Be Wise as Serpents and Innocent as Doves.
This statement by Jesus is familiar to many folks. But what does it mean? I will share two incidents: one when I wasn’t wise enough, and another when I was too innocent.
Kangaroo kills a man.
I read last week that a kangaroo killed an elderly man in Australia. The man lived in Redmond, south of Perth on the west coast. The man had kept the animal as a pet.
Kangaroos can grow to 6 feet tall. If cornered, they can attack. One story was that a kangaroo chased by a dog leaped into a large pool and when the dog swam, the roo held the dog under water until it drowned.
A kangaroo has smaller front legs but long, strong back legs. If you get too close, the roo can lean back on his tail and use his back legs to slash at your midriff — rip your clothes, and even tear your stomach and intestines.
This may have happened in Australia because they found the man, aged 77, lying on the ground and bleeding. The kangaroo was shot while trying to stop the paramedics from treating the man. It was the first fatal attack by a kangaroo since 1936.
A personal kangaroo scare.
My dad was eighty-something, and we bought a cheese and gherkin sandwich, a favorite in Aussie, at the cafeteria in Wilpena Pound, a famous ring of hills in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia, where I was born and raised.
There were a few small semi-tame kangaroos chewing on the grass out front, so I threw a piece of my sandwich to one of them, a sturdy-looking guy about 4 feet tall. He took the bait and wanted more. My dad joined the act and, standing side by side, my dad and I looked like we were actors in a truly-Australian scene.
But the scene changed quickly… the kangaroo wanted more and he hopped over to the two of us, sniffing the air to find out where the sandwich had gone. When he reached for it with his mouth, I tried to shush him away. He reared back on his tail and slashed at my front with his back legs. He tore my shorts and scratched my thighs which started bleeding.
My first thought was to protect my dad, because the kangaroo might have knocked him over. I turned to shield him with my body while shaking my arms and shouting at the kangaroo to back off. While I was doing this, I yelled at my dad to walk backwards quickly, which he did.
I joined Dad as soon as I could make space between me and the roo, and we escaped. Only later did I think that I could have thrown my sandwich to the roo and the problem would’ve been solved. But no, I wanted that sandwich more than the kangaroo did.
The innocent dove.
In the above encounter I wasn’t very wise. In the next encounter, I was as innocent as a dove and I got burned.
When my close friend’s Morkie, Chanel, passed away, we were distraught. People said to get another dog to help recover from the grieving.
This seemed like a good idea, so I got out my laptop and did a Google search on “Morkie puppies.” A string of links popped up, and one caught my attention immediately. It said 10-week old puppies were $700.
I knew the going price for Morkies was above $3,000 from Morkie breeders, so this seemed too good to be true. I clicked on the link which led me to a professional website, which said the breeder, a local family, lived in Utah. The website had tips on what Morkies are, how to raise Morkie puppies, even their medical deficiencies.
The photos were endearing as Morkies are one of the prettiest of dogs. Four puppies recently sold, but two were for sale. I rushed to find out more.
The page had a “chat” link that responded immediately:
Q: Why is your price so low? A: We have a new litter coming in and we need the space. We usually sell puppies at $1200-1500.”
Q: How can we get the puppy? A: We can deliver using Pet Nannies. It will cost you an extra $250 and the dog will be delivered to your door.
Q: Have your puppies had shots and standard health checks? A: Yes, the vet who guarantees them is listed in the contract.
When I got the contract, everything I could think of was spelled out, including money-back guarantees. Sure enough, the vet was listed as they promised. It was 10 pm when I signed the contract. I felt good, as this had saved a lot of Google searching.
Early next morning I paid $950 by Zelle, as requested. I was on cloud-nine and sent pictures to my dear friend who rejoiced with me. Coco would be a perfectly lovely replacement for Chanel. We couldn’t wait for her delivery.
To confirm everything, two days before delivery I sent an email which we had communicated with in regard to the contract. But no reply. I waited a day and sent a repeat email. Nothing. I tried the chat link but it was dead.
A sliver of anxiety crept across my chest. A thought had entered my mind earlier — that perhaps this was a scam – but the website was so well-designed and the contract was solid, so I dismissed that possibility.
I tried to find the vet, whose vet license was in the contract, and I found him in Colorado Springs. I called, a bit embarrassed. The woman said, Oh yes, we’ve had other calls like yours. But we have never dealt with this puppy breeder in Utah.
I was stunned. And humiliated that I had been conned. And so very sorry for my friend who had owned Chanel. Looking back, I can see now that I was hurrying – wanting to close the deal quickly and surprise my friend with the good news. Emotional urgency!
My learnings are: never use Zelle to pay for people you don’t know personally — always use a credit card or PayPal. A puppy price that is a lot lower than normal breeder prices is a red flag. Don’t buy a puppy without seeing the dog and the breeder in person or at least by facetiming.
I’ve since found out there are many, many scam puppy breeders out there. A long, long list can be found in American Kennel Club, AKC.
My biggest mistake was to not check with other people who own dogs, or even other breeders. Someone would have told me to watch out for puppy scammers.
I’m still chafing over my mistake, but I’ve made mistakes before. I’m trying to forgive myself and move on and emphasize all the positives in my life.
Maybe the Jesus verse below about serpents and doves means I should be childlike, vulnerable and humble, but also to be careful and not taken advantage of by scammers and con-artists and other people who don’t have my best interests at heart. What do you think?
The Gray Nomad ….. One of my good friend’s goal is to be guileless but shrewd – and he is.
Behold, I am sending you out like sheep in the midst of wolves; be wary and wise as serpents, and be innocent (harmless, guileless, and without falsity) as doves.
[Mathew chapter 10, Amplified Bible.]