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Monday, April 9, 2012

What I learned from a Puppy

            I’m taking care of a friend’s puppy this weekend and I had a realization that eluded me for all my 15 years of dog ownership. I was walking the puppy this morning because she was full of energy and had begun causing the types of problems that an energetic puppy will cause (biting the kids, chewing everything, jumping up). I told the kids that when a puppy starts to behave this way it’s not because she’s a ‘bad’ puppy, it’s because she needs to get some exercise. Lots of exercise. So I brought her out for a walk.

            I had a destination in mind: the dog run, where I could let her off her leash to run and exert herself. As we were walking the puppy wanted to stop every couple of steps to sniff around. I found myself pulling her and telling her to ‘come!’ and continue walking so we could get to the park to run. I thought I had her best interest in mind, but when I got to the park I took a moment to myself to just breathe, and I realized that I was participating in my mind. So while she ran around, I focused on my breath until the ‘rushed’ feeling of ‘getting to a destination’ subsided, and all that was left was me watching a puppy enjoy herself and her world.

            On the way back I took a different approach. I realized that even if it took me twice as long to get home, it didn’t matter, it would still be less than 30 minutes of my day. So it might take 30 minutes instead of 15 minutes to get home; the question is, would that really make that big of a difference in my day? No. Would the puppy enjoy smelling every tree and fire hydrant along the way? Yes. Is this walk about me or the puppy? The puppy. And that was my realization: I am doing this for her. I took on the responsibility to care for a puppy, so it is my responsibility to set aside enough time to give her a walk that’s about her, and not about me.

            When I am rushed, when I have projected a planned destination and focus too much on ‘getting there’ instead of watching the puppy and observing what the puppy is enjoying, then I am making the walk about me. It’s not a matter of letting her do whatever she wants; I still have my rules about not going on the road, not pulling on the leash and not venturing too far into people’s yards, and I am consistent with those rules. In this way, I am the boss, because of city rules and safety requirements. So I need to earn the puppy’s respect in this way- through consistency in upholding the rules. But in looking at the situation from a starting point of equality, wherein I put my wants, needs and desires aside in order to look at the situation from a common sense perspective, I see that if I just breathe through my automatic feelings of ‘rushed’ and the pressure of ‘getting there’, then I am giving the puppy a chance to really enjoy herself and explore her world for the first time. She’s so young, all the smells must be fascinating and exciting and new to her.  I was actually able to get over feeling like she was ‘slowing us down’ or ‘taking too long’, so that I could actually enjoy watching her sniff the grass and find little sticks and flowers to bite. It was like every little thing she found needed to be sniffed, bitten, scratched or rolled in. It was really cool to be able to put my self-interest aside and watch her discover the world.

            The cool thing about dogs is that, even as they get older they never seem to stop wanting to play, discover and explore. So when I mind even older dogs I will remember what I learned from the puppy today: the walks are not about me, they are about the dogs. It is my responsibility to set aside enough time to allow the dogs to thoroughly enjoy themselves when we go out for walks. It is my responsibility to remain patient, and to not accept or allow myself to go into my programmed pattern of ‘walking to get somewhere’ and instead just enjoying the walk. This is not about getting from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ by taking the quickest route. It is about living in the Hereness of the moment, and it’s about enjoyment.
          In the bigger picture: when I take responsibility for something, that deosn't mean I then have the right or authority to make it about me; I will remember that whatever I participate in involves a consideration for not only myself, but the other beings that might be involved in my reality. We can't go through life functioning as though we are all that needs to be considered, even when whatever it is we are doing may seem to be in the best interest of others- that may not be the case.

          It is not necessarily only about the activity we are physically participating in that counts, it is who we are within what we are doing. The difference here is the fact that, either way- the dog would have gotten her excercise. But when I put my self-interest aside, I was able to give the puppy a better quality of experience.
          When I take this lesson and incorporate it into everything I do, my living actions will create a better quality experience for all those with whom I interact. Furthermore, putting my wants and desires aside also allows me to be present in the moment, so in this way, I am also benefitting myself.

            So, thank you Tilley, you’ve taught me a valuable life lesson which I will not forget. One which, when I live and apply every time I am in a similar situation, will actually be a benefit in my life and in the lives of those around me. I will build patience, awareness and enjoyment, and a higher quality ineraction than what I have become used to in life.
          I guess everyone has a lesson to teach, so long as we are able to stop listening only to our own minds, and instead open our eyes and ears and learn. Today a puppy taught me how to form relationships of quality with those around me through a consideration of others, and so I am humbled and open to any other lessons life will inevitably present me with.


  1. Awesome Kim. I have also realized this in relation to walk with dogs and care for other beings - the same can be applied with children for example that also do not operate on a time-schedule of stress and future projections. In this, by allowing ourselves to slow down, we can actually be supported by the puppy or child to come back here to earth, instead of rushing around in our minds dragging everyone along with us.

    Thanks for sharing!