Sometimes my ideas for blog posts come from very unlikely situations. In this case, I was walking Stella (our Beagle-Australian Shephard mix). She stopped at a crusty looking object to take a sniff. As she picked it up in her mouth, clearly finding the disgusting thing absolutely delightful, I reached down to take it away. I had no idea what it was, and worse still, where it had been.
It turned out to be a partially enjoyed rawhide chew, left by a neighbor’s dog for a later time. The likely owner? I guessed that it probably belonged to the brown Labra-Doodle whose house was a few steps away. The chew toy was just on the border between this house and the one next door. Logic dictated that Cocoa, the tiny 2 pound mini-dog next door, never laid teeth on the object in question. He would not have been able to lift the 5 inch gooey strip.
If it belonged to Jasper the Labra-Doodle, there was a problem – for him that is. The chew strip was located just beyond his electric dog fence, just out of reach enough to offer temptation. As I gingerly tossed the icky thing back on his lawn, out of the “zap zone”, I began to think about food choices and how people decide whether or not to eat something yummy.
We make decisions all the time, consciously or otherwise – to eat it or not to eat it. Sometimes the choice involves a food that has no nutritional value – but AHHH, it looks (or smells) so good! – and that invisible fence is there. Is it worth the zap? That is the question.
If the choice is unconscious, and we dash over the invisible fence to grab the tasty morsel, the zap can be surprising as it appears out of nowhere. “I shouldn’t have done that. What WAS I thinking?! I blew it (cheated, stepped out of bounds, etc.).” This often feels much like a dog must feel as it temporarily forgets the boundaries of its invisible fence to chase a squirrel or retrieve a temptation from outside its limits.
A more conscious look at the choice would weigh the pain of the zap against the pleasure of enjoying the treat. “Is the pleasure worth the calories? Is it worth any disappointment I might have about myself?” The bigger the potential indulgence, the bigger the potential zap. Making more conscious choices will minimize the jolt, and maybe even more importantly, the consequences will not be surprising.
The bottom line: It helps to take a good look at that tempting tidbit. Is it worth crossing that line, or is it the human food equivalent of a crusty old slimy rawhide chew?