Sunday, June 24, 2012

Metaphors for Life

Many years ago when I first started taking my dogs to classes, I didn't understand why people would take their dogs to class but not do dog shows. All that work and time and money, and nothing to show for it? I understood that some people just didn't want to show, but I didn't really get it.

I get it now.

Over the last year or so, I've come to the realization that I don't like showing one bit. Oh, I like titles, but I have terrible ring nerves, and that stresses out my dog, and then no one's having fun. And if neither of us is enjoying ourselves, then we have no business stepping foot in a show ring. Such an expensive ribbon is not worth the anguish. Period.

This revelation was bewildering. If not for titles, then why? Oh, sure - I enjoy spending time with my dogs. But I can enjoy spending time with my dogs from the sanctity of my backyard, and it's a lot cheaper to boot.

When we bought our house, I inherited it's garden (don't worry, it's related, I promise). I'd never been much of a gardener, but I've found I like having something to do while the dogs lounge on the deck.

At this point, it should surprise none of you that I have trouble sitting still and doing nothing. 

At first, I was terribly paranoid about pulling something up that was suppose to be there. Was that weird plant with the puny flowers a weed or something important? But as I got my fingers dirty, I started to relax. Eventually, I came up with with my own gardening philosophy. It went something like this:

The hell with what "should" be there.

Columbine, you can stay, but you have to let me call you "dragon's head" from now on.
Because of the awesome, that's why.

If I like it, it stays.
If I don't like it, I'm pulling it up.

Day lily, asiactic lily, whatever. They can stay. 

I've spent that last few months really looking hard at my dog training program, and I'm come to the same ruthless conclusion there that I did with my garden: if we like it, it stays. If we don't like it, it's going away.


Take classes, for instance. Do I enjoy them? Usually. Do the dogs enjoy them. Definitely! But from now on, we're going to be taking classes with more of an eye for what we want to do, instead of what we should be doing to earn titles. That's not to say we'll never end up in a show ring again - but if we do, I'm going to make damn sure it's fun for both of us.

"A ribbon? Can we eat it? . . . Then what's the point?"

That determination was easy. But I've found myself watching the dogs so much more closely these days, looking for cues to what makes them happy (because, let's face it, as long as I'm with them, I'm pretty happy). Sometimes, their happiness is pretty obvious.

I feel pretty comfortable labeling this "happiness."

Yep, I'm pretty sure this is the kind of happy people take drugs to get.

What about when we're not playing ball or taking walks or biking, though? These activities are a brief moment of each day. Can you call it a happy life if there are only brief moments of happiness surrounded by boredom - or worse, misery? Do I think it's a beautiful garden if there are only flowers?

I'm afraid not.

As I examined my dogs' days, though, I saw something new. Actually, I saw something that has probably always been there but that I had not noticed because I was not looking. It's a simple smile. Not directed at me like those grinning bully faces, but always into the distance. It seems to be a smile for smiling's sake. The kind of soft, personal smile you get when you step outside in the morning and the sun is bright and the air is clean and peaceful. It might be a good day, it might be a bad day, but here - in this moment - is a life worth waking up for. Worth living. Worth being happy.

I guess I must be doing something right. I don't know everything about dog training, and I don't know everything about gardening. But I think I've finally got the right idea.

Plant what you like. Grow happiness.

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