The Foolish Farmer and His Dog: An Allegory

dog-chickenOne day, not so very long ago, a farmer said to himself “I need to get a new dog. My old dog is ready to retire and I can no longer count on him to do the work of keeping my barnyard safe and well ordered.” So the farmer thought about what kind of dog he wanted but was having a hard time deciding. He went to the dog store but there wasn’t a big selection. In some ways that made the choice easier but in some ways it made the choice more difficult. One dog chased its tail all day so the farmer said “No — that would be a pointless choice for what I need.” Another dog seemed lost and confused. “No siree, I need a dog that is direct and strong minded”. The last two dogs were both alpha dogs and wanted to fight day and night. The dog man laid out the pros and cons of each of the two alpha dogs’ attributes. He really wanted to make a sale so he said good things about the dogs.

The farmer had bought dogs before so he considered what the man had to say but asked a lot of questions. Both dogs had some experience and the farmer decided that he would take one of these last two dogs.

One dog was golden colored, almost like a smallish Golden Retriever, but was somewhat troublesome. The dog man had to admit to some flaws in the dog’s character and, in fact admitted that the dog in question had killed chickens and sucked eggs some years earlier. Sometimes this alpha dog was a bad influence on other dogs or ran with a pack of bad dogs. The Golden dog was also very territorial and possessive, the man said, and would, on occasion, snap at other dogs or pick fights. But the dog man said all that was a long time ago and he was sure that the dog had reformed its behavior.

The other dog, looking more like a herding dog, had its own faults, too. He said it always tried to herd animals in the barnyard and was something of a nuisance in that regard. He said the Herder, being an alpha, was sometimes second-guessing its owner’s decisions and sometimes even made bad choices. The man generally said good things about the dog but the farmer noted that there was just a little hesitation at times. Of the two dogs, the Herder seemed to be somewhat secretive and maybe a little passive. The farmer asked more questions but the man said the Herder was a good dog and had no serious behavior problems that would cause problems but that it was a little stand-offish at times.

The farmer, being a long term dog owner, knew that some dogs were good and some were bad. Not all dogs were cut out for working on a farm and it was often hard to tell which was which. He pondered his choice carefully because both dogs were flawed but he really needed one quickly. He was put off a little by the man’s perceived hesitancy with the Herder and the farmer thought it was a little hard to read and something of a loner. It was quiet and well behaved but maybe that was just an act. On the other hand, the Golden dog was more social in some ways and, if it was possessive and territorial, it might be protective of the barnyard. Sure, it had a problem with attracting other bad dogs or maybe influencing good dogs to turn bad, but the farmer was not too concerned about that. Besides, the man said the Golden dog’s problems were in the past and it was now reformed.

After a while, the farmer decided to go home with the Golden dog. The dog was very happy and explored its new surroundings, especially the barnyard, and met the other animals there. The farmer was happy and sent his old retired dog to go live with his Uncle Joe. The farmer noticed a couple other strange dogs hanging around the farm…sometimes in the shadows and sometimes just over the fence.

One day the farmer went out into the barnyard and found a dead chicken. The farmer thought that maybe one of those lurking dogs had killed the chicken and he encouraged the Golden dog to be more vigilant and protective.

The Golden dog pranced and paraded around the barnyard and the farmer thought it was good that it had assumed possession of the barnyard and surroundings. The other dogs seemed to be less noticeable after a few days. But by and by the farmer found more dead chickens…first one and then another and then a third — four in all. The farmer was also finding fewer eggs and one day he saw that there were many broken egg shells in back of one of the empty stalls.

The farmer took the egg shells and the dead chickens and confronted the Golden dog. The dog was parading around the barnyard as usual when the farmer came and it snarled and snapped at the farmer. The Golden dog grabbed one of the dead chickens and stood over it, daring the farmer to take it back.

The farmer was nonplussed — taken aback that his dog would behave in such a way. Surely, he confessed to himself, it was his own dog that was killing chickens and sucking eggs. The dog man had told the farmer about the Golden dog’s one-time flaw but the farmer had dismissed it.

The farmer penned up the dog and scolded it. He kept it on a leash and walked it around the barnyard. When the Golden dog encountered a chicken the farmer yanked on the leash and yelled “No!!” and they continued with the walk. After several days of this the farmer thought that the problem had passed and released the Golden dog. The dog was somewhat sullen at first but in a while it was prancing and parading around the barnyard just like before.

The farmer thought that everything was fine but after a short while he noticed he was getting fewer eggs. He searched the barn but did not find any broken eggshells. Then the farmer noticed that some of his chickens were missing. The farmer looked at the Golden dog but the dog was innocently lying on the porch without a care in the world.

After a few days of this, the farmer began to smell something odd and decided to investigate. He looked everywhere but couldn’t pinpoint the source. The Golden dog watched from the porch as the farmer searched high and low. Finally, the farmer approached the porch and the Golden dog seemed to take notice. The farmer glanced at the dog and the porch and noticed a feather sticking out from the space under the porch. The Golden dog took an aggressive stance. The farmer saw that the Golden dog was back to its old tricks and had been killing chickens and sucking eggs all along but was hiding the evidence under the porch. The farmer marveled at how this could be as he took the dog and tied it to a tree far from the house and the barnyard. The Golden dog could no longer be trusted anywhere near the barnyard and was of no use to the farmer. The farmer recalled all the things that the dog man had said about the Golden dog’s problems and behaviors…things that the farmer had foolishly chosen to ignore.

The next day the farmer tried to return the Golden dog to the man at the dog store but the man would not take him back as the Golden dog had been nothing but trouble. Also the Herder dog — the better of the two — was gone and was busy on a different kind of farm in New York. The foolish farmer was sad that he was stuck with a useless dog so the dog man said “Take the worthless Golden dog to the junkyard and give it away to the junkman”…and that’s what the farmer did.

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