IMG_5559Two perfect puncture marks, accented by a spiderweb of cracks, adorn the screen of my son’s new, only-had-it-since-Christmas, please-Mom-I-really-need-it smartphone. It actually doesn’t look that bad; I’ve seen people using phones that look as if they’ve been on the receiving end of a sledgehammer with nary a hiccup of service. Even so, those two marks that perfectly match our dog’s dentition are enough to ensure that the screen won’t respond at all.

Of course, my boyo is mad. His best buddy in the world took a bite out of his social livelihood. What a jerk, right?

I’m not so sure. After all, Wallace is a puppy. Chewing has been etched into his DNA since before time began. At seven months old with new molars erupting, the urge is stronger than ever. He might know he’s not supposed to, but that beautiful, shiny toy was just lying there in plain view on the couch like an open invitation. And the fact that it smelled like his favorite human-brother must have sealed the deal.

Wait. It was lying on the couch unattended? In an environment where we have to put shoes on high shelves to avoid Wallace’s mouthy attention? Where boyo insists on keeping his bedroom door shut so his favorite puppy can’t wander in unattended and chew stuff up?

Hmm. Who should have known better here? Whose fault was it really? The dog’s, for doing what he has been genetically programmed to do? Or the kid’s, for failing to take Wallace’s into account puppydom and properly safeguard his possessions?

Boyo didn’t like that when he called to plaintively report the transgression, my first question centered on why he had left his phone unattended–and the second on why he had left the dog unattended. I would have reminded him of Aesop’s fable about the snake (You knew what I was when you picked me up, so why did you do it?), but he wouldn’t have listened.

He wanted to kennel Wallace for the rest of the night, shame him on the internet, and refuse to talk to him for weeks. Sorry, bud, but it doesn’t work that way. Punish him in the moment to deter future bad behavior, but the responsibility rests on you. It’s your job to take care of your stuff. YOU knew better.

He doesn’t want to hear that. He wants to whine and point fingers and lash out. He’s mad, but deep down, he’s really mad at himself, and here’s the reason, whether it involves a puppy or anything else:

Placing blame is easy; shouldering it isn’t.

We could all use a reminder of that from time to time.

When you point your finger ’cause your plan fell through, you’ve got three more fingers pointing back at you. –from Solid Rock, by Dire Straits


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