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True Remorse May 10, 2019

No One Knows True Remorse Like a Dog

My dog, Lincoln, knows a handful of words and commands like “Sit” and “Wait” and “Breakfast” and “Treat.”  He’s smart enough to know the sound our phones make when our favorite stalker app, Life360, signals that one of us has arrived home.  He then runs to the door to greet the family member who, up until that sound, he believed might never return.  He knows, basically, that he’s not supposed to eat people food or chew up socks (yum) or jump up on the kitchen table.  Sometimes, though he just gets excited and he just can’t help himself. He is, in other words, your basic three year old human.

Not too long ago, I came out of my room to find that it had snowed in my living room.  It hadn’t actually, of course, but it took a moment for my brain to register what the white covering was.  It was an entire family-sized box of tissues, shredded into fine pieces and spread evenly across the carpet.  On one level, I was impressed.  A lot of effort had gone into this.  On another, more primal level, I shouted, “DAMMIT, LINCOLN!” Because I knew that Lincoln, without the benefit of opposable thumbs, would not be able to help me clean it up. 

I had no idea where Lincoln actually was, and I know that dogs’ brains are not sophisticated enough to understand punishment if it is not contemporaneous to the bad act.  Still, I’M not a dog, and I was mad now, regardless of whether I had the rational ability to take it out on the culprit. 

I looked up.  Lincoln sat on the sofa (another no-no) looking as guilty and remorseful as a mammal has ever looked.  See for yourself:

true remorse

I immediately started laughing.    I expected Lincoln to jump off the sofa and make his normal bullet beeline for an inappropriate sniff of my personal organs, but he didn’t.  He stayed where he was, looking at me through his eyebrows, ears drooped down, tail literally tucked between his legs.  He remained there long enough for me to go into the kitchen, get my phone off of the charger, type in my password incorrectly three times, and then fumble with the camera app, before taking that picture. 

I promise you he’s not smart enough to manipulate his way out of consequences the way my human children would.  That dog was genuinely sorry.  But Mom.  He would say if his vocabulary was larger than “Woof” “Arooo” and “Yip.”  I know I shouldn’t have.  Something just overtook me.  I’m genuinely sorry.  I will try harder next time.  I promise.  Please still love me even though I’m a bad dog. 

“Of course I still love you,” I said.  “I know you’re sorry.  We all make mistakes.”  And it was true.  I loved him all the more because of his abject remorse.

I looked at the picture many times over the next week or so, and it made me giggle every time.  It still does Finally, it dawned on me.  It was the most genuine display of emotion other than grief or love I’d see in a long time.  Grief and love are easy.  Remorse is hard.  It comes with baggage.  It comes with shame. We are taught not to feel it, and if we do, we are told we shouldn’t show it. 

But that dog, he showed it.  And in showing that weakness, he gained instant forgiveness and increased love.  Wasn’t that a lesson we can all learn?  Wouldn’t that be a wonderful world if we could all admit our mistakes before we’d been called to admit them, earning forgiveness before it was required.  Politicians would benefit.  Children would benefit.  Lovers would benefit.  Everyone would benefit.

Even my dog.

If you enjoyed this and want to read more like it, visit Lori on Twitter or on Facebook. Lori is a National Society of Newspaper Columnists 2018 Columnist winner, and a New Apple, Readers’ Favorite, and eLit award winner for her latest release, “You Know I Love You Because You’re Still Alive.”  She is also the author of the bestselling books “Mismatched Shoes and Upside Down Pizza,” and “The Armadillo, the Pickaxe, and the Laundry Basket.”

True Remorse

4 Comments

  1. Kate Mahar

    Oh, how I love this, Lori! Doggie remorse is unbelievably endearing. The problem at my house is that with two dogs, not only do you have to catch one in the act, but you have to catch ONE. Coming home to an “accident” in the hallway after running an errand this morning, all the signs pointed to Mick as the culprit. However, without catching him in the act, there was also a decent chance that it was Little Richard’s work. I rarely know who to blame and I can tell you this, they know it. NO remorse, even when I’m accusing both of them. I can practically see them pointing paws at each other. Not me. Nuh uh. Great story, my friend!

    Reply

    • Lori Duff

      Thank you! If only humans would understand that remorse engenders love…

      Reply

  2. Sandy Lingo

    “Remorse is hard. It comes with baggage. It comes with shame. We are taught not to feel it, and if we do, we are told we shouldn’t show it. ” Love the turn. Masterful.

    Reply

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True Remorse

4 Comments

  1. Kate Mahar

    Oh, how I love this, Lori! Doggie remorse is unbelievably endearing. The problem at my house is that with two dogs, not only do you have to catch one in the act, but you have to catch ONE. Coming home to an “accident” in the hallway after running an errand this morning, all the signs pointed to Mick as the culprit. However, without catching him in the act, there was also a decent chance that it was Little Richard’s work. I rarely know who to blame and I can tell you this, they know it. NO remorse, even when I’m accusing both of them. I can practically see them pointing paws at each other. Not me. Nuh uh. Great story, my friend!

    Reply

    • Lori Duff

      Thank you! If only humans would understand that remorse engenders love…

      Reply

  2. Sandy Lingo

    “Remorse is hard. It comes with baggage. It comes with shame. We are taught not to feel it, and if we do, we are told we shouldn’t show it. ” Love the turn. Masterful.

    Reply

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Lori Duff

Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side.  Her latest book, "If You Did What I Told You..." is set to be released in the Fall of 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here.

True Remorse May 10, 2019

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