Learning by Looking Back

In April it will be three years that I’ve had my biggest puppy, Luke.  He was about a year when he came to me and he hasn’t changed much.


He’s gotten bigger.  A lot bigger.  Now instead of a medium size goof with a long tail, he is a big goof with the tail of destruction.  He still gets excited and bounces backwards in the air with a twist.  It is quite acrobatic and weird.


He still pees a little out of excitement when he sees my son.  He still likes to explore and attempt to eat anything within and out of range.  He still slobbers like a mad man when it is dinner time.  He still has separation anxiety when I leave.


I learned one thing I hadn’t known after I brought Luke into my home – Labs take a really, really long time to get out of puppyhood.  He isn’t out of the woods yet.  He’s just a bigger, stronger puppy.


There have been some changes.  He no longer jumps on me, which is good because I am pretty sure he outweighs me.  He has learned to go grab a toy when he is excited because chewing helps calm him down; although sometimes he confuses the little dog for a toy. He has learned some commands, although I have determined he follows them at his own choosing not because I have trained him.


He is a great guard dog because his size and devotion to me and our little pack.  If they hear a noise the other two run to the window to check it out and Luke immediately comes and stands guard in front of me.  It is a nice sentiment unless I’m curled up in bed reading, then I just end up having a huge puppy looming over me.


People get dogs for different reasons.  This one needed a new home.  He was too exuberant and too much work for the single mom with two teenagers always on the go.  He takes a lot of work and even more patience.


I hoped by this time he would have calmed down quite a bit.  A dog that stands almost as tall as you and probably outweighs you is a bit of a handful to say the least when he is exuberant.  He gets exuberant just because it is Monday.  He doesn’t need a reason.


I’ve had big dogs before, a Husky/Sheppard mix and a Great Pyrenees at the same time.  They were both well behaved and calm.  I used to take them on walks with each walking right next to me at the same time without an issue.  Luke, let’s just say we’re working on it.


I think I got him putting expectations of my past pack leadership in mind.  I’ve had up to five dogs at once; I’m used to it and wouldn’t have it any other way.  So there are times that I am quite frustrated with this big bundle of joy bouncing at me and possible behind me creating quite the risk going down the stairs.  I was hoping he would change.


But the one thing that hasn’t changed one bit is his exuberant and constant show of affection and excitement.  When I work, he is the one that comes into my office and lays his head on my lap.  He will then look up at me with huge almond eyes and smile.  He just wants to be loved.


He continues to stare at me and if that does not break my concentration he leans.  He is a leaner.  He leans into my desk putting my computer and work in jeopardy or into my chair moving me away from my desk.  He gets me to play.  He reminds me that we need to play every day.


Would I trade this unconditional love, unbridled excitement for life and joy for play for a well behaved, quiet dog?  No way.  Sure there are curtains that need to be replaced, and doors and some flooring…but I can’t replace him.


I had expectations and got frustrated because he did not meet them.  But then it hit me – those were my expectations based on other dogs.  Luke is like no other dog I have ever had.  I stopped looking at his positive qualities and only saw the things I felt were negative.  Shame on me!


He is being a good dog, it is my job to change the conditions to adapt to his uniqueness in order that he can continue to thrive and my “expectations” are met.  Duh – I should have known this, I have had two packs of over 4 dogs.  I should have known this.


As I was chastising myself, I realized I (and many others) do this to ourselves.


I think sometimes we expect too much of ourselves.  We see only the negatives, the “I should be doing more or betters”.  We stop appreciating the good and focus on what we perceive is the bad or not quite good enough.


We set goals and aspirations, which is great; however, when we haven’t reached them at a certain point we claim failure.  They are not failures, they are lessons.  Sometimes painful, sometimes humorous, but lessons none-the-less on our way to mastery.


Remember the old phrase, crawl before you walk, walk before you can run, and run before you can fly.


Let’s stop looking at where we are not and take a moment to look at where we are, and more importantly where we have come from.  Perhaps I have not mastered a certain project yet, but, I have learned a lot from my failures and I am knee deep in the project rather than just starting out.  I have some degree of knowledge, I know better questions to ask, better methods to try and the ability to persevere because I have come this far.


As a mother I never had a child lock on the pantry, but I had to get one because he likes to open doors.  It was worthless.  He learned how to open the child lock.  No kidding.  The dog can open child locks.  I had to remove the handles from my side tables because he knows how to grab them and open any drawer they are attached to.  It is always an adventure.


While these could be negatives, I choose to look at them as positives.  Every day is a new adventure with this puppy.  Everything is fun and exciting for him and you just can’t help but laugh when he somehow manages to lock himself in the bedroom.  I know keep the key on the outside instead of having to remove the door handle.


Maybe you are looking for a new job, contemplating moving to a new company or making some other life change because you are not happy or feel something is missing.


Before you do I ask you to stop for a moment and take a look.  Is something really missing or could it be your view is a little skewed?  Are you comparing yourself to others?  Are you thinking you should be at a certain point because everyone else is there?  They aren’t, by the way.  Are you putting expectations on yourself without giving yourself credit for the good?


Remind yourself of your good qualities, what good is brought into your life by being where you are and what you could possibly forgo if you make a change.  Which items tip the scale?


Sometimes a change is needed, and if so make sure it is for the right reasons.  Not because you are trying to be anything other than yourself.  Could I train Luke to scratch at the door or make a bark when he wants to come inside rather than bouncing to the top of the door?  Doubt it, but then again, any dog can scratch, this one has over a four foot vertical from standing still – beat that with a stick!



Lisa K McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach



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