• The Gifts from my Dogs

    Some people might have thought that I was insane, I dedicated my first book to all the dogs I have had through the years. That was only because the sequel to my first book was written first, and it was dedicated to my husband who died several years ago. It was more appropriate for that book because he took a chance on me, and his love made me grow to become a much better person.

    But before my husband, during our twenty-five years together, and since his passing, my life has always been filled with dogs. As a matter of fact his little dog was one of his most attractive features. I figured that any man who could have such loving, sweet dog had to have some pretty decent qualities. I discovered over my lifetime with dogs that they are far better trainers and indicators of human qualities than people project by themselves. The people with the big bad dogs, or those who beat their pups into submission, are just petty, insecure people who have to have an alter ego in the four legged variety to make themselves something. They are pretty much useless in general scheme of things because they don't recognize love when it stares at them from the eyes of their dogs.

    I, on the other hand, find my dogs are what help shape me. When I am impatient, I sometimes yell at them for being underfoot, when in truth, its my own poor planning getting me frustrated. My dogs show me my misplaced anger--oh so subtly. They pout. You'd think I took out a stick and beat them. In their minds, they were just joining in the frentic activity in an effort to help, so when they get yelled at, they're devastated. And yet, it always brings me up short because I realize how unfair my response is. And so the next time, when maybe a co-worker or friend gets in the midst of my mad dashing, I've learned to calmly say, "Could you just hold that thought for a moment, I'm having a bit of a crisis at the moment." It beats the heck out of saying, "What the hell do you want now?"

    And I admit to being a sucker for their little ploys anyway. At the dog park, my one pup will go fetch a ball and bring it back to me with tail wagging, as long as someone else is watching. When he picks up the ball after I toss it, he glances around, if no one is watching him to see what an obedient dog he is, he just drops the ball and makes me fetch it. And I do! Okay, so they have the training thing down better than I do.

    That's because training, teaching, learning, is all based on love. Everyone starts out their life wanting to please someone at some point. Dogs always want to. They spend their whole lives looking for ways to be useful so they can gain our love and approval. All our faults and failures will be readily forgiven if we only give them a pat on the head and tell them they're a good pup. I think maybe kids would do it more often too, if we take the time to give them a little pat on the head more often. If a person believes there is the potential for approval, they'll make the effort to seek it. My dogs made me fully aware of that. It's been very useful through the many years of being a supervisor--if I want my crews to work for me, I have to acknowledge their efforts. Unlike dogs, people will give up after awhile of going unnoticed, after realizing their efforts don't mean much to anyone. So a little encouragement can go a long ways to making a difference in someone's life.

    My dogs have helped me through some pretty rough spots in life. They have stuck by me, forgiven my transgression, did not judge me, and always were willing to love me. At times, when I was rather alone in the world, without any support from family or friends, my pups served as a reason to keep trying. And even better, they've helped me become a better person because of it.

    I know now some simple truths that make everything better:

    Most everyone has good points, so if I look for those traits and ignore the irritants, it's much easier to like people.

    Waiting for the storms to pass before trying to get my opinion in is more productive than inserting in the midst of upheaval

    Nothing was ever lost by stepping back, taking a deep breath and waiting for calm to return. I lose nothing by it. I gain by it because it keeps me from saying something foolish out emotion rather than reasoning.

    There are more, but I will have share them later. Right now my dogs have informed me that it's just about time for dog park. I hope they never learn where the keys are because if I don't respond to their less than subtle hints, one day they may just decide I am too slow to bother with and drive themselves.

    What have you learned? Care to share?


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