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“Don’t forget to change your oil.” My dad gave me this pearl of wisdom more than once, often adding “You can drive your car without gas all you want, but don’t try to drive it without oil” to make sure I understood the importance of maintaining the car.
My dad taught me lots of other important things. He taught me how to tie a necktie (in fact, it was a prerequisite before I was allowed to go on my first ‘car date’). He instilled in me the importance of finishing what you start—no quitting allowed.
He also taught me everything I needed to know about power tools, which was: hand them to him and get out of the way.
But perhaps, if there was one rule that my dad taught me which superseded them all it was this: people inside, animals outside.
This was not just his opinion; it was a commandment in our household. It was not just how things were supposed to be. It was the Unbending Law of the Universe.
If we went to someone’s house where they had animals inside, we would inwardly look down our noses at them just as the star-bellied “sneetches” looked down upon those who had no stars upon “thars. “
They were obviously not very intelligent, or even civilized, because they had failed to observe the Unbending Law of the Universe: people inside, animals outside. This was just the way it was.
Fast forward 25 years. I have a beautiful 9½-year-old daughter who is the apple of her daddy’s eye. Being a loving father, I have tried to teach her (and her younger brother) the important lessons in life.
So it should go without saying that over the years she has learned of the Unbending Law of the Universe. Nevertheless, nearly two years ago she began asking for a puppy.
Now we had two dogs at the time, two medium-height fat dogs named Bonnie and Clyde, but they were old and past the point of wanting to run and play with children.
Still, because they were, in fact, dogs, we were able to put off our daughter’s requests. Bonnie and Clyde were content having free reign in our medium-sized, fenced backyard and had a nice doghouse with plenty of straw (and each other) to help keep them warm during the winter.
Unfortunately, as we prepared to move to Shelbyville last winter, we were faced with a quandary. The dogs were, by then, very advanced in age and had numerous medical problems. One was nearly blind, the other nearly deaf-- and those were just the beginning of their issues. On top of that, the house to which we were moving had a very small, unfenced backyard—not at all suitable for dogs.
So we made the very difficult decision of having the dogs put down. Of course this was sad for everyone, and it only increased the intensity of our daughter’s desire (and impassioned pleas) for a puppy.
We consistently replied that our yard wasn’t suitable for a puppy, and reiterated to her the Unbending Law of the Universe: people inside, animals outside.
As Christmas approached, the thing that was consistently at the top of our daughter’s list was, drum roll please….that’s right, a puppy. Sometimes it was the only thing on her list. She even convinced her brother to put it at the top of his list. This girl wanted a puppy very badly. And this daddy has a very soft spot in his heart for his baby girl.
Sometimes, love makes us do unexplainable things: I began to question the Unbending Law of the Universe.
We began looking at all the cute puppies in the classified ads in the Louisville paper. It was a slippery slope. Soon, my wife began to research breeds of dogs who were small, didn’t shed, and that theoretically didn’t smell like dogs (I think they are called “hamsters”).
Finally, after taking full leave of our senses, it was decided, and Santa brought a puppy to our house. In point of fact, Santa didn’t bring an actual puppy, but only the promise of one.
But for the little people in our house, that was good enough. Christmas morning was a joyous celebration, and I was the best daddy in the whole wide world.
One week later we found one of the breeds we had chosen and brought home what is quite possibly the cutest puppy ever invented. And although we knew we were running afoul of the Unbending Law, we were no fools.
We had taken measures to blunt its impact: my wife had downloaded a “How to Train Your Puppy” manual, and we had forced the children to read it. We were prepared.
But the Unbending Law would not be mocked. To be continued…
Chuck Souder is on staff at Shelby Christian Church. If you have questions or comments for Chuck, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org