Tony Deyal, Contributor
A camel and his owner were travelling across the desert sand dunes when a windstorm came up. The traveller quickly set up his tent and moved in, closing the flaps to protect himself from the cutting, grinding sands of the raging storm.
The camel was, of course, left outside, and as the violent wind hurled the sand against his body and into his eyes and nostrils, he found it unbearable and finally begged for entrance into the tent.
"There is room only for myself," said the traveller. The camel begged, "But may I just get my nose in so I can breathe air not filled with sand?" The traveller relented and replied, "Well, perhaps you could do that." He then opened the flap ever so little and the long nose of the camel entered.
How comfortable the camel was now! But soon the camel became weary of the smarting sand on his eyes and ears, and he was tempted to ask again, "The wind-driven sand is like a rasp on my head. Could I put just my head in?"
Again, the traveller rationalised that to acquiesce would do him no damage, for the camel's head could occupy the space at the top of the tent which he himself was not using. So the camel put his head inside and the beast was satisfied again - but for a short while only.
"Just the front quarters," he begged, and again the traveller relented, and soon the camel's front shoulders and legs were in the tent. Finally, by the same processes of pleading and of yielding, the camel's torso, his hind quarters and all were in the tent. But now it was too crowded for the two, and the camel kicked the traveller out into the wind and storm.
MORAL OLD AS HUMANITY
This story comes from a collection The Miracle of Forgiveness by writer, Spencer W. Kimball. While camels and sand dunes provide an exotic setting, the moral of the story is as old as humanity, and one can imagine our earliest ancestors saying from experience, "Give a Tyrannosaurus Rex an inch and he will take you and your cave."
It is really that sometimes you make what you think is a small concession and it grows in magnitude to the point where it seems to develop a life of its own, even consuming you in the process. In English, the saying is, "Give him an inch and he will take an ell."
An ell is the distance between your wrist and your shoulder, officially 45 inches. Wikipedia states that in Chinese culture, the 'inch-mile' or 'camel's nose' saying corresponds to the expression 'De Long Wang Shu', which is a quotation from the Book of Later Han about a Chinese general who took over Long (now Gansu) only to pursue further southwards into Shu (now Sichuan).
This sense of being taken unfair advantage of by someone or something that you have tried to help is common to almost every human being from time immemorial. We all have stories of people who took us for a ride, or who exploited our good nature to their advantage and our loss.
In the lives of camel owners, one night you're in the warmth of your tent and the next thing you know you're out in the cold. In the lives of dogs, one day you're the dog and the next you're the hydrant. And not just dogs, it happens to dog owners as well, except that dog owners never seem to mind.
I like the Chinese example of the general, since it seems to apply to their dogs as well, even the half-breed ones. Many moons ago, I saw my wife and children admiring a new litter of tiny pups born to a very beautiful female owned by one of our friends. The pups were what in Trinidad are called 'pom-peks' - originally part pomeranian (a Central European breed) and part Pekingese. In our case, I am convinced that it is the Pekingese part that moved them from an inch to an ell and from Long to Shu, which is something they bite and ruin. But I get ahead of myself.
I watched my family play with the pups and knew that something was up despite my warning that a dog would create problems for us when we wanted to go on holidays, or had to move. A tiny, pathetic pup was then smuggled into the house and presented to me as a fait accompli. We named him Crix because of his biscuit-coloured coat.
About two years later, we went out for a few days leaving Crix with his original owner. Crix took the opportunity of our absence to sow his wild oats and his litter included a little ball of white fur that could barely stand, while his brothers and sisters were busy chasing one another. Saying that she feared that the poor little runt would die if we did not take care of him, my wife Indranie brought home Bunjie, son of Crix. Needless to say, we had no holidays together since Bunjie joined us.
Two more years passed and Missy came. An old female dog with sad eyes, Missy had moved into the neighbourhood and ended up at our gate looking imploringly at my wife, the animal magnet. Cows passing along the road to their feeding grounds drop in on us. Birds tap on our windows to remind Indranie to feed them. Crows demand we fill the bird bath. Rampaging pit bulls ignore her. Missy did not even have to knock. The eyes had it.
Thrice we tried to return Missy to her owners and thrice she did return. They gave up and Missy got her nose past the gate and into the house. Then my wife noticed Missy's stomach growing huge, and after thinking it might have been the improvement in the dog's diet, finally took her to the vet to see if Missy was pregnant. The vet said that Missy could not be pregnant since there were no heartbeats of little pups inside the dog. She warned that it could be a tumour.
My daughter Jasmine was upset when they returned from the vet. She feared the worst. An hour later, my wife heard Jasmine screaming. Missy had six pups that night. Four look like their father, Bunjie, and two are throwbacks - one black and one brown. No khaki. Even when they were a little more than an inch long, they were one ell of a handful. Now at seven weeks, they have taken over the verandah and are putting their noses through the door, perhaps praying for a sandstorm to come.
Tony Deyal was last seen saying that he knows why those mixtures are called 'lap'dogs: they are always hungry and lap up everything in sight.