Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In the Middle of a Dog Fight

There are blessings and curses with living in the country.  The blessings, of course, I have listed before.  The curses, not so much because I usually don't focus on them.

But every once in a while, they are shoved into your face, and you can't avoid them.

Yesterday was one of those times.

I was headed home for lunch.  A neighbor from down the street had come to see if he could use my phone.  He has three dogs: two of them un-neutered males.  Much of the time, they run freely in the area, even though his yard is fenced.   This day was no exception: the two males had joined my neighbor in his quest to use my phone.

As my neighbor approached me, another neighbor's dog (who mysteriously had gotten out of the house) came tearing toward the initial guy's pets.  This dog too was un-neutered.  Apparently, he was on bad terms with the dominant male of the first guy's pack.  A fight ensued.

I am no stranger to dog fights.  We have two spayed dominant females.  Those of you who have been in this situation before know--that ain't a good thing.   And they are vicious.  I've had to break up more than one battle between my two females, and I have the scars to show it.  Fortunately, I have learned that when such battles occur, I must wait until the right moment to secure both of my dogs' choke chains.  When I can get them and twist them, I effectively end the fight because neither can breathe.  The animosity is still there, but the fight is over because they have a choice: breathe or fight.  Most dogs, even though the desire to fight is still there, do want to live.

My wife and I believe in responsibility, and we believe we have the responsibility to take care of our pets, even two which will fight.  Therefore, our house is a maze of baby gates.  No longer do our children really need them, but our pets do.  Out two female dogs spend the entire day and night separated from each other.  Not only do we want to endanger their lives, but if one of our kids were to get between those two dogs while fighting...well, I hate to even go there.

Which brings me back to the dog fight I witnessed.  I could see this thing unfolding right before my eyes.  My neighbor's boxer versus the other neighbor's lab mix.  Neither dog was wearing a choke chain, and neither one was backing down.  The lab mix actually was the top dog in this battle.  I have little doubt he would have killed that boxer.  He was bigger and stronger, but definitely not quicker.  However, I have noticed that dogs usually don't use their quickness when it comes to fighting.  They tend to rely on their strength.

As the two battled, the lab's owner got himself in the middle of it trying to break it up.  He started asking for my help.  Now, I know I'm supposed to help others.  I know as part of my faith tradition, I'm supposed to lend a helping hand.  But at that moment, I was not going to get myself in the middle of a dog fight.  #1: They weren't my dogs.  #2: I didn't want to get bit.  For those of you who know, the odds of getting bit when trying to break up a fight are extremely high unless the dogs have choke collars that you can easily grab.  #3: I have no idea what the vaccination records of these dogs are.  I don't know if they've had their shots, and the last dang thing I need is to go through a series of rabies shots.  No.  I wasn't about to get involved in that dispute.

I ended up running to the home of the guy who owned the boxer.  He came out, and they eventually separated the dogs.  The boxer was hurt pretty bad with a couple of gashes near his neck.  Nothing fatal, but definitely debilitating for a while. 

And of course, no one did anything illegal.  That's one of the curses about country life.  You can let your pets run all over God's creation with no consequences.  They can fight and bite, and there's really nothing you can do about it.  My wife and I said we wouldn't move out here until the back yard of the parsonage was fenced.  And when we used to take our dogs for a walk it was always on a leash.  Cities and towns can enforce such things--not in the country.

I'm not complaining about this; it's just the way it is.  We've adapted and will continue to take responsibility for our animals.  But, again, I refuse to get in the middle of a dog fight.

Yet, how many of us do so even in our regular lives?  How many of us interject ourselves into fights between others?  How many of us take sides or try to separate warring parties, and we are the ones who eventually get bitten?

I know Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers."  But how does one go about making peace between parties that literally hate each other and will fight to the death?  How does one go about making peace without getting one's self "bitten" or worse?

I make it my policy as a  pastor to refrain from entering into any family disputes.  There have been one or two of them that I've come across.  I make it known that I am available to talk to anyone, yet I will not try to tell anyone what to do.  I make it known that I have a care and concern to see families reunited and made whole, but I will not try to save them unless all parties agree to work together.  I tell them I will pray for them; not that someone will come to their senses (usually in a dispute both sides have some blame), but that God's Spirit of healing will work among them.

Is this chickening out?  Is this failing to follow the words of Jesus?  Maybe.  Maybe I am completely wrong, but I also know how foolish it is to get in the middle of a dog fight.

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