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Paper Tiger

Paper Tiger

    Ron, our postal delivery person, worries that the mail dropped through the slot in our front door will be torn to shreds. On his daily rounds he hears the most ferocious sounds, like a tiger wresting dinner from another hungry cat, emanating from behind the closed door.  When he slips the Shelter Island Reporter through the slot, the fury of the beast behind the door accelerates.  Pounce, rip, shake, and shred and the newspaper must be in tatters.

    Of course, Ron knows what we know, that the tiger at our door is a twenty pound bichon friese named Tapioca, Tappy for short.  What mystifies us is her ferocity with newspapers dropped through the mail slot.  Otherwise she is the tamest, cuddliest, most peaceful beast we have ever welcomed into our house.  Bubbles, my sausage-shaped (think mortadella, not pepperoni) wire-haired fox terrier, chewed the pants cuff of any friend who wrestled with me on the living room rug.  Cindy, our Cornell University Beagle rescued from the vivisectionists, ran with her tail between her legs whenever she saw a broom.  Sadie, my soulmate mutt, must have been a latent racist: she growled incessantly whenever a person of color entered our home.

    But Tappy, she is a lover, a licker, and a loller, except with the mail pushed through the slot in the door.  Sure, she barks through the front window at every jogger, at every dog and dog-walker, and at every uniformed deliveryman.  But she quickly modifies her tigerish impulse when I chastise her and muzzle her with my hand. 

    I am of two minds about Tappy the tiger.  When she interrupts my reveries at the computer keyboard, jolting me with a sudden bark at, say, The Rev. Mr. Schmitt jogging by in his skin-tight sweatsuit, I am profoundly displeased.  But when I see her shake, roar, and shred with the Shelter Island Reporter, I find it a very amusing diversion.  Of course, I don't read that paper; Barbara does.   

    I think the same two ways about other creatures, who make sounds but don't growl, who have teeth but don't chew newspapers, and who have hair but mostly on the top of their heads.  Every affecting quality comes with a downside.  That soul who tells the most wonderful stories tends to repeat himself or laugh too heartily at his own cute turn of phrase.  That stalwart soul who tells it like it is, and if you're looking for the unvarnished truth she is the one you turn to: she tends to offer unasked for advice and blurt out the unnecessary truth.  Those friends who truly love me and want for me only the best sometimes get too protective and concerned about what they perceive (and I don't) as my risky choices... such as, defying the bishop.  The grandchildren who early show an independent streak, that bodes well for their future when they will be on their own, can also be defiant and dangerously wrongheaded. 

    It's like miracle drugs: for every benefit delivered there is a scary side effect.

    Well, God never promised us perfection in this life.  He offers us something better, a richness and variety of behavior in one little dog with a bad, but endearing, habit of chewing Barbara's favorite out-of-town paper.  Come to think of it, I would probably enjoy Tappy less if she were always obedient.

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