Don’t Blame the Dog: A Sunday Sermon





A Sunday Sermon:

I detest Santa Fe.  Something about the flock of soul-seeking, free-spirited white folks who pay into the commercialization, and appropriation, of spiritual enlightenment makes me cringe and, honestly, jaded.  For whatever reason I spend much of my free time in this place.  Phone calls to mom bring me away from the dried up arroyos and new faux-adobe casita and back into the formidable humid heat of a Tennessee Valley.  Now granted my mom lives south of Nashville, in a part that is nothing better in its blindness to privilege and reality as Santa Fe.  Case in point, my mom and I often talk about dog problems, corgi problems—the struggling life.

Well, if you care to hear, my mom’s dog, Wyle, decided to bite someone.  It wasn’t a nip but serious damage and certainly not the first advancement this dog has made on people, strangers or friends.  Enough of that, my mom decided, the dog is going to doggy boot camp (again, the fact that this part of the world is occupied by doggy boot camp is bewildering to me).   Well, today was the dog’s first day in boot camp.  Mixed in with German Sheppards, Pitbulls, and Rottweilers, poor Wyle and his corgi butt is about to get kicked into shape.   The one thing which the instructor suggested that stuck with my mom was the possibility that Wyle may be biting because he is in pain.  He may be going off on the first person around whenever the pain comes up; essentially, don’t blame the person, blame the pain.

The day after my mom and I talked I had to run a booth at the farmers market in Santa Fe. That day, along with two of the students I work with, we hustled and bustled and faked smiles to a passing crowd.  Tired and weary one of the students, lets call her Jessica, decided to take a break and go for a walk outside the building.  Only moments after she left, I suddenly remembered to ask her of something.  I shot out the building to look for Jessica and found her kneeling over to pet someone’s dog.  The owner was some scruffy white dude, maybe late 20’s, deep v-neck with visible nipple piercings, and greasy hair: undoubtedly, though this is presumptuous, some hipster travel kid.

Jessica turned to me with a hesitant question.  I was hardly paying attention because of the rush to tell Jessica my own question, but she asked me if we could sell some of our products to this guy for cheap.  I told her no because I didn’t have the power to make that judgement (true, it’s not my business).  Jessica, with the dog still in her hands, persisted to ask me this question. My answer was final, also I don’t pay favors to travel kids (long history).  So, in response, the guy proceeded to berate me about how nice it must be to have a bed to sleep in at night, how challenging it is to be homeless (which, somewhere in my mind seemed like a choice he was making.  He proceeded chew me out as being a dick, got up with a raised voice, “and you both should get the fuck away from my dog!”  He stormed off and left the two of us confused and shaken for most of the day.

I tell you, we all deal with some hurt, sure.  We all deal with it in different ways: movement, sitting, therapy, alcohol, anger, nature, art, lamenting, and so on. It’s important to remember that when experiencing some pain, it’s common to act out in reaction to an agitated state. Or, and I forget where I heard this once, to not let others’ feels get to you.  Like Wyle, maybe this dude was just hurting and bit back at the first person near….

But also, fuck that, and this is where my asshole mama comes out,  no one deserves someone else’s anger, especially not a 14-year-old student.  We all make choices, even when it seems like there is no choice to make.  Sure, choices become limited based on privilege, class, race, etc; but white dude, travel kid, you may carry some hurt around but you ain’t a mutt. You’re a human who decides to leave his shit around rather than clean it up.

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