The Dog, My Teacher

Dealing with a dog is an interesting proposition. I’ve learned a lot about myself.

I grew up with cats. We never had a dog, and dogs that I did meet in those early years didn’t seem to have had much of an impact on my consciousness. Cats, I understand – that is if cats can ever really be said to be understood or rather simply accepted as is. But I’ve always harboured some latent contempt for dogs. They ‘fetch’ for god’s sake, chasing inanely after a favourite stick or some Frisbee (subtle dig at Ultimate players!), quite happy to spend their days barking at squirrels or chasing their own tails.

Admittedly, that’s a bit cynical but I’m just being truthful.

But now, here I sit, living with a puppy and essentially having to learn about dogs, their habits and personalities, about who they are. Much like children, dogs are often reflections of those who raise them, those who teach them…all of their fears, their values, their goals.

My initial response to the dog doing something, anything that deviates from my specific desire is to get angry. And here I’m going to give myself away just a bit, but that’s kinda how I react to life when it isn’t cooperating with my specific desire. I want to yell and scream. I feel frustrated and so I externalise. I want to impose myself and make the dog (life) do what I want. This doesn’t work.

Can’t force life. Can’t force a dog. (Can’t even really force a chicken!)

Life, dogs, like gravity, must be worked with and not against.

If you stuff your barn full of chickens or sheep or pigs or what-have-you, if you work against their nature, if we cram huge swaths of our land with one crop, with one plant and fight every other plant, call it a weed, if we work against what nature wants, then you really do have a fight on your hands.

This is how many of us approach life; as if it were a fight. Much of our culture, our society, our economy is built on this very human notion.

This is how I sometimes approach life. This is my natural instinct when it comes to dealing with a dog.

But life, much like a dog, prefers that you just sorta play along. Let the dog lead you through that darkness that dwells so close to the surface of the human soul and into the light of its depths. Only then does the dog – and life – do what you want it to.

I’ve learned to speak quietly and calmly, to respect the dog doing dog things, to be far more patient. These are in fact life lessons, lessons I’ve needed to learn for some time now. Interesting that’d it take a silly little dog to teach me so much about how to be in the world.

Thanks Harp.

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5 Responses to The Dog, My Teacher

  1. Melva says:

    Dear Mr. Mutton Monologues and Baxter and Andrew…….. the best ever!!!! Harp you rock!!

  2. Jill says:

    Hello! Your words made a little teary, thank-you.

    To quote the Dog Whisperer “You don’t always get the dog you want but you always get the dog you need.” I recall Mick Jagger giving similar advice so it must be true.

    Can’t wait to meet this girl named Harp.

    Jill

  3. Julia says:

    Wow, what a great post! Hi Andrew, this is Julia, that writer who stayed at the farm back in May, and I’ve finally had a chance to read the blog. Anyway, the whole thing is awesome, but I totally especially like this one, very nicely put. Give Harp a good pet from me, and say hi Striperson and all the other non-humans and humans I know over there!

  4. jaimeawesome says:

    this is incredibly beautiful.

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