I came around the bend on the path that ran along the stone fence in Mexico, up the mountain from where we live part of the year. A dog started barking; I spotted him, about a hundred feet from me, then he started to run toward me, barking all the way. I wasn’t overly alarmed, his demeanor was different than on previous encounters.
Weeks earlier I had met his master, a local Mexican farmer tilling his field, the field on the other side of the low stone fence. I knew he was at work someplace in the field, for I had seen his horse tied up to a tree, his mode of transportation for his commute from his house in the nearby town. The horse was munching contentedly on some corn stalks.
The farmer had brought his dog to work as well, who I apparently startled when greeting his master with “Buenos días” which is Spanish for “Good morning.” The man’s reply was less enthusiastic than the dog’s response to a stranger’s presence. The farmer had no sooner mumbled a greeting, when his dog charged at me with ferocious barking that promised to be followed by a bite. I responded by holding my ground, never breaking eye contact, and shouting something at the dog in English (which, of course, he wouldn’t understand). I barely escaped a tooth-to-flesh encounter.
The next time I encountered the Mexican mongrel I was prepared. As he approached me with barking and exposed teeth I tossed some dry dog food on the ground between us. He was immediately distracted and voraciously consumed the nuggets.
Dogs have good memories and this dog was no exception. On this most recent encounter he had me pretty well figured for being a dispenser of delectable treats, and he was not disappointed. I have a feeling our future encounters will be peaceable as well, as long as I carry a zip lock bag of dog food treats on my walks!
The canine encounters on the rural Mexican path provided me a choice as to how I could respond. I could have continued an aggressive and antagonistic attack, or switch, as I decided to do, to a kinder, gentler approach.
The choice between an aggressive, antagonistic attack or a kinder, gentler approach is available to us every day. Perhaps a server in a restaurant is not as friendly and attentive as we would expect. We can complain to management or treat the server like a human being and ask how the day is going. A co-worker or friend may have been too busy to do us a favor last week, but how will we react when that person asks a favor from us this week?
I can decide how to handle less than ideal encounters with people just like I did with the dog. I don’t need doggy treats to do it either, just the determination to take the kinder, gentler approach!
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” Romans 12:1