Saturday, September 27, 2008

Too much of a good thing

While teaching me the benefits of living in the here and now, from time to time Mr. James also demonstrates why unfettered ability to follow every impulse of the moment isn't always a smart strategy.

This dog will eat anything, without apparent restraint. He catches and consumes flies. Walking him requires vigilance to keep him from eating leaves, acorns, even cicadas that continue to buzz while he swallows. If he had access to his bag of dog food, he'd chow down until his intestines exploded. Now and then he'll be successful getting into something he shouldn't and have a miserable (for all of us) day or two of diarrhea as a result.

But living in the moment as he does, he doesn't connect the forbidden food with its unpleasant consequence. He sees something he wants now, and without a clearer head to restrain him, goes for it.

This morning I took him out in our fenced back yard, which usually is fairly safe territory. We do have tomato plants in our tiny garden, and if he happens to find one on a vine that extends beyond its encircling wire cage I don't much worry. Squirrels eat our tomatoes freely and come back the next day for more, so I don't stress out over Mr. James scoring a tomato or two.

He didn't get any tomatoes this morning, but as I turned my attention to conversation with the next-door neighbor, I let Mr. James sniff, pee and hunt for chipmunks to his heart's content. Thus it happened that I did not notice the dead bird he found until it was too late to do anything but watch the tips of its feathers go down his hatch.

He's now asleep in his little dog bed, presumably digesting the bird, and I'm watching and waiting. I don't know what will happen next -- maybe just some intestinal distress, maybe something that calls for a trip to the animal hospital -- but I have learned once again that this dog's unbridled instinct to go for what looks good now, no matter how shiny or tasty it seems in the moment, can have negative consequences that are unpleasant for him and require cost and clean-up for us.

So a little bit of attentive forward-thinking and action on the part of someone with a bigger-picture perspective may preclude problems down the road.

Is there a parallel between my inattentive regulation of Mr. James's voracious appetite, and the $700 billion mess that short-term gain from creative mortgage financing schemes has dropped at our collective doors? You be the judge.

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