Building A Generous Future
Raising Nika has been a doddle.
Not in the sense that she always did what I hoped she’d do, and that I didn’t have to channel her learning towards more productive ends and away from
- Body slamming me with enthusiasm upon reunions
- Insisting that I never stop petting her… EVER
- Barking eviction orders at Bill and Coo, the local collared doves
- Telling me to hurry up and do the thing (whether playing with or feeding her, or merely putting on my pyjamas)
- The very strong preference for toileting indoors where it’s nice and warm
Or maybe it hasn’t been a doddle. Maybe my life with a body-slamming, relentlessly tactile-seeking, pigeon-hating, manager extraordinaire just seems like this now because it was one of construction rather than striving and suppressing.
Struggle v. Ease
Maybe it just feels like this now because I haven’t stayed awake at night worrying about her in the way that I stayed awake worrying about T, who was nothing like The Books told me he should be (before I decided that The Books were wrong, and that T was a perfect version of himself).
Maybe it feels like a doddle because my life with her wasn’t one of competing against who she is, trying to mould her into something else, or even just worrying about the potential fallout of every decision I made.
Raising T was beset by a desire to “get it right” for him, to be a Good Owner (by whose standards I wasn’t quite sure), to compensate him for his Before Life (filthy shed; little human contact; 30+ stressed dogs), but also to make sure that Before Life didn’t infect his Now.
His early months were so focussed on all that had gone wrong for him in the past and all that could go wrong for our life together in the future that I don’t think I stopped frequently enough to pay attention to who he was then, and to build his learning from that. Neither of us can get those months back
Nika’s early months, on the other hand, were informed by curiosity; every challenge an opportunity for learning that was filed with optimism about discovering who she is and helping to guide her according to the rewards she sought. And through awareness of that difference in living with two young dogs, I learned about the importance of focus.
Her Greatest Teaching
Last week, as my ears throbbed at the almighty shout she emitted to let me know that I was TOO SLOW and that she wanted me TO BEGIN THE GAME NOW, I was positively enchanted by the learning path I could see up ahead, and how it would benefit us both in so many ways in our life together.
Realising that A.N. Expert might suggest that she has problems with “Impulse Control,” I instead saw a valuable opportunity for teaching her the value of slow and steady: her stillness would be rewarded with my movement. A few days later, as she was matching her pace to mine as we walked down the hallway to the toy store together, both of us anticipating with great pleasure the game that was about to start, yet both of us agreeing that we would take our time to begin, I understood the importance of perspective in raising a dog.
Someone else’s impulsive; my enthusiastic. Their stubborn; my tenacious. Their controlling; my reward-attuned.
Not a doddle; not by a long shot: but it felt like one because of a recognition that our learning wasn’t just going to be one-sided, and that if I wanted her to learn so that she could adapt to my world, I had to be prepared to do the same so I could adapt to hers.