There are a lot of different ways to look at what we are doing. At dog training. There is the reactive approach, identifying each problem as it appears, formulating a plan of action to solve it, and implementing the plan. There’s the goal oriented approach of carefully figuring out which skills the dog will need in the big picture to do the things and earn the titles. There is the tried and true approach, it’s what the rest of the people in the club, group, area do, and it works for them. So many right ways. And they are right ways. They’ve worked for years and for so many people. What I do notice, however, is that sometimes any of these approaches lends itself to an element of struggle. There is a goal and meeting it is not always the path we thought it would be.
Some of us dreamt of having a dog ever since we were little. For whatever reason our parents did not or could not give us that gift, and so we told ourselves the story of the dog. The dog in the story, the dog of our dreams, we did all the things with that dog. We still tell ourselves that story every time a new dog comes into our lives. Our heart still creates that quest, that hero’s journey, every single time. We know it, we even talk about it. But instead of embracing it, we fear ourselves, we push it down and choose, instead, to be more practical. How often do you hear someone say something along the lines of their puppy being a blank slate, and how scared they are that they’re going to mess her up?
When you allow yourself to tell the story of your dog, to create the quest, the hero’s journey, the joy is in the travel. The story is constant, there’s no ‘training time’ vs ‘down time’, the adventure is now. Take time to be a child again, to dream those dreams. In the dreams of childhood things don’t go smoothly, we always create adversities to overcome, and the sweetness over conquering them is palpable, even within our mind’s eye. We know this. How boring would it be to watch a movie that had no struggle before the happy ending?
When you take time to tell yourself the story of your dog, make sure to captivate yourself, focus on the details, the excitement, the pieces that keep you coming back for more. This is your dog, she’s young, with her whole life ahead of her. What kind of adventures will you have? Will you rob a bank together? Will she pull you from a burning building and save your life? Remember, you probably dreamt that kind of stuff when you were a kid :-). Will you win Nationals? What kind of challenges will come along the way to that success? What will you learn? Will you fail the first time? Will it feel awful? And when you win? Can you feel the euphoria? And then…. She will grow old, frail, you won’t be able to bear that, but you will have to.
Within that story is the secret to figuring things out when you hit a wall. Within the blockbuster, the hero’s quest, there are a multitude of short stories waiting to be told. Every little detail that the two of you will learn together is another chapter. When you think in stories, when you think in process, you start to thin slice again, and all the pieces fall together, even the struggles, into their own perfect masterpiece.