Chronicles of Sadie

Dog Food and the Garden of Eden

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Anticipatory planning rarely equates to reality. Three years before Sadie was in our house, we brought home a little two-pound puppy named Brutus. Jet black. The runt of the litter. Gentle and submissive. Brutus was the perfect dog from the get-go.

Pregnancy then brought about a whole host of ideas about the new dynamic of having Sadie in a house that up to that point had been shared by two adults and a dog—a dog who thinks he’s human, mind you. I am convinced that Brutus is convinced that whatever we are privy to in life, he is also entitled to. Our food. Our vehicles. Even our leaving of the house is an action that he feels he should have every right to join, as evidenced by his hiding under the vehicle in protest.

To say the least, I was worried about how Brutus would react to another living being not only sharing, but dominating his canine turf. As much as we loved our little dog, I would not tolerate the slightest bit of aggression towards Sadie. In other words, unless Brutus got it from the start, there was a good chance our perfect little world of dog and master would be forever changed.

So we did our best to prepare our little puppy for the changes that were coming. On my trip back to the house to check on things the day after Sadie was born, I even brought one of Sadie’s hospital toboggans and gave it to him to give him some time to get familiar with her scent.

Then the big day came. When we walked in the door, we let Brutus sniff and explore the new baby under a very watchful eye. The result was success! He licked the baby with a sweet puppy kiss and that was that. From there on out, Brutus seemed as concerned about Sadie as we were. When she was crying, he would hover around her crib as if to say, “Hey you guys, something’s wrong with that baby.” He would even push her toys towards her with his nose.

But the relationship between dog and newborn began to transform as Sadie approached the toddler stage. Basically, Brutus and Sadie simply began tolerating each other. At first, she seemed quite disinterested in his presence. To be quite honest, his fur was so dark that I think she had trouble deciding if he was an actual living organism or just another fluffy toy amidst the mile-high stack of possessions she had already accumulated at such a tender age. But once she began to actually notice Brutus, she became intrigued with him. I’ll never forget one of the first times she reached out to grab and “extract” a full painful fistful of his fur. It had to hurt, but Brutus showed grace and restraint in the face of baby torture. He never faltered and he never gave up whatever secret codes his captor was demanding with her babbling. However, from there on out he did often reposition himself a few feet from her grasp.

For those few months of the crawling stage, Sadie and Brutus pretty much avoided each other—each having their own agendas of important things to do. Sadie spent her days amidst the mountain of toys in the living room, while Brutus rummaged in and out of her space stealing away what little toys or scraps of food he could find from her stash, like a mini house-broken hyena picking off the sickly wildebeest from among the herd.

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But yet again, change blew our way and Sadie began to invade Brutus’ space as well. Even this morning as I was writing this, I’ve had to remove one of Brutus’ chew toys from Sadie’s mouth on more than one occasion. No other area of our humble little home has been more hotly contested than the few feet that surround the dog’s food and water bowls. Now to Sadie’s defense, those bowls are on her level and would seemingly be okay for her to access—except that we have decreed them off-limits. So the game of cat and mouse commenced, or should I say dog and mouse… or dog and baby—well, you get the point.


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We began removing dog food from Sadie’s possession by the gross and soggy mouthful. Brutus’ water bowl became Sadie’s personal swimming pool. We even caught her taking a sock, sopping it in the water, and showering the wall with it. Nice.

So yet again, the “no no’s” abounded. This particular situation reminds me a bit of the Garden of Eden. A vast paradise is offered to God’s own created children, yet amidst the innumerable variety of fruit trees all completely available to God’s babies, one tree was deemed a huge “no no.” It was right there where they could reach it too—smack dad in the middle of the garden—seemingly the same as all the rest.

In Sadie’s life, we are energetically engaged in a process by which her infant logic must not only be reconciled with our logic, but must eventually must submit to it. “Baby logic” may say that diapers are better, but our logic that champions the benefits of the potty must prevail. Baby logic may say it is easier to stay at home, but our logic will propel Sadie into school whether she wants to go or not.

Just like Eve in the Garden, the “baby-logical” conclusion is that Brutus’ food is right there on her level and that it “… looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit (dog food) and ate it.” Genesis 3:6 (NLT). Alas, I exaggerate a bit, but the truth of God-ordained boundaries is still true—although I certainly haven’t seen any increases in wisdom since she has eaten of the tasty kibble.

I think we struggle with God’s commands because they seem to still allow us sight and access to the very things we are commanded not to do. The wrong attitude is right there beside us on the interstate. The wrong relationships still present their possibilities every day at work or at school. The wrong decisions are as readily observable as Brutus’ dog bowl.

And so, our heavenly Father continues the process with us as well. Gentle instruction. Correction. Forgiveness. Another chance. But the goal, just like Sadie—and just like Adam and Eve in the beginning—is that we will grow to desire more greatly that which our Father has spoken rather than the “dog food” of our own way.

These days, Brutus and Sadie are great friends—mainly because Sadie’s favorite game is to toss food over the side of her highchair to the canine waiting so patiently below like Rapunzel’s prince. The lessons continue.

I just pray that I learn to avoid the “dog food” in my own life—even when it is easy to access and pleasing to the eye—spiritually, of course.

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