April 23 • 08:17 AM

Food for the dog is food for thought

July 25, 2007
"There are two dogs inside of me,

The one I feed the most

is the one that grows

the strongest..."

I can't remember where I ran across that saying, but I believe it's Native American wisdom.

Like with many things, they seem to have an extraordinary grasp on things of nature and spirit.

Since it's posted on my refrigerator I see the wisdom every single day but only remember it when things are so bad I know I must help myself.

Lately my bad dog's been really hungry. But for him it's no problem because I give him plenty to snack on: He feasts on 'You knew better,' and 'you're such a fool,' and 'I look horrible today,' and 'I'm so fat,' and 'man, I really messed up,' and 'I can't keep up,' and 'what do you expect?' and 'got what you deserved,' and so on and so on. His bowl's overflowing. He's a monster, in more ways than one. Yet I can't seem to keep my hands off of him. Feeding and stroking his giant head, for what? Not because it feels good, no. I just feed him because that's what I'm used to. And the dog that I feed the most is the one that grows the strongest. I see this now as I cower before him almost helpless. I need to dig deep for the good dog. Now, while I'm thinking about it. Right before I even consider tossing that big old dog another 'I messed up' crumb.

The good dog's a mere shadow of herself. I've starved her just about down to nothing, finding it hard to choke down kindness, I suppose, especially from me directed at myself.

I try digging up a bone. 'You made it through this day without collapsing,' and the good dog grabs onto it for all its worth.

I find another one, it's got a little meat on it— 'You're a good person.' She swallows it whole. Her tail's wagging, tongue hanging out, eyes wide and imploring.

'You take care of many things,' I say. She's practically growing stronger before my very eyes. I want her to be strong. I like her. She's kind-hearted and open and trusting and she loves me no matter how I treat do I treat her? Hardly at all. I need to feed her more. I want to feed her more, all the time. All the time because the one I feed the most is the one that grows the strongest...

This is true from the very beginning of our lives. What starts out as praise for the tiniest thing—learning to crawl, uttering the first discernible words, coloring between the lines—soon fades into the realm of less remarkable as more is expected. There's nothing really wrong with that, it's just the way it is.

Still, recognition for something as banal as making a decision to walk away from an argument, to get up and go to work when all you really want to do is stay in bed with the covers pulled up tight isn't easy to come by, nor is it necessary or required. Except in our own heads...

...Two dogs...the one I feed the most is the one that grows the strongest...

...The dog doesn't need a gourmet meal of 'you saved the world today,' just a steady diet of 'you're doing fine, you're okay,' keeps the good dog from starving.

I have a friend who's constantly saying "I'm proud of you." "You do good work." "You did the right thing." "You look so nice." Food for the good dog.

I think about how often, really, during the course of everyday life I've heard those type of things in the past 20 or so years. Or perhaps more importantly how often do I SAY those type of things to others—to a spouse, lover, kids, friends, coworkers? Is that how the other dog got stronger right under my very nose?

...The one I feed the most...

So I'll start now. I appreciate that you've just spent a little time in this corner of the paper, where I struggle sometimes to feed the dog. As you can probably tell if you visit here often, "there are two dogs inside of me and the one I feed the most is the one that grows the strongest."

Email Catherine at

Castle Creek
04 - 23 - 19
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