There’s a Shakespeare quote that goes something along the lines of “like a dog to his vomit, the fool returns to his folly” (I could look up the exact wording and it would take me precisely ten seconds on Google, but I’m tired of how easy it is to be right and am taking a stand–“sort of right” is good enough for me!).
The quote came to mind because I was thinking
a) about the dog and
b) about his vomiting and
c) about how there doesn’t seem to be a learning curve in my household and we all just keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again.
This is all connected. The dog was vomiting recently because he ate some Halloween candy. He ate the Halloween candy because one of my kids left his stash out. He left his stash out despite my telling him the day before NOT to leave it out because the dog would eat it.
But if it hadn’t been the Halloween candy, it would have been the leftovers from a school lunch, the bag of bread left out on the counter, the Starbucks scone that was being saved to accompany a later cup of coffee, the cookies I just baked and put out to cool–it would have been something. The dog can’t learn not to eat food he shouldn’t, and we can’t learn not to leave stuff out where he can get it.
It’s like we’re caught in a circle of folly. The dog will never learn that human food is bad for him because it tastes good and the instant, positive reinforcement of the taste will always override the later, momentary discomfort of vomiting. Meanwhile, we’ll never learn not to leave food out, because the instant, positive gratification of being lazy will always override the later, momentary misery of discovering the dog has eaten something he shouldn’t and has thrown up.
Yesterday morning, though, as one of my kids helpfully brought to my attention another small puddle of vomit surrounding a half-chewed Snickers wrapper (my kids like to point out disgusting things but it never occurs to them to grab a rag and clean them), I stared at that wrapper and thought about how every fall–right at this time–I overeat, diving into the Halloween candy and nibbling on pumpkin scones at Starbucks, baking brownies and cakes every afternoon, and knocking back five o’clock glasses of wine that just seem to fit with the long, dark evenings when all you want to do is stay inside and eat your way until bedtime. I know that I’ll hate the extra pounds I’m putting on even as I write this, know that I’ll look back at the end of the summer when I was too busy and too hot to eat all that much and actually lost a few pounds, and wonder how I could let myself lose control again.
It happens every year to me. I don’t learn. We don’t learn. Not humans, not dogs.
But maybe the real lesson here is simply that chocolate is irresistible, whether you’re a middle-aged woman who’s spreading at the waist or a big yellow dog who’s going to throw it all up half an hour later. Carpe diem. Vive le chocolat. And stock up on rags and disinfectant . . .