Walking Your Own Path

Its’ only 31 degrees as the three of us head out for the daily trip through the neighborhood. Lab dog knows this path better than her dog food bowl. She knows what the expectations are so well that she just stands near the door while I put the chains on my walking shoes. Carolina dog, paces back and forth between the door and myself, knowing the path and the expectations but lacks the ability to contain her excitement as much as the lab. Weimaraner mix dog, knows the path, is so excited about the path, yet is still learning what the expectations are, even though he’s been through them dozens of times. The expectations are clearly not cemented in his puppy brain yet. The anticipation is too much for his 9-month-old body to harness as he paces, he chews on Carolina dog’s checks, licks Labs face, sits to scratch his ear and then checks to make sure I am still putting on the gear he is pretty sure indicates the four of us our headed out the door, for a walk.
Everyone knows the path out the door, but only Lab dog knows to wait at the door, allowing me to exit first. The designated path is momentarily delayed for a training practiced with Carolina dog and Weimaraner dog. After a couple of reminder jerks on the leashes, a few repeats of “stay,” the unbelievably joyful walking path is resumed.
Obstacles present themselves along the path. There is a barking dog, a hiding cat, a fast food bag thrown on the side of the road. Some interesting smells require a canine nose inspection but the path to the destination is guided back with a gentle tug on the leash. Lab dog is so familiar with the path that the obstacles barley cause her to miss one paw step. Although dogs are barking at this dog parade, hardly a hair on Lab’s neck rises. Cat hiding, she has seen that before. For Carolina dog, the dog barking causes a pause, a look, a bump on my hand to notify me that the possibility exists that danger may be lurking. Without a reaction from me, she resumes the path. For Weimaraner mix, the dog barking causes a, WHAT DO WE DO?!, reaction. The Cat hiding, causes a, DOESN’T” T THIS CONCERN ANYONE!!!, reaction. The Fast-food bag, is, WE ARE NOT LETTING THAT TASTY FOOD GO TO WASTE, ARE WE?!?! Maintaining the path is proving to be a challenge. The wobble in his path causes a step on his paw which issues a yelp sounding as if every bone in his paw has been crushed. Now that his path has been disturb, he finds it difficult to return to his path, wandering over to Carolina dogs path, twisting around my path, bumping into Lab’s path. Gently guiding his leash over to his path, with a couple of bone crushing steps on the paw, and untangling of the leashes, he is able to resumes his path, forgetting about the obstacles.
These challenges don’t ever end but the frequency of incidents lesson as returning to the path becomes familiar. Obstacles change, frequency changes, but with a little guidance, a gentle reminder, the path becomes easier to handle. Pretty soon, barking dogs, hiding cats, and smelly, rotten morsels of food, become easier to ignore.
Watching my three, four legged companions that day, it feels as if these are representations of the many stages of my own life. So many times, I have known the path, known the expectations and the execution is done without a hair raised or tug on the leash. Yet sometimes, my attention is distracted to focused on the obstacle’s in the path. Sometimes I am jumping around, pitching a fit, nudging other’s to take notice of the obstruction causing me anxiety. Gently, I am guided back to the path, getting tangled up, only to have my feet stepped on, followed by a bone crushing yelp to make notice of the pain in losing my path. Eventually, I regain my stride to move effortlessly down the path again.
Mirrors of our lives are in examples all around us. Dogs provide us opportunities to understand our own behaviors. They demonstrate life for us. Experience walking the path of life, handling the disruptions with fewer jerked leashes, and stepped on toes. Eventually you can learn, like the Lab, to only raise a couple of hairs on the back of your neck.

Posted by
Cheryl Wilson

Cheryl Wilson created Why We Wag in 2012 as her result of her lifelong love of dogs. After 22 years in the Educational sector, Cheryl utilizes her expertise as an award winning educator, to educate dog lovers, along with offering supplies that support a healthy, meaningful relationship with canines. Residing in Utah, Cheryl is celebrating her 5th generation with dogs and now her first generation of grand-dogs.