I’m not the world’s biggest dog person, but I do like them, particularly when they are as easy-going and cheerful as Khaki and Max.
You’ve met these two before. They cheer for the Hoos:
They are good with kids:
And they still say “Merry Christmas” to everybody:
They are nice dogs. Plus, they are incredibly low maintenance. One time, for example, we went away for the weekend and left Max and Khaki in the care of a neighbor. When we got back on Sunday and I went over to pay the kid, he panicked.
“Mrs. Berndt! I can’t take your money!”
“Sure you can,” I said. “The Bible says a worker deserves his wages.” (I didn’t really say that, but it’s in there – Luke 10:7 – and it would have been impressive if I’d remembered it then.)
“But,” the boy protested. “I really can’t. I never went to your house! I forgot!”
Well now, that was interesting. We’d gotten home and found the dogs happy as ever. They were hungry, sure, but that was nothing new. And they hadn’t made any kind of mess in the house. They seemed good. Chalk one up in the plus column.
I tell you this back story so that you will understand when I say our dogs really don’t require much in the way of attention. And so that you will forgive me when I tell you that, when Max refused to eat his kibble last week, I was not all that concerned.
The next day, though, he started hunching when he walked.
“Maybe it’s his dreadlocks,” I suggested. Being a golden retriever in a house where grooming is not all that de rigeur, Max has been known to grow a few long ones, and I thought maybe they’d somehow gotten mixed up together and hog-tied him.
Robbie concurred, and gave Max a dread-cut. But that didn’t help.
“Maybe it’s one of his tumors,” I suggested. (He has a few of them on his belly, one that looks and feels like he maybe swallowed a jellyfish.)
“No,” Robbie said. “The vet says those things are harmless. But he’s clearly hurting. You need to take him in.”
Ugh. The last time I took Khaki to the vet, she refused to get on the scale (a reluctance with which I sympathize) and, in the ensuing struggle, I wound up on the floor, treating (subjecting?) all the other waiting pet owners to an eye-full of my underwear. And I am not making that up. I didn’t want to go there again. But it had to be done, and so off we went.
Max was content to be prodded and poked, but when the vet tried to roll him over, he whimpered.
“Hmm,” the vet said. “I think we need to do an X-ray.”
That sounded pricey, but what was I to do? To refuse, while my dog lay there whimpering, would appear more than just inattentive.
They took Max away. Ten minutes later, the vet came back. “Does Max eat anything unusual?” she asked.
(If you have dogs, you know that’s not a question you want to answer. It feels – particularly after an X-ray – more like an accusation than a legitimate query. I could think of any number of things Max might have ingested, but I stayed silent. Clearly, the vet had some knowledge she wasn’t sharing.)
We stared at each other, and finally she blinked.
“Like rocks?” she suggested. “Does he eat rocks?”
I knew Max was guilty. It’s not something I am particularly proud of (nor have I ever actually witnessed the deed) but, having found evidence in the artifacts, this was something I could not deny. But I didn’t want them to think less of my dog, so I decided to get on Max’s team and own it.
“Yes,” I answered, confident that I was doing right by my dog. “Sometimes he does eat the driveway.”
Maybe that was first for the vet, because she didn’t say anything. Instead, she inclined her head toward the door, the one leading into the back room (the one where they take animals when they have to do things they don’t want pet owners to see). “Follow me.”
I did. And there, on the X-ray machine, I saw this:
Those little white things? Gravel. And even an English major like me could see that Max’s belly was full of them.
“Can I take a picture of that?” I asked. “I mean, so I can show my husband, so that he will understand about the bill?”
(I didn’t really need to show Robbie. He likes dogs, and I knew he wouldn’t complain about the charge. I wanted the picture so that I could show you. You don’t write a blog for two years and then pass up an opportunity like this one.)
The vet grabbed my phone and snapped the pic (I guess she didn’t want me to get too close to the machine) and then shooed me back out to the waiting room. Not knowing what else to do, I posted the photo onto our family text thread, and explained the situation.
Son-in-law Geoff was among the first to weigh in:
Who else, indeed? I was definitely not feeling the love.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the vet came back to deliver the verdict. “We have two choices,” she intoned. “We can do surgery, or we can induce vomiting.”
Well then. I knew which one I would pick. Wouldn’t you? I gave the go-ahead. And then, as soon as she was out of the room, I updated the family to let them know the plan, and to ask them to pray for Max’s upcoming humiliation:
The situation was going from bad to worse. Not unlike this blog.
(And I know what some of you are thinking. You signed up for these posts to get “prayer verses and encouragement” delivered directly to your in-box, and you are now lying in bed, reading your iPhone and wondering if you should switch to Tim Keller.)
But stay with me. Because I figured there had to be some spiritual application in this experience. And there is.
Max came out of there fine and, since we’ve upped his food rations, he’s never been better. But I wondered whether he was the first of God’s creatures to eat rocks. So I typed “gravel” into the search box on BibleGateway. And, wouldn’t you know it, there’s precedent.
Proverbs 20:17 says that people who practice deceit will find themselves in Max’s condition: Food gained by fraud tastes sweet, but one ends up with a mouth full of gravel.
And for anybody out there who is considering adultery, Proverbs 5:3-4 offers this warning: The lips of a seductive woman are oh so sweet, her soft words are oh so smooth. But it won’t be long before she’s gravel in your mouth, a pain in your gut, a wound in your heart.
If you’re a regular on this blog, you know I don’t normally come down hard on people. I want you to know you are loved. But if you are thinking of lying or stealing, or if you think you wanna cheat on your spouse, think again. A mouth full of gravel? A pain in your gut? You can’t make this stuff up. And if that doesn’t make you think twice about straying from the straight-and-narrow, I don’t know what will.
Maybe just take another look at that X-ray.