An Aged Anecdote: Debbie and her Digging Dog
Written by BC in March 2004
Once upon a time there was a girl named Debbie. She only lost one tooth and lived next to a deep ocean. Her parents owned a lot of land. One day, her dog was digging in her yard. “Stop digging,” shouted Debbie. Her dog kept digging. Debbie ran across a hill and brought back glue. “If you don’t stop digging I’ll pour glue on you,” said Debbie. Her dog kept digging. She picked up a stone. “I’ll hit you with a stone if you don’t stop,” said Debbie. Her dog kept digging. “I’ll change my name and move to a different country,” said Debbie. Her dog kept digging. She got out a bone. “I’ll give you a bone if you stop,” said Debbie. Her dog stopped digging and ran to Debbie. Debbie gave him the bone. She took her dog into her house and told her dad the story. Her dad said it was okay because she told the truth. They lived happily ever after. The End
Present-day Comments from BC
Debbie and her darn digging dog! You know, when I was a kid, my family’s Dell computer had a screensaver mode where this virtual dog would appear and start digging holes on our computer desktop, and chew up or pee on the file folders. My brother and I got such a kick out of watching this dog’s shenanigans, as it was the closest we came to ever actually owning a pet dog. I’m sure this story was to some extent inspired by that, as well as the vocab words the story arose from, such as “dig,” “glue,” “tooth,” “stone,” “land,” “bone,” and “ocean.” I wonder if there was supposed to be a theme among those words?
This story begins by setting the scene with important details, like Debbie’s one missing tooth and their intimate proximity to a deep ocean. Apparently Debbie’s parents own a lot of land, so maybe they rent out coastal properties to tourists, which kind of paints Debbie as a rich kid. Whatever they use the land for, though, they have lots of it; maybe they’re about to develop it into condos, or they use the land for seaside farming, or they harvest glue. Regardless, the land seems to be pretty important to her parents and their financial situation.
Which makes it so problematic that her dog wants to dig it all up. She tries to be responsible and orders her dog to quit his tomfoolery. “Stop digging,” she shouts, but to no immediate avail. So, naturally, when this initial attempt fails, she runs across a hill (no big deal by the way) (probably just another small part of her parents’ massive land conglomerate) and fetches, quite logically, glue. She then threatens to pour what I imagine to be a little white bottle of Elmer’s glue on her dog if he doesn’t cease digging. For some reason, this doesn’t phase her dog at all, and he continues to dig. (Perhaps he should have considered the consequences of being assaulted by glue, which are as follows: when covered in glue, your movements are slowed down because you have glue all over and it resists flexibility due to its adhering property; so the dog’s digging rate would be marginally slowed, not to mention all the dirt that would stick to him and slow him down even more, and on top of that, when it dried, he would have a whole shell of a dirty dog to peel off his fur, which would pull at his hairs and be painful and annoying… On second thought, having glue poured on you would be a horrible fate.)
Because the repercussions of the glue threat seem to be lost on the dog, Debbie switches her tactic to something more straightforwardly undesirable, which is that she threatens to throw a stone at him if he doesn’t stop digging. Now, this is called animal abuse and even if a dog is digging up your parents’ very expensive land, you should refrain from hurtling dense materials at an animal with the intent of causing pain to receive your human-desired outcome. Debbie gets somewhat of a pass on this one because at this point in the story, it becomes clear that she is all talk and no game, because she hasn’t followed through on any of her threats; she never pours the glue, she never throws the stone, she only threatens it. And it seems to me that the dog is cognizant of this, and trusts that she will not harm him despite her mean words. And keeps digging.
So after the threats of physical violence, she changes her strategy once again and goes for an emotional appeal, claiming that if the dog does not stop digging, she will change her name and leave the country, depriving the dog of her companionship and removing her from his life altogether. Even if he tried to search her down, the dog would not be able to, because she would have changed her name, so that no records could assist this dog should he try to find her.
This dog is stone cold, though, and doesn’t even flinch at the thought of losing Debbie, his precious owner. (Maybe it’s because she uses threats of physical violence to manipulate her dog into abiding to her will.) Whatever he’s digging for, he is determined, and he is willing to lose his owner, as well as endure torture, to get to it.
Let’s take a second to reflect on what this dog could possibly be digging about. So, as we all know from things like cartoons and dog screensavers, dogs just naturally like to dig. But what’s that all about? I’ve never had a pet dog, so I’m not sure the realistic discoveries dogs are making these days in the scientific and archaeological fields, but I’m pretty sure all they ever do is make holes. Is that it? Dogs want to dig as many holes possible? Every dog is trying to beat the world record in number of holes dug? No, there’s no way all dogs can be that competitive. Or are they creating traps for humans, hoping that their owner will accidentally fall into one of their holes and then the dogs will be free to take over the planet? (And would that be so horrible? Just wondering.) Are all dogs just big Shia LaBeouf fans and idolize the hit 2003 movie Holes?
Her dog, with his iron will, may actually be searching for something though, and not just creating holes for an unknown purpose. Could he be searching for a body, or an artifact, or an underground escape route? No offense dog, but if you would have just ran away it would have been more effective than trying to plan and develop this whole tunnel system you’re working on. Or maybe–and this is my hunch, he was looking for where he buried one of his bones, but just couldn’t remember where it was.
That is, until Debbie pulls out a bone, and finally tries to catch a fly with honey instead of vinegar, and her dog realizes, “Oh yeah, I never even buried the bone; Debbie found it!” And abandons his obsessive digging for this prize.
Luckily, Debbie’s father is super understanding and doesn’t get mad that his property is now covered in unsightly mounds of dirt from the new installation of holes that her dog designed, because his most important concern is that Debbie ‘fessed up and told him outright about the whole “hole” business. He’ll probably hire a team of experts and have the place looking spruced up in no time, thanks to all his money. Happy ending, as usual.
I do feel that this story touches on something, that it illustrates something crucial to living productively with one another, in this life. When Debbie first tried to stop her dog from digging, she used all the wrong methods. She approached the dog with violence and with threats that meant nothing to him because he’s a dog–what would a dog care about her changing her legal documents and traveling abroad? That’s no incentive for him to stop digging. But when Debbie thought about what a dog would like, some way she could relate to him and reach him on his level, the dog responded and they both benefitted: Debbie got what she wanted (the dog to stop digging) and the dog got what he wanted (a bone). And no one was hurt in this scenario, and the problem was resolved.
Sometimes it takes trial and error, but when we make an effort to understand each other, productive compromises can be attained in which all parties involved may benefit. And I think that’s the real lesson that Debbie learned that day. When you try to look at a situation from someone else’s perspective, you may discover a better resolution that can be good for everyone.
Thanks for reading.
If you’d like to read more Aged Anecdotes by Slanted Spines, you may view them all here.