Sometimes we just get so caught up in the drama, urgencies, to-do lists, and life’s responsibilities that we forget what’s really important.
We can even get lost in an idea of how our dogs are supposed to be. We fixate on how they’re meant to look and behave without even realizing that it’s all down to choice. What’s really interesting is how we get mired into that way of thinking without even realizing that we have a choice.
I want to talk about how we can change our perspective on life in general, but more specifically, with our relationship with our dogs.
To start with, I want to do something a bit different. I’m sharing a poem below by Mary Oliver, one of my favorite poets. She’s so practical and down to earth. She has a way of pulling together simple words in such powerful ways that really make you think.
Luke by Mary Oliver
I had a dog
who loved flowers.
Briskly she went
through the fields,
for the honeysuckle
or the rose,
her dark head
and her wet nose
of every one
with its petals
with its fragrance
into the air
where the bees,
heavy with pollen
not in the serious
that we choose
this blossom or that blossom
the way we praise or don’t praise –
the way we love
or don’t love –
but the way
we long to be –
in the heaven of earth –
that wild, that loving.
Isn’t that so moving and touching? This poem really causes me to pause and think about how to live more spontaneously, less carefully, more openly, and to really appreciate life in all of its magnificence.
This ties into something that we cover in the Brilliant Partners Academy. It makes me think of how we focus on intention and our attention, our love and energy, and willingness to be connected with our dogs. Not just our dogs though, this applies to everything we come in contact with, whether it’s other humans, animals, plants, or the stars in the sky.
When we’re available for connection, magical stuff happens. One thing that we do at BPA is to join up with our dogs and what they’re interested in doing.
Join up with our dogs
Rather than relying on outdated dog training culture where you have to compete for your dog’s attention, there’s a simpler path.
We don’t need to deprive our dogs of basic needs and enjoyment to get them to listen to us. Instead, we can join up with our dogs and have fun exploring the world through their eyes. It’s like when you take kids to Disneyland or a waterpark. We get to really step into that childlike delight, curiosity, and awe.
Our dogs have that every day, throughout their entire lives. They don’t grow out of that wonder and delight, whether they’re five or 15 years old.
So, one of the things we can do is instead of trying to convince them to do things or campaign for our dog’s attention is to join in.
When your dog goes the smell a flower, think what it might smell like. Imagine what the grass would feel like on your back or the feel of cold water on your paws. Just let them explore and join in with the same level of interest and curiosity.
Even if it’s just for a couple of minutes at a time, you’ll be amazed at how your relationship and partnership with your dog starts to change.
How BPA member Nicola learned to join up with her dogs
A great example of this is from a post that one of our BPA members wrote. It epitomizes the whole concept of joining up with our dogs and why it’s so important to let them know we are available for connection.
Nicola, the BPA member, described a day where she took her dogs to the woods. One of her dogs, Abby, decided that she was more interested in a pile of wood than going on a walk. Nicola let her investigate it, but then they needed to carry on with their walk because she had other things to do.
But Abby kept returning to this woodpile repeatedly. This disrupted the walk, leaving Nicola frustrated. I’ll share a quote from part of her post below:
“I felt like Abby was spoiling our walk, wasting my time, and making me go back because I needed to make sure she was safe. Anyway, I marched back fully intending to put her on the lead and in the car, and continue my walk with my other dog.
And that’s when Kathy’s talk came into my mind and the examples of reframing. I took some deep breaths as I walked back and watched Abby for a minute. I watched in a new mind frame, and I saw the situation differently.
Abby was really enjoying herself. She didn’t need the walk. Abby was loving the scent between the logs, jumping on them, jumping over them. She was alert. Every part of her body, every part of her being was fully alive and buzzing. I took another breath. We could enjoy this moment, or I could spoil it and take her to the car.
I decided to try and join in and hunt with her. I lifted logs, I asked her to look in places. She loved it, she responded. I redirected her and asked her to look where I pointed. She jumped the logs, and she checked where I pointed. My other dog joined in. I can’t tell you how quickly my emotions changed from frustration and annoyance to pleasure and connection.”
Remembering “the main thing”
I’ve shared this quote so many times, but it always manages to be relevant. It’s from Stephen Covey:
“The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.”
Nicola’s story is such a great example of doing just that. This was a brilliant woman on a journey, learning to be a more confident, brilliant partner with her dog. In this moment, she remembered “the main thing,” which is simply to enjoy our life with our dogs, to do fun and interesting things with them.
Another great example is from another BPA member, Jane. She had an easily over-aroused dog that was reactive to so many things. There was a lot to change about their lives to try and stay safe, calm, and happy.
One of the things she wrote was:
“What I’ve learned is that it’s not the place that we go that’s important. If I am content and calm and treasuring this time together, it doesn’t matter whether we’re on a wonderful trail, or just in our living room.”
I love this! It’s such a simple idea, and it may not even seem significant in the grand scheme of the world, but it’s huge. It can change everything when we reframe our mindset this way. The more we can do that, the more brilliant our life becomes.
With that in mind, I will leave you with another poem from Mary Oliver. This also brings to mind the beauty and innocence of being in the moment and just enjoying that our dogs are in our lives.
Luke’s Junkyard Song by Mary Oliver
I was born in a junkyard,
not even on a bundle of rags
or the seat of an old wrecked car
but the dust below.
But when my eyes opened
I could crawl to the edge and see
the moving grass and the trees
and this I began to dream on,
though the worms were eating me.
And at night through the twists of metal
I could see a single star—one, not even two.
Its light was a thing of wonder,
and I learned something precious
that would also be good for you.
Though the worms kept biting and pinching
I fell in love with this star.
I stared at it every night—
that light so clear and far.
Listen, a junkyard puppy
learns quickly how to dream.
Listen, whatever you see and love—
that’s where you are.
This chokes me up whenever I read it! I hope that this inspires you to go out with your dog and join up with them. Explore and have fun, and just enjoy these moments with your dog.
If you’d like to work with me and learn how to create a partnership lifestyle for you and your dog, you can request an invitation to join us in the Brilliant Partners Academy when the doors open for the next enrollment!
You can listen to everything I talked about in this blog post over on my podcast – Enlightened By Dogs. It’s episode 165, which you can listen to here.