Pee on Crabs

Our rough collie is a lady. If she became homeless and had to “dumpster dive” for food—she would starve.

So, too, with her bathroom habits. She simply will not do her business on: a road, a sidewalk (pavement in the UK), the golf course, or manicured lawns. Heck—she will hardly defecate in her own yard!

A dead crab on the beach, however, fails to benefit from her gracious habits. She will pee on it in a heartbeat. It seems unseemly to abuse a corpse, but Angel Joy shows no remorse. A dead crab shell on the beach is a fair target. Most uncouth, but there you have it.

So I looked up information on crabs to find out what’s wrong with them—from a doggy perspective. Nothing. They wear a thick exoskeleton, which they shed and replace as they grow, and range in size from the aptly named tiny “pea crab,” to the Japanese spider crab with a leg span of 13 feet. They are renowned for their sideways walking, but that’s no different from politicians skirting questions. Crabs are aggressive, yet they are also known to work together to provide food and protection to their families.

And there you have it: the secret to writing interesting fiction characters that will nab readers. Complex. Layered. Not all good, not all bad. As a writer, don’t hesitate to pee on the crab.

As to why Angel Joy, who is not a writer, pees on crabs…well, I will probably never know.

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“Experts”

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The earliest “expert” I remember was my first grade teacher who chided me for coloring trees and sky such bright “unrealistic” colors. Over and over she intoned, “Trees are green, tree trunks are brown, sky is blue.”

I guess she had never seen a sunset, or autumn foliage, and she was ignorantly unaware that tree trunks are different colors, mostly grey in the Texas Hill Country.

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Education is awesome—but I eschew “experts.”

My son Luke used to get upset when a high school teacher, an expert in science, repeatedly informed the class that dogs could be trained—but they couldn’t think. Luke knew better. We had a half-collie named Esther. Our other dog, Shad, would stretch out in the middle of the couch so that Esther had no room at either end and would have to take the floor. One day Esther trotted over to the front door and barked. Shad launched himself off the couch in a frenzied attack mode. Esther calmly walked back to the couch and took Shad’s place. After that, whenever she wanted the couch, Esther repeated the performance. (Shad never learned.) Trained? I think not.

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One dog training expert claimed dogs only have a seven-second memory. “Never say sit down,” this expert advised. “Just say sit, because by the time you get to down, the dog has forgotten the first word.” Really?

Our dog Angel Joy hasn’t seen Andy the coal man for three years. He’s a nice guy, but scares her to death because he’s so big. If we say Andy, or coal—or heaven forbid, Andy the coal man—our usually quiet, calm Angel Joy goes ballistic.

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There are health experts who are overweight. There are education experts who have never taught a class. There are parenting experts who don’t have children. There are writing experts who give advice on how to write and market books—and their own books aren’t selling.

Wise people, and those knowledgeable in their fields are blessings, but I’ve learned to question “experts.”

Experts in Italian explorer Christopher Columbus’ day, the late 1400s and early 1500s, thought the world was flat and ships would fall off if they sailed too far. Columbus read in the Bible in Isaiah 40:22 that God “sits above the circle of the earth.” He reasoned that if God sits above the circle of the earth, the earth must be round. And the rest, as they say, is history.

When I need an expert, I’ll stick with that same God, the One who “made a law for the rain and a path for the thunderbolt.” (Job 28:36)

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Big Dogs, Small Dogs

scot-puppyFirst the disclaimer. I am not a dog expert, “dog whisperer,” or dog trainer. The dogs in my books like the lovely rough collie Shiloh in “Bridge to Brigadoon,” plus the equally lovely collie in “Bridge to Desert Desire” and “Bridge Back” are based on dogs that have owned me and buried their memories in my heart. That said, I had an epiphany this morning about big dogs versus small dogs.

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Small dogs are often fearless. They launch themselves at an “enemy” so much bigger than they are that it makes us laugh. Often, while they are tilting at canine windmills, bigger dogs are scrunching up to hide behind something too small when they perceive human displeasure directed at them.

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I believe small dogs are courageous because their human owners constantly lavish them with love and attention. A small dog can be held on a lap and cuddled. They realize they are the center of their human’s universe and that builds them up on the inside resulting in self-confidence.

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Bigger dogs don’t fit on laps after they outgrow the puppy stage. They get pushed off, ordered off furniture, stuck outside in the yard – and are often, perhaps, in trouble for being able to reach and destroy human belongings that small dogs can’t reach. Unlike small dogs, their self-confidence never gets bolstered.

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If this surmise is true, it should be a reminder to parents to love their children and lavish attention on them. Children can never be “spoiled” by too much love. Lack of discipline will “spoil” a child, but lack of love cripples them for life. We should love our children at every age, every stage.

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Now what does this have to do with Christmas? It’s just a reminder to love our family at Christmas and on every day of the year. Our days on this earth are limited. Our love shouldn’t be.

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Dog’s World

Dog owners know that dog, spelled backwards, is God. Dogs make the best people.

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One sure cure for depression is to watch dogs out for a walk or running free along a beach. Heads up, tails wagging, sheer joy and exuberance shining out of their eyes.

Next time you pass someone out walking a dog, look—really look—at the dog. Chances are it is so proud and joyful to be walking with its owner that it will make you smile.

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Dogs are praised for their unconditional love and loyalty. Another trait that makes dogs delightful is their ability to squeeze joy out of every moment. From hanging heads out car windows to catch scents on the breeze, to leaping into the air to catch Frisbees and balls, dogs excel at enjoying life.

Not everyone can own a dog and not everyone has the health to enable them to walk or care for a dog. But if you don’t and can’t have your own dog—just go somewhere and watch other people’s dogs. Then ask yourself, “Depression? What depression?”

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God provides healing in the world He made for physical and mental ills. I believe cure for depression is as simple as watching a dog and following its example: an attitude of gratitude for every moment of life.

“Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD! Psalm 150:6

 

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Author Alan McKean took some of these incredible photos of our rough collie, Angel Joy.

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Look at me, Mom!

Our rough collie, Angel Joy, reminds me of a child. When we meet other dogs along the beach, she wants to show off. When she makes an especially good leap and catch, she holds the ball in her mouth and looks around to see if anyone observed her brilliance. She covets praise.

It reminds me of my son Luke when he was a child. “Mom, look!” Every parent can relate to that. “Mom, did you see that?” “Mom, guess what I did today!”

There were times when I wanted to be left alone to read a good book or do almost anything else than watch the same antics over and over, “Mom, did you see that! Look, Mom! Watch what I can do!”

Yet, as a parent – especially a single parent – I knew how important it was to give my son undivided attention even when he was acting immature and silly and I had other things to do than provide a loving, encouraging audience. How thankful I am now that I usually managed to pretend great interest in his endless somersaults, jumps off high objects, and riding a sky line down from a tree to the ground – over and over and over.

Luke graduated from earth to heaven at age 37, and I will never again have the chance to watch him, encourage him, praise him. He’s lost to me in this life.

Before Luke’s death, it was the same thing during phone calls – but it was Luke praising his daughter. “Mom, she’s so smart. I’m so proud of this girl.” “Let me tell you what she did today!” “She’s an angel!” She’s so smart and beautiful and brave.” “She can rock climb better than me.” “Let me tell you, that girl is just awesome and amazing!”

Dulcinea was only ten when she lost her daddy, but she can hold tightly to the memories of her father’s love for her and praise of her. Never did Luke speak one critical, angry or disparaging word about his daughter – my granddaughter. Dulcinea will never have to question whether or not her daddy loved her and was proud of her. She knows.

I challenge parents to watch your children at every opportunity – even if they are performing the same monotonous “trick” over and over to what seems like infinity. It isn’t. Your investment of time in your children will never leave you with regrets when God repossesses His loan. Children are gifts from God and they are only on loan to their parents.

Children are the only thing we have on this earth that will join us in Heaven. Give them what they need more than money, toys, or electronics – your time and love.

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Luke Gaines Parker, Aug. 19, 1976 – Nov. 17, 2013, with daughter Dulcinea

Books by Stephanie Parker McKean:

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Dare to be a Dog

Dogs win accolades for unconditional love – and they should.

I want to praise dogs for their joyfulness.

Every day we take pretty much the same walk with our dog. Every day, other dog owners take pretty much the same walk with their dogs. Yet, every day, every dog is joyful to be out on a walk – even when passing the same scenery, the same greenery, the same same. Regardless of the sameness and circumstances surrounding them, the dogs are joyful to be alive and to be with the people they love. They exercise an attitude of gratitude.

What a life-changing spiritual lesson we could learn from dogs! Dare to be a dog! Dare to be joyful! People talk about being “stuck in a rut,” but wherever we are in life never starts out as a rut. It becomes a rut when we continuously dig it with complaining and a lack of gratitude. No matter where we live, God has created a beautiful world and has blessed us with another day of life. If you are reading this, you still have your life. With that life come the possibility and responsibility of choosing joy or sorrow; hopelessness or faith. Many other choices surround us in life, but depression destroys health. Joy restores health. “A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones,” Proverbs 17:22.

Life doesn’t come with a rewind button. None of us can undo hurts and harms from the past. Our only choices are to become better and stronger from the heartbreaks we’ve survived– or bitter and resentful.

God loves an attitude of gratitude. He created us to praise Him. When Jesus was told that his worshiping followers were too loud and joyful, Jesus responded, “If they keep silent, the stones will cry out.”

Psalm 150 exhorts, “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!”

Many people make many New Year’s Resolutions. One would suffice. Dare to be a dog.

 

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