Monday, November 21, 2011

The Burden of Responsibility

     I ran into my friend Jeff earlier today. He was walking a pug on the end of a long leash.
     “Hi Jeff,” I said. “How’s the new dog sitting business?”
     “Business is slow,” he said. “I only have one client, but she’s very wealthy and pays me well. She said that if I do a good job then she’ll recommend me to the members of her pug club. They’re all rich and like to travel, so it could lead to a lot of income.”
     I looked down at the obedient little pug sitting by Jeff’s feet. He wore what looked to be a cashmere sweater.
     “I hope that works out for you,” I said, kneeling down to let the dog sniff my hand.
     “Thanks. I’m feeling good about it,” he said. “I’ve looked after this little guy every day for the past month and the owner is coming home tomorrow. I think she’ll be very happy.”
     “Tomorrow?” I asked, looking up at him while petting the dog. “Wow, you must be nervous.”
     He laughed. “Not at all. Why would I be nervous?”
     I stood up. “Are you kidding—with how much is at stake on this last day? You invested so much over the past month and your whole financial future all depends on how well you do over the next 24 hours. I’d be a wreck if I were in your place.”
     He stopped laughing. “I guess I didn’t think of it like that.”
     “Just imagine, Jeff, this tiny dog could get hit by a car, choke on a chicken bone or get mauled by a bigger dog. He’s so small he may even get picked up by a hawk. Or he might chew through some power cord and electrocute himself. Maybe you'll knock a big book off a table and crush him. Or suppose he was lying on the couch and you sat on him by accident. Anything could happen in a day and your whole livelihood depends on it, not to mention your reputation. People don’t like dog killers, you know.”
     Jeff looked down at his ward. “You make a good point. Now I’m a little scared.”
     “Oh, don’t worry about it,” I said. “I’m sure you’ll do great. Just remember to keep the dog alive for one more day... Keep the dog alive for one more day... Keep the dog alive for one more day…” I repeated those words to emphasize their importance.
     “Okay, okay, I’ve got it,” he said.
     I repeated the phrase a few more times just to make sure it was forefront on his mind. “Keep the dog alive for one more day… Keep the dog alive for one more day…”
     “I said I’ve got it, now stop it!”
     As he said it, a car screeched on the road next to us, blasting the horn. The pug had wandered off the curb while we were talking and was nearly hit. He scurried back, unharmed, and Jeff quickly scooped him up into his arms.
     “Close call, Jeff. You may want to consider a shorter leash. And remember: keep the dog alive for one more day…”
     I kept repeating it as Jeff ran away. I like to do what I can to help my friends.

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