I came home to find Blake celebrating. This was not a good sign.
It’s not that I mind dogs being happy. When you have an 85-pound English Labrador, sudden happiness for the smallest of reasons is part of the package. (“Mom woke up! AGAIN! Come on, let’s go downstairs NOW!”)
So yeah, happy is OK. But when Big Blake is outright ecstatic, there’s only one possible reason. He’d gotten away with something, and something had tasted GOOD.
Sure enough. A pillowcase on the floor. The one that held Missy’s leftover Halloween candy. The one that suddenly held a lot less Halloween candy than it used to.
Did you know you can hit Warp 7 when driving to the vet?
Yes, all is now well. Expensively well, but well. The dog with the iron stomach who has survived eating everything from baby wipes to grapes can now add “Halloween chocolate” to the list. (For those who don’t know, chocolate is poisonous to dogs, but the combination of a big dog and cheap milk chocolate is more survivable than most – though you still want a vet to make him throw it up FAST.) He’s gassy now, but basically OK.
I’d like to say he’s learned a lesson. But I know better. Blake has a one-track mind when it comes to anything edible – or semi-edible, or inedible but enticing – and very little in the way of common sense, even at the canine level.
No, the lessons worth learning are for the humans. About keeping the dog on the radar. (I’d closed the bedroom door where he usually sleeps, forgetting that he was quietly napping on the living room couch.) About keeping candy on the radar, especially when Missy has a habit of leaving it around despite reminders. And especially about vigilance in the ordinary tasks, so that the extraordinary ones become less necessary.
That’s a good lesson to remember with a country, as well as a canine.
Veterans Day has returned. It’s a time when we hold parades, say a few extra thank-you’s, and write or read long commentaries about how we need to remember the needs of our men and women in uniform throughout the year, and not just once every 365 days. Maybe a headline somewhere throws out a reminder of reforms needed at the VA hospitals, or homeless vets, or the thousand other things that need attending to.
It’s important. All of it. But there’s something just as important that we need to understand.
America isn’t just something to protect. It’s something to build, every day. And the job of making an America that is worth protecting is too big to be borne by our veterans alone.
It requires every single one of us.
I don’t mean that we all need to grab the nearest American flag and march down the street every day at noon, singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the top of our lungs. Displays are easy.
The real need is to pay attention. And act on what we see.
Every single one of us is “the government.” It’s our job to see to the tasks that keep the country going and make it better. To vote. To learn. To pay attention to what’s being done by those acting in our name and hold them to account when necessary – even when they’re on “my team.” To pay attention to our neighbors and their needs, so that we can make a world that’s better for all of us and not just the people who are most like ourselves.
It’s a constant duty. Most worthwhile jobs are. And it only takes a little inattention to make it all break down. To let fear drive out judgment. To let apathy tolerate “the way things are done.” To let cheering on a team – however hateful or corrupt – replace holding up a country.
it just takes a moment. And as we keep learning, correcting the mistake is always more expensive than preventing it in the first place.
Thank our veterans. And then take your turn. Shoulder your share of the work. Like a bag of candy, a country should not be left unminded.
Because if you do, it’s sure to go to the dogs.