Judging A Dog By Its Cover

My wife, daughter and I walked into a shop in the old part of downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, this weekend and got a surprise. Not only did the old building contain dozens of classic arcade and pinball games, we were also met by the largest Rottweiler we had ever seen. He easily weighed 120 pounds, and his head was massive. He looked like a cross between Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and a Shetland pony.

Now, I love dogs, but I’m also not stupid. I entered the shop first and immediately froze when I spotted the massive animal coming toward me. He was clearly a guard dog, and I didn’t want him to perceive me as a threat. (A “threat.” Ha! My only hope was that he didn’t like the taste of my deodorant.) Hoping to establish rapport before my defenseless family came in behind me, I dropped my hand so the beast could give me a sniff (or, possibly, pull my arm off and shake it around like a squeaky toy). It only took a second for the Rottweiler to put me at ease. He quickly gave me a  slobbery doggy smile and rubbed up against my hand looking for some attention.

Seconds later my teenaged daughter entered the establishment. All I heard from behind me was a protracted “awwwwww…” as she moved past me and began to treat the guard dog like he was a giant stuffed prize from the nearby Minnesota State Fair. He plopped right down on the floor to soak up her admiration. Every time she rubbed his back with her feet his tiny nub of a tail would start to wag like mad. He was in heaven.

As I think back, Brutus reminded me of an important lesson (yes, that was his name – never was a name so apt and incorrect at the same time): don’t judge a book by its cover.  My extra wisdom (aka oldness) caused me to immediately treat Brutus like a threat, even though nothing – absolutely nothing – that he did warranted that kind of response. Lacking my “experience,” my daughter took his actions at face value. He acted friendly, and until he did something dangerous, she planned to treat him in kind. The result was a beautiful friendship between a small human being and a very, very large dog.

I’m not suggesting that naïveté is the best course of action in our lives. I’m just saying that we may want to reserve judgement until we have something to judge. At least that’s what I took away from meeting Brutus, who surely scared off any would-be burglars while simply looking to have that little spot scratched behind his ear.