Scout waits for me to give her the go-ahead to enjoy her favorite food: vegetarian sushi.
We took Scout along with us to a church picnic a couple of weeks ago. Scout is a very food-driven dog, and she’s amassed quite a repertoire of Stupid Pet Tricks that she can use to earn treats.
One of her tricks that gets a big response out of onlookers is something I call the Mine Game. I put her in a down-stay, and then I lay a treat on the ground in front of her and say “Mine!” in a very firm tone. Scout won’t touch the treat until I say, “OK — take it!”
It’s a cute trick to show other people, but the Mine Game also has some practical value: It establishes the owner as Alpha, it protects children (if the dog recognizes “Mine!” as a command, she’s less likely to bite an assertive toddler for yanking a toy out of her mouth), and it protects the dog from eating potentially harmful items, such as the bag of chocolate chips I spilled on the kitchen floor one afternoon a few years ago. (A quick “No! Down! Stay! Mine!” stopped Scout at the doorway and kept her from gorging herself on chocolate, which I’m told is toxic to dogs.)
Obeying this command is obviously very challenging for a little dog who really likes treats, so to reduce the temptation to disobey, Scout will turn her head away and avoid looking at the treat in front of her. If I push the treat closer to her, she just army-crawls backwards to get away from it.
Scout’s method of handling temptation is very different from most humans’ standard M.O.
We humans seem to have an affinity for flirting with disaster. Instead of trying to look away from the things that tempt us, we stare at our vices until we become obsessed with them. Instead of backing away from error, we dance as close to it as we possibly can. And then we wonder why we get ourselves in trouble.
Scout is wiser. Scout knows that if she yields to temptation, she’s going to get into trouble. Conversely, she knows that if she adheres to Principle by obeying her master’s commands, a blessing will eventually be forthcoming. It might not come as fast as she’d like, or in the exact way she’d like, but she knows that a blessing is coming sooner or later if she’s obedient, and she’s willing to wait for it.
No wonder people like her obedience demonstrations so much: In her feisty, funny, ornery-little-rat-terrier way, Scout is teaching her audience a valuable spiritual lesson.