There have been times lately, as I age, that I've felt the best is behind me. I've accomplished a lot of lifetime goals but have recently experienced this "Well, now what?" feeling of dead-endness, with no more particular goals to anticipate.
But two things recharged my life in 2014 and showed me there indeed is more ahead. One was my trip to Iceland, where I established a whole new circle of friends and a kinship with another country.
The other was the "new dog."
That's the magic of dogs. You get one, and you've just taken on a potentially 15-year project involving another heartbeat in your own house. Sometimes you have the luxury of carefully picking one you think will fit into your pack and lifestyle. Other times, they just fall out of the sky and onto your porch, and you resign yourself to "making do" with however they turn out. Either way, of course, the responsibility of how they turn out is in your hands and no one else's. And that's the part that secures your own future, as well as theirs. The new dog is going to be your work in progress; he's your reason to set goals and to dream about your future together.
Last year when I rescued Milo, my little bulldog mix, I was sure I'd finally found my "heart dog." He's my beloved Teddy reincarnated into a smaller package...Teddy was a Rottweiler.
The new dog, however, has carved her own place in my heart in the short month I've had her. Usually it doesn't take that long, but I was resistant. After all, I'd recently lost Lizzie, my long-time agility partner, and come to terms with the fact that dear, sweet Milo was NOT going to be my next agility dog. With emotions stretched over these two issues, I started searching for a new dog to fill the gap in agility as well as in our household pack. When I found Dolly on Petfinder.com, I selected her for purely practical reasons. She fit all the criteria. Angus and Milo liked her, she was playful and friendly, and she was agile. She'd do.
Now, a month later, she's nestled at my feet under the desk. She stares up at me with calm but expectant brown eyes, telling me she's most secure when I'm within her sight and she's ready to do whatever I want her to do next. She's won my heart, not by virtue of cuteness (she's just a plain mixed-breed black dog) but with her mind. Our personalities have synched. Having this power and this effect over any other living creature is almost scary. If I am insignificant to every other person in the world, I am still everything in this dog's eyes.
The responsibility and challenge that accompanies this devotion is intimidating. This dog would do anything for me, provided she understands what it is I want. Therefore, it's up to me, totally, to teach her the right signals. She will only be as good a dog as I am a trainer. Am I up to the task? Do I deserve her? She has championship potential as an agility dog, but do I know enough to develop her that way? Can I move well enough to do her justice?
Therein lies the big-picture benefit to having a new dog. She requires me to stay fit, to exercise, to keep my weight down, to guard my health, to keep educating myself, and to continue striving. She requires me to live healthfully for at least another 14 years. Because of that, there's no telling what other pleasant life surprises will be waiting for me within that time span and beyond.
And, since she obviously isn't the "best" dog I'll ever have, I'll have to stay ready for the next one, which undoubtedly will be...until the one after that.
Get a dog.
Earn what your dog wants to give you.