Don't Mess with Old Dogs

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Nov 19, 2011

"A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way."
Mark Twain

Sometimes a story is the best way to make a point. And the best stories are the ones that capture our attention and hold it right up to the end, like this one. 

One day an old German Shepherd dog started chasing rabbits and before long, discovered that he was lost. Wandering about, he noticed a panther heading rapidly in his direction with the intention of having lunch. The old German Shepherd thought, "Oh, Oh! I'm in trouble now!" 

Noticing some bones on the ground close by, he immediately settled down to chew on the bones with his back to the approaching cat. Just as the panther was about to leap, the old German Shepherd exclaimed loudly, "Boy, that was one delicious panther. I wonder if there are any more around here?" 

Hearing this, the young panther halted his attack in mid-strike, a look of terror coming over him, and he sank away into the trees. "Whew!" said the panther, "That was close. That old Shepherd dog nearly had me." 

Meanwhile, a squirrel who had been watching the whole scene from a nearby tree figured he could put his knowledge to good use and trade it for protection from the panther. So, off he went. 

The squirrel soon caught up with the panther, spilled the beans and struck a deal for himself with the panther. The young panther was furious at being made a fool of and said, "Here, squirrel, hop on my back and see what's going to happen to that conniving canine." 

The old German Shepherd dog saw the panther coming with the squirrel on his back, and realizing the squirrel had probably given away his secret thought, "What am I going to do now?" But instead of running, the dog sat down with his back to his attackers, pretending he hadn't seen them yet. Just when they got close enough to hear, the old German Shepherd dog said, "Where's that squirrel? I sent him off an hour ago to bring me another panther." 

Moral of this story: Don't mess with old dogs. Age and skill will always overcome youth and treachery! Brilliance generally only comes with age and experience. 

I often find the comments by young parents, "After the baby arrives we are going to live our lives basically the same way as we always have." Experienced parents know that life for them will never ever be the same, but it is still probably best for those young parents to find that out for themselves. As Douglas Adams said, "Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so." 

Years ago Evie's Uncle Vern described with a measure of chagrin how he acted whenever their family would go on vacation. He would prepare the schedule - the itinerary of what they were going to do, how long it would take to get from this place to that place, and the best way they could use their time on the trip. Occasionally one of his daughters requested something different, to stay longer at this place or to go to that other place, ideas which were not in the plan. 

With deep sadness he later described how his experience over the years taught him that his obsession with his scheduled plans didn't really matter. Several times I heard him say, "How I wish I had listened to my daughters, and we had taken these detours. Staying on schedule certainly doesn't seem all that important today." 

Whether it is learning from someone else or from the choices we make, as Laurence J. Peter said, "There is only one thing more painful than learning from experience, and that is not learning from experience." 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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