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World-class Dumb

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 My dog is dumb. 

We’re talking major leagues here. Jenny has to be a worldclass competitor when it comes to no brains, which might explain her one fault: She loves me. To the bone.

She’ll do anything. Go anywhere. Suffer any indignity. Just to be with me. No questions asked. And I love her too.

We were out in the woods the other day helping my dad with a load of firewood. We had cut down a medium-sized oak, and I was chopping off the branches with my ax. Jenny liked this part. 

As I whacked away at one particularly thick branch, wood chips flew in every direction. She dashed here and there trying to catch the chips as they bounced into the leaves. Big fun.

She was content for a while to chase the chips into the leaves, but it didn’t take her long to discover that every time the ax hit the branch, chips jumped out of it. So then instead of chasing, she stood by the log, waiting to catch chips as they jumped out. This was better.

But chips fly fast, and most of the time she snapped at air. It didn’t take a genius to see she was getting frustrated.

Then Jenny stopped. Slowly she crouched down in the leaves, eyes fixed on the notch I’d cut in the branch. A look of determination spread across her face. She was going to get that next chip no matter what.

As the ax came down, she lunged for the log. Mouth agape. Eyes blazing. And she planted her head square in the middle of the cut.

My physics teacher told me that it’s a thing called inertia that keeps something moving once you get it started. And when a thing has inertia, it’s hard to stop it—or make it change direction. At that precise moment my ax had a lot of inertia.

I don’t know how I missed her. But I did. Somehow I deflected the ax.

She looked dimly disappointed that instead of a nice fat chip, all my ax came up with was some bark and dirt. Not too good for chewing.

With a patient look she settled back down to await the next fly of the ax. This time she’d catch the chip for sure.

I doubt she understood why I tied her to a nearby tree for the rest of the afternoon. It was certainly miserable trying to catch chips from that distance. And no matter how much she begged and cajoled, I just wouldn’t listen.

Like I said, not too smart, that Jenny. Whatever else she learned that day, she knew being tied up didn’t make for a fun time.

One reason I care about Jenny so much is that she’s a lot like me. She doesn’t mean to get into trouble, but somehow things never go quite right.

Her brush with the business end of an ax got me to thinking—about me. How many times has God faced the same kind of situation with me? How many times am I, like Jenny, so focused on what I want that I miss important details—like an ax flying over my head? How many times has disaster missed me by inches, and I never knew it? And how many times has God seemed to tie me up with rules and commands when all I wanted was a little fun? And how many times have I resented Him for it?

A lot. Probably more than it’s good taste to remember.

When I went to untie Jenny after the wood was all stacked neatly by the house, she bounded into the leaves without a care in the world. No thanks for saving her life. No compliment for careful thinking. Just a lolling grin.

Like I said—world-class dumb. I can learn a lot from her.


This story originally appeared in the June 3, 1989, issue of Insight. At that time Mark Ford worked in the Harvest Media Department at the Review and Herald Publishing Association. Currently he is a video editor and science illustrator in Maryland.

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