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On Self Control

An artist had a dog that meant more to him than anything in the world. One day he broke his leg and the artist was panic-stricken. He ran to the telephone and called an acquaintance, a famous surgeon. “It’s an emergency,” he yelled, “a matter of life and death. Come quick!”

The startled surgeon dropped everything and rushed to the home of the artist, expecting the worst. When confronted with the dog, the surgeon, with masterful self-control, said not a word but proceeded to treat the dog with the same skill he would have used on a human being. Then he picked up his instruments and left.

Weeks passed, the dog got well, yet the artist never received a bill from the surgeon. The longer he waited the more guilty he felt. Surely he had lost the surgeon’s friendship forever. A few days later, therefore, he made his way to the surgeon’s office, intending to pay all that was asked. The surgeon would not accept his check. “You’re a painter, aren’t you?” he asked.


“Very well, if you will just put a coat of white paint on that cabinet over there, we will call the debt settled.”

The artist, a good-natured man, was amused by the doctor’s clever idea of revenge. He smiled and started to work at once. But when the job was completed, instead of a coat of white paint, the panels of the surgeon’s cabinet bore two of the artist’s greatest masterpieces, worth thousands of dollars apiece.

Bits & Pieces, August 22, 1991

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