that sure keeps me in check. I want to be more loving. I really do.

Bonnie Gray said...

It definitely helps to know people who reflect Christ's qualities. It's infectious -- the joy and the quiet calmness. It doesn't mean they don't struggle, but they have the ability to be trasparent through the process.

Laura@OutnumberedMom said...

What a smart pooch! Love the video.
Does he eat the tomatoes? We didn't grow them, but we had a dog that loved to eat them, so I always shared when I made a salad.

I sure do know what you mean about imitation. Imagine what would happen if we hung around the Father a bit more...

Attic Rat said...

I think it is hilarious that you got all hot and sweaty and Tanner just watched you from the nice, cool house.

I guess the tomatoes look so much like a red tennis ball . . .

Susie said...

Love the image of you lurking in the yard with your video camera! Reading your posts always help me to remember to try and look at the world with your gift of gentle eyes that look at others with kindness. I believe that God gave each of us different gifts so that we can inspire each other!

lynnmosher said...

LOL! Oh, I loved this! Too funny! I've never heard of a dog imitating humans like that before. Suggestion for retaining your tomatoes: put chicken wire around the base of the planter. Hope you enjoy more tomatoes! :D

Deb said...

Tanner reminds me of the local orchard who has "Molly the Peach Dog" -- who gently picked out a ripe peach from the fruit stand, carried it gently in her mouth, and sat down under a tree to eat it, carefully spitting out the skin and the pit.

Dogs! You gotta love 'em! :)