Saturday, December 31, 2011

Lessons from my Dog

While I've been on a journey of sorts over the last few years, 2011 has been a year of big changes for me.  I got some of my ducks in a row and started taking more responsibility for my health and well being.  I also got a dog.  I've never had a pet before.  We never had pets growing up, so this has been a big deal for me.  But on July 20, I adopted Sophie, a six year old yorkie poo rescue.  She has been a "breeder" dog all her life with very little human interaction and, from the way she responds to people, I'm assuming that interaction wasn't very positive.  It's been a tough journey at times, but I've learned a lot from her.  Here are some of them.

- There are good parts to every day. I was the kind of person who would avoid going out of the house at the smallest hint of a rainy day.  I'd stay in bed longer to let the snow melt.  I'd avoid leaving the comforts of air conditioning during most of the summer months. It has taken some serious weather watching on some days but I've learned there are good parts to every day.  In the summer, early in the morning and late in the evening can be quite pleasant. On rainy days, there is usually a little break which makes those moments feel like a special little treasure.  Each day has redeemable qualities.

-  Sometimes a patch of grass can be more than just a patch of grass.  I don't know what she is thinking in her mind, but there is this one patch of grass in our neighborhood that Sophie loves to run through.  It actually looks more like hopping as she lets herself go. I encourage her and run right along side of her wondering what the neighbors are thinking. It may just look like a patch of grass to me, but there is something magical about it to her.  Maybe there are other patches of grass in life that are more magical than they first appear to be.
-  Don't listen to all of the advice you are given.  It must be what parents feel, but when I got Sophie, everyone had an opinion about what I should be doing with her.  The neighbors felt like she should be willing to meet all of their dogs, no matter how huge or spastic they were.  I should force her to interact with other dogs.  I have one neighbor who feels like he is doing a favor if he forces some interaction with him because "that's the only way she'll get over her fear."  The foster mom wanted me to let her do anything she wanted and the rescue place wanted me to let her know who was boss.  Sometimes you have to just quiet the other voices and listen to your gut.

- Anything can be scary if you let it.  Today when we were walking, leaves were blowing around.  This seems to scare Sophie, along with the Christmas tree when we first put it up and a long list of other items that do not seem scary to most of us. The truth is though, we all have things that we think are scary that aren't really.  We've got to learn to walk through the blowing leaves swirling around us and past the twinkling lights of Christmas trees and not let them hold any power over us.
-  It takes courage to trust.  Sometimes we forget how hard it is for others to trust us and we treat their trust flippantly, but the truth is, trust is of great value.  We need to remember that some people may have a harder time trusting because they never had anyone they can really trust.

-  Sometimes progress comes as slow as grass growing.  You've got to learn to celebrate the little things.  The little things may be that she no longer runs when you kneel down to pick her up or that she does not always shake when you get in the car.  In adult life, progress and change in life came seem to be nonexistent, but we have to learn to celebrate the little things.

-  What's a little pottying on the floor?  I walk around fearing that she is going to pee or poop on the floor.  And we have had our fair share of that.  However, I often am so afraid of her having an accident on my floor or, worse, someone else's that it limits what we do or what I expect of her.  And, why?  What's a little potty?  It can be cleaned up pretty simple.  The truth is though, I find that I spend a lot of time worrying about things in life that are really not that big of a deal as well.  Let things happen and clean what you need to.

-  A little walk around the block can make all the difference in the world.  I have been amazed at how good it feels to take our fifteen minute walk to start and end the day.  I've always been a "don't talk to me before I've had my coffee kind of person, but now by the time I'm pouring my cup, I've already walked Sophie.  By the end of the day, I usually feel wiped.  The tasks of the day are still swirling around in my head.  However, I go for a little loop in the neighborhood and it all melts away.

Here's to a new year where Sophie and I can continue learning to trust each other and I continue to be challenged by having such a wonderful little creature in my life.

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