April 30, 2013 11 Comments
Several months ago – maybe even years – the Husband and I found ourselves in a room with a bunch of other dog people and we were posed the question “Who is perfectly, 100% happy with their dog’s behaviour? Whose training goals are complete? Be honest.”
We kind of looked at each other, shrugged in agreement, and hesitantly raised our hands.
We were the only ones.
You could feel all eyes turn in our direction.
There are many possibilities for what the others there were thinking: (a) “what a couple of egotistical douchebags”; (b) “well they’re delusional”; (c) “liars!” or (d) “Moses isn’t that great.” Or perhaps even (e) “these jerks just ruined a great teaching moment.”
But you know what? Screw those guys.
Moses is perfect. At least he is to me.
Are there things I wish I could change about Moses? Sure. His health history comes to mind first. And his uncanny ability to fling drool onto your face or hair isn’t exactly endearing to everyone, either.
But I don’t really care about that. Those are not considerations that would’ve kept my hand down.
Even if there is a little room for improvement or there are dozens more skills we could teach him, I’m not particularly preoccupied with that. And maybe there was a time I wouldn’t have raised my hand, but that was long ago.
I like Moses for who he is and the history we’ve had with him has just made me increasingly grateful for the time we get to hang out with him, which is so much better when you’re not stressing about areas for improvement. The focus is on what we have – not what we don’t have. So when I raised my hand, I was being completely honest.
And that brings me to Alma.
It took us a couple of months to really get to know Alma and let her full personality come out after adopting her. And if I was focusing on the negative, I’d mention something like her separation anxiety that she doesn’t exactly channel into the most desirable behaviours, for instance.
But that just stresses me out and I used to be very guilty of dwelling on what needed to be improved.
I took it seriously. I took it personally. And it took all the fun out of our relationship.
And it’s taken me a while to figure this out, but here it is: if Moses is awesome because he’s perfect, Alma is awesome because she’s NOT.
Alma is mischievous. Energetic (for a Newf). Goofy. Stubborn. Her unfettered joy in nearly any situation is a trait anyone should admire; she makes no apologies for being herself.
There’s no point in letting myself get anxious about it or fixate on what passersby may be thinking, because her exuberance is really a key part of what makes Alma Alma.
It’s not an easy lesson to internalize, and even if you know it, it’s a whole other thing to put it into practice and let go of any spawning frustration or embarrassment in the moment. When you spend a lot of time talking about struggles and goals, you can easily forget to talk about growth and success. At least I did. And that’s not fair for anyone.
No, this doesn’t mean that training stops here, but it does mean that I won’t let perceived imperfections hold us back and I won’t think about being scrutinized by other dog owners if things aren’t going perfectly.
Instead, I’m practising optimism and contentment with what we have, where we are, where we’re going, and all that both Alma and Moses have taught me.
If you were to ask me today if I was 100% happy with my dogs and their behaviour, I would definitely have the audacity to respond again – and to raise both of my hands: one for Moses, and one for Alma.
And I dare anyone to challenge me on that.