Skip to main content
Message Font: Serif | Sans-Serif
No. of Recommendations: 29
This is a story about investing.**

It is a story of bravery and daring, of putting everything on the line when the time has come – or perhaps not; perhaps it is just a story of a lucky mistake. We will never know, really, because we cannot ask the protagonist what was going through her mind; she is only a dog, named Daisy.

To set the stage, picture a young woman, barely 20, riding her bicycle down a narrow street toward a jetty reaching far out into the sea. The sun has barely risen and the street is empty -- empty, that is, except for the ever-present population of abandoned dogs, gaunt dogs with weary eyes who cling precariously to lives dependent on the sporadic kindness of strangers (an uncertain quality in the impoverished village) and fierce competition with the other dogs.

The young woman – still a girl, really -- is sad every morning as she rides past the dogs; they are legion and they are lost, and there is nothing she can do; it is a problem far larger than her abilities. Every morning, she rides through the gauntlet of starving dogs, then steps into the small boat beside the jetty, where her fellow researchers are waiting to begin the half-hour ride out to the tiny island where they are working.

This particular morning, as she rides, a tiny dog races out and runs beside her, wagging its tail furiously and pouncing at her pedals. She slows – she cannot help it – and pets the tiny puppy. It is tan, with shepherd eyes and a stub of a tail that wags comically; it is also very thin, ribs showing clearly and stomach sunken. And it is young, barely weaned, perhaps four or five weeks old.

She rides on but the puppy follows her. She stops and looks; there is no sign of its mother. It seems to be all alone. She pets it again and rides on; it follows. Finally, as she gets in the boat, it tries to climb in with her, a futile effort given its size. Laughing, her friends push it away; she is sad, but she has learned to harden her heart. The boat pushes away from the jetty and begins to motor out into the choppy waves.

Suddenly the pilot makes a sharp exclamation; a second later there is a loud splash behind them. People gather at the end of the jetty, pointing and shouting. And then she sees it – a tiny tan head bobbing in the waves, appearing and then submerging, the puppy trying to swim after them! She screams at the pilot, who has already turned the boat around – he has lived a long time in poverty and has seen many things, but he is still human.

When they get back to the spot where they had last seen the puppy, there is nothing, just churning water and foam. Then the pilot leans over, impossibly far, into the water, his arms shoots down and then comes up holding a limp tan form. They put the puppy in the boat and rhythmically press its stomach; after heartbreaking seconds, it retches and breathes!

A cheer goes up from the jetty above them – a crowd had witnessed the puppy dash along the jetty and launch itself out into the turbulent waters, and even the hardest among them could not help but root for it.

The young woman reaches over and holds the ecstatic little animal, shivering as its tail wags impossibly fast. And she makes a decision; she will keep the brave little dog; she will call it Daisy.

A few weeks later, I receive a call from my daughter, a rare event when she is in the field doing research.

“Hi, Dad; guess what?”

“You have decided to come home and care for your father in his declining years?”

“Ha, ha, no,” she says, “I have rescued the cutest little dog, and I am almost sure I have found a home for it.” (She cannot keep it because she lives in a residential college with a strict no-pets rule.)

I did not just fall off of the turnip truck; I know exactly what “almost sure” means. “Honey, you know we cannot take it; we have too many dogs as it is.”

I imagine you can guess where this ended up; I now have a fourth dog, Daisy, at least until my daughter can take it back.

My daughter is convinced that Daisy assessed her situation and took the greatest of gambles knowing full well the risks. I am far more cynical, but there is a small part of me that believes great stories even when I know them to be false – a part that believes things that *should* be true, even if they are not.

After her one soaring moment, challenging the sky and the sea, Daisy has become earthbound. She loves to find rocky hills (some might call them drumlins) and burrow into them, making a safe and comfortable den. And I wish I could ask her what she knew and what she thought in that single great moment, but I suspect she has put it out of her mind entirely.

So what is the point of all this?

Well, perhaps there isn’t one.

But if there were, it might be simply to explain the origin of my name. Or it might be to honor courage and compassion. It might even be to raise the question of whether animals are like us in some important ways – can we even assign traits such as courage to them? – or are instead fundamentally different from us?

Or, perhaps the point is to think a little bit about compassion.

My daughter did an act of compassion, and that is commendable, but why save a puppy when so many people are in peril? And why act to help others only when the problem is forced into your life?

There are many problems out there that we simply ignore; we put them out of our heads, in part because they are too massive for us to confront – we would be helpless in the face of them.

Certainly we cannot all live our lives as Mother Teresa did – we owe something to ourselves, for one thing, and on a more pragmatic level the world would grind to a halt if we all committed ourselves 100% to charitable acts. Also, it is pretty clear that the charitable world has benefitted more from the life Bill Gates has actually lived, complete with the establishment of his charitable foundation, than it would have had he devoted his life to good works.

So it is all very complicated.

Where I have ended up on this issue, at least for the moment, is as follows:

We should honor acts of kindness and compassion wherever they occur, without trying to weigh them on some sort of relative value scale against other possible acts of charity.

Although old skinflints (a category to which I shamelessly belong) tend to measure the rationality of various courses of action – including things such as saving dogs – on a scale that considers the benefit in relation to the cost, it is a very good thing that the world also has compassionate young ladies who have warmer hearts and kinder dispositions.

Harry Chapin was a mediocre folk singer – maybe a notch better than mediocre – who was apparently at the very top of the list of good human beings. He would do one concert for himself and then do the next one for “the other guy,” usually meaning one of the many charities he supported in the fight against world hunger. Just speaking personally, and without recommending anything to anyone else, I intend to do something like this with my Pro portfolio profits. Of course, this ups the pressure a bit on the Pro team – now they are working for widows and orphans! -- but I think they can handle it

So, was there really any point to this long post? Well, not every question has an answer!

A Drumlin Daisy

**Not really, but perhaps this will fool the board censors.

If I can with confidence say
That still for another day,
Or even another year,
I will be there for you, my dear,

It will be because, though small
As measured against the All,
I have been so instinctively thorough
About my crevice and burrow.

Robert Frost
Print the post  


When Life Gives You Lemons
We all have had hardships and made poor decisions. The important thing is how we respond and grow. Read the story of a Fool who started from nothing, and looks to gain everything.
Contact Us
Contact Customer Service and other Fool departments here.
What was Your Dumbest Investment?
Share it with us -- and learn from others' stories of flubs.
Work for Fools?
Winner of the Washingtonian great places to work, and Glassdoor #1 Company to Work For 2015! Have access to all of TMF's online and email products for FREE, and be paid for your contributions to TMF! Click the link and start your Fool career.