Someone once suggested to me that the life we share with a dog is not about dogs or dog sports at all. That the interaction between us is simply a vessel to teach us the lessons we are intended to learn as we travel through life. The lessons are always there, but not always noticed. We may be so wrapped up in “training” the dog that we fail to grasp what the dog is trying to share with us. However, if we don’t take the time to see the lesson, you can be certain it will come around to us again.
This got me thinking about the dogs that are sent to join each of us as we travel along our individual journeys and why we get the dog that we do at such specific points in our lives. Our lessons will include those of friendship, love and loyalty. There are those of gratitude, as we learn to look for the bright side in any situation. And just as failure will not define our future, neither will we rely on successes to create our sense of self worth.
Some dogs will join our journey and completely change its direction. There may be one dog that joins us to teach a multitude of lessons, while another has only a brief stay, sharing lessons that include those of profound loss and recovery. Our lessons may be about people: those passing through quickly, focused on their own journeys, as well as others who are meant to stay and share their lessons with us. A dog may be leading you to one particular person someone who is meant to continue on the journey with you. We learn that the lessons of experience are often hidden and that the limits of our own perception do not define life’s infinite possibilities.
There will be lessons that teach us how to recover from unforeseen struggles and how faith and an unwavering belief can overcome every obstacle. We will learn to become more accepting and less reactive, and to not allow disappointment to negatively impact our outlook. Some dogs are sent to teach us lessons that we are meant to share with others. We are learning to be less judgmental of those that cross our paths each day and also how to make the best of any situation in which we may find ourselves. And for many of us, the lessons may also include discovering the endless source of joy that exists within us should we dare to strip away the inhibitions that keep this joy hidden inside.
For no start line is broken and no bar is dropped without a lesson for us, be it in patience, in humility, in acceptance or even in the realization of the need for more knowledge. For in the end, when our dogs come to the last day of their journey with us, we won’t look back and wish we had won more red ribbons. But we may regret that we didn’t learn our lessons earlier so that we might have enjoyed our journey together more fully. However, don’t judge your path – for all of these lessons are intended for you and for you to pass along. As you head out for your last few runs in competition tomorrow, smile at the realization of how many lessons have brought you to this moment. And find peace in knowing that the outcome of the run is part of your journey because it is not about dog sport, it is about the lessons.
And this is by no means the end of journey…