The Book of Bandit – ch 2 – The Lesson of the Acorn

The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps. -Prov 16:9-

Just a month into owning a new puppy I had an idea of special magnificence.  I would bring Bandit to my next writing retreat! 

A writing retreat is a practice that I learned from Rev. Adam Hamilton during a networking opportunity in the UMC, it’s to step away for a week and write sermons in advance.  Rev. Hamilton can get a year’s worth of sermons started on his retreat.  I’m lucky to get half of that, but it’s still very valuable. 

I take my time away at our family fishing spot, where we share a modest (and extremely cozy… really quite small) little home on the water.  My plan:  to bring the new pup, who would lounge lazily in the living room while I wrote, and in my plan Bandit was going to enjoy walks when I took breaks. 

That… was the plan.

This… is what actually happened

Day one – the problem

To help the little guy settle in, I give a guided tour of the house and he sniffs everything appreciatively, and we watch an episode of Dr. Who and snack on peanuts.  Then I get ready to take him out to do his business so I can sit down and write. 

This is where everything falls apart. 

In the lawn, our beautiful oak trees have produced an obscene amount of acorns, they are everywhere.  Bandit develops an instant and permanent acorn craving and begins to devour them like his little puppy life depended on it.  I try to stop him;  it does not go well;  I bring him inside. 

But he’s still a loaded puppy, he was so fascinated with those rotting seeds that he literally could not go to the bathroom.  I can’t write with an impending movement.  We try two more times which basically just become a tapas tour for Bandit. 

We go back in the cabin… he’s still loaded.  I’m googling to determine the toxicity of an acorn when I hear a new noise from the dog.  Oh, I can put my phone away now, the acorns are on the carpet.  The puppy happily romps around as I clean up the mess, he obviously feels fine. 

I patiently explain to Bandit that acorns are not food, he licks my hand and wags his tail.  We have an understanding.  We go back outside. 

There is no understanding… this impossible struggle lasts all day, no sermons get written. 

Day two – the un-resolution

I wake up and think:  today is another day, things will calm down, it will all work out. 

Bandit wakes up and thinks… another day of the new poop-less acorn buffet!  This dog is on a mission to consume every seed on the lawn.  I fish another acorn out of his mouth and I plead with the puppy in the front yard for clemency.  I have work to do, this simply cannot continue.  He widdles on the mailbox and chews another acorn. 

I consider raking them, or picking them all up by hand…  they are rotten and falling apart, and they flit between the tines of the rake.  My calm is disturbed. 

In addition to this problem, we also have another one…  Getting sermons written for my job is not a priority for Bandit indoors or out.  Playing, barking, whining, and generally looking cute… is a priority for him.

As the sun considers setting, I descend into math and philosophy.  40% of my writing time has evaporated, and I have completely failed at getting this small fluffy pup to do anything I wanted him to do.  There is obviously either a defective puppy, or a defective owner in the mix here. 

I call the vet, something must be wrong with the dog. 

Nothing is wrong with the dog.  I head to Petsmart and end up finishing this day standing in the yard with a puppy who looks like he belongs in Silence of the Lambs (because of the muzzle – vets advice).  As I watch him try and try to get the acorns for 10 minutes there is an undeserved sense of justice, and of compassion, I feel your pain buddy.  He succumbs to the call of nature, finally.

Was I supposed to write something today? 

Day three – intervention

“You know… I haven’t prayed at all since I got here” is literally my first thought on waking, AND the pup is still asleep.  So I step outside to sit by the water and do what St. Benedict says is more important than breathing. 

I pour out my heart and soul to the Lord, which contains several variations of “I’ve lost two days I’m so far behind” and “this crazy dog!” 

And prayer does what it’s supposed to do: I recognize immediately that my problems are really nothing at all compared to what most of the people I know are facing.  I even feel a bit embarrassed at having even brought them up, but also…  there is an answer.  Nothing audible, just a peace and understanding. 

Which my mind translates into:

“So…  you’re having trouble getting something that you love to behave in a way that’s best for it?  It just keeps making the wrong decisions?  Focusing on the wrong things?  …   I think you and I have some experience with that.” 

And then a soft suggested whisper of “…maybe it’s not about control.” 

I look up and feel the wind on my face (this is not a supernatural thing, there’s like always a breeze there, it’s one of my favorite things about that seat).  And I walk back into the room to an awake puppy. 

I look at him, for real, maybe for the first time.  We talk and we play (well I talk and he tilts his head sideways about the weird sounds I’m making).  I stop worrying about my timeline and give the dog my full presence for a while.  It’s not really very long, but it’s good in some way that previous times were work instead, or tasks.  I have to put the muzzle on to take him out and he doesn’t like it. 

Yeah… if you thought he was going to magically stop eating acorns… think again. 

But he does do what’s needed with surprising efficiency and look up with a “fine, take me in if you won’t let me eat this delicious landscaping.”  And then he grabs and chew toy and chills out, and I have my time back. 

I guess I had forgotten.  God never controls us, and it always goes wrong when we try to control others…  maybe the same is true for creation as well.  Control never works, but listening, attending, and influencing often does.  It’s what God does for us, it’s how Christ ministered on earth, and it even works with the small stuff. 

1 thought on “The Book of Bandit – ch 2 – The Lesson of the Acorn”

  1. Thank you for pouring out your experience with Bandit during your retreat. It is amazing how a pet’s action can lead us to a life lesson.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *