The sun was up, and while it made the morning sky alight, it wasn’t peeking over the Oquirrh Mountains yet. Such is the perfect time to refresh my cows’ water trough. My dog, “Hairy Pupper,” also likes to chase the water and snap at it as it leaves the hose, so I invite him to come along every morning.
In the early morning you’ll find us walking out the door to begin our trek up the gravel drive to complete our daily watering ritual. Our first stop is at the gate to enter the pasture. As we approach, Hairy begins to look left. He knows what’s coming and he is filled with anticipation as we near the gate. At the first clink of the latch-chain, his anticipation is turned to eager engagement. My neighbor’s pack of dogs runs toward us with their ears no longer listening and their mouths lashing, uncontrollably, with barks and growls.
It is all part of their instinctual, unaccountable dance. I know it well because I’ve watched it play out for many years. The pack knows our routine and they wait. Dogs don’t wear a watch, and they know what day it is and they can tell time.
They also know the “Rule of the Fence.” There is a fence between us to protect them, to keep us apart. They know every inch of that fence! When they reach it, they strain and push, they snarl and bark and they know it does not yield. It is an integral part of the game. But on this day, the game changed.
The pack has dogs of different sizes. Hairy and I usually see the two largest dogs. We know there are three other ones, but they’re usually in their house when we go out to walk and water. On this particular day, though, my neighbor’s three other smaller dogs came were out as well. So, the dance routine was altered slightly. There were more participants. The noise was increased. And, the Rule of the Fence was altered.
The Rule of the Fence is simple. The dogs can act as nasty and tough as they want to, without consequence. They can snarl, bark, bite, scratch and kick at us as much as they want. After all, they can’t really hurt us. And, Hairy and I can’t really hurt them either. We’re on different sides of the fence, which is all seemingly good until someone breaks this basic rule of engagement. And on this day, it was broken!
The smallest dog in the pack can fit through the fence’s mesh. He came right through. The Rule of the Fence no longer applied! I looked at him. Hairy looked at him. Then, when he saw and knew that he had broken the rule, he looked at us differently!
The look on his face could be called the definition of accountability. Hairy, a Fluffy Welsh Corgi, is about three times larger than he is. I’m about 50 times larger than he is. His pack, no matter how much they wanted to, could not protect him. He was on his own. Now, he could be held accountable for his barks and actions, and he taught me some important lessons about accountability.
First, the things we say and do, when we think we’re protected or anonymous, can really hurt us and others, even though the Rule of the Fence exists.
Second, there are times when the Rule of the Fence no longer applies and then new, sometimes frightening, different rules operate.
Third, we are truly accountable for our words and actions, personally and as a group, whether the Rule of the Fence is in force, or not.
Finally, knowledge of accountability changes all conversation and actions immediately.
As soon as the little dog understood his new position, his demeanor changed. He was less fierce. He had less to say. He was no longer as aggressive toward us. He became a cute, welcoming, diminutive dog. It was as if the rising sun had revealed his new community nature, and gave Hairy and me new illumination regarding the Rule of the Fence and Accountability.
Lynn Butterfield lives in Erda and is a managing broker for a real estate company.