How bad or how often does someone have to screw up to make them beyond redemption?  What does it take to redeem oneself after showing really bad behavior? What do these questions have to do with this picture of a dog?

After years of happy strolls through the Mequon Dog Park, Minnie (the dog in the picture) reclassified small dogs as wild game.  As if she had been trained for months, she’d leap out of the car, cast a quick eye across the landscape, and pick out the smallest, weakest, and best groomed dog to chase, terrify, and pin to the ground.

“Minnie! Minnie! MINNIE!, we’d yell, my husband and I feigning expressions of surprise as if this was the very first time she’d ever shown such behavior. It made me remember the ‘oh dear, whatever are they thinking?’ looks I’d conjure up when my toddler boys would be seen by the neighbor peeing in the bushes next to our house.  “Stop it! Don’t pee in the bushes!  (Why are my sons peeing in the bushes?  Why is my dog eating that frou-frou dog with the bow?)

I’m the third child not the first so I shouldn’t have this overblown sense of responsibility about everything.  I should be carefree, used to being taken care of, enjoying the loveliness of low expectations, and living life so clearly off the hook that nothing should bother me.  So not the case.

Instead I am in a constant state of anticipation of bad things happening but only with regard to my dogs or my kids.  In both cases, I don’t worry about something bad happening to them, I worry about them causing something bad to happen to others.  My dogs will bite somebody or chew up somebody’s dog.  My kids (read boys here) will do something stupid – wrong place, wrong friends, wrong time thing – and someone will get hurt and they will end up in jail. Irrational?  Probably. Maybe.

Anyway, so my husband announced yesterday that it was time to go back to the Mequon Dog Park.  He said we needed to give Minnie a chance to be a great dog.  (He’s very much into dogs, communicating with dogs – or so he says – seeing meaning and purpose in dogs that the rest of us don’t see.  He’s different.) He was set on our taking Minnie back to the scene of her terrible behavior.  He said that we needed to give Minnie a chance to redeem herself. I was sick with worry.

“I’ll stay in the car,” I said, figuring it the best way to avoid the inevitable bloodshed and keep a distant perch from which to second guess and criticize after the fact.

And then it occurred to me, the road to redemption could be paved with hot dogs!

We took a class at the Humane Society once where the instructor had us cutting hot dogs into tiny pieces, stuffing them in a little pouch that we were to keep hanging from our belts (who wears a belt?) and between holding the leash and using the clicker to signal various commands, we were to dole out the hot dogs.  It was nuts.  Required so much manual dexterity that I wanted to sit down and smoke a cigarette.

So we went to Pick and Save where we bought the cheapest pack of hot dogs possible ($2.41) and then we drove to the dog park. Before we let Minnie out of the car, we showed her a wonderment greater than any fluffy frou-frou dog with a bow.  We each had a whole hot dog clutched in our fist.  She took off.  We called her back. Each time, she got a chunk of hot dog. Sometimes she just trotted along sniffing our hot dog hands. She’d run ahead and come back when we called. Chase a dog or two, sniff a little dog (scary!) and come barreling back down the trail when we yelled Minnie.

I’d wave my hand in front of her nose and she trotted alongside – honestly, I felt like Cesar Milan, the dog whisperer but with a little hot dog crutch. Now I want hot dogs on me all the time, wherever I go with this dog.  Permanent hot dogs in my hand, in the glove compartment, in my coat pockets, hanging in links around my neck. The hot dogs made her a perfect dog.

Is this redemption?  Would we call this redemption? Maybe it comes under the category of ‘assisted redemption.’  (HDAR – Hot Dog Assisted Redemption)

All I know is nothing terrible happened.  That’s good enough for me.