Today, it’s all about my best friend: the totally accepting, unconditionally loving and ever-ready-to-play Michael.
I’ve got so much to say about Michael, it’s difficult to know where to start. What about the way he looks at me so intensely when I’m eating? I’m pretty sure he prays for my food to drop for very often his prayers get answered and he gets the piece before it hits the floor!
He loves walking. Of course! He also loves to run, showing off his speed and teasing older and/or less nimble canines that we meet in the park. He loves attention and he receives so much of it when we go out. Sometimes if I’m not in the mood for small talk on our walks, I try to go out when it’s likely to be least busy (usually late mornings to early afternoons). Yet, there’s hardly been a day when we’ve been out that we haven’t said ‘hello’ to another human being, with or without a dog of their own. Very often, many, especially the elderly, would fuss over him. And guess what, once in a while, teenage boys would too! And I find that even if I’d stepped out on one of those “I really don’t want the small talk today” moods; by the time we got back home, I’d have found that I actually enjoyed the ‘hello’, ‘how old is he?’ ‘Isn’t he just cute’ conversations that I’d exchanged with random strangers (some of whom no longer qualify for that description).
One of his pet frustrations is pigeons. He loves to chase them in the park. He goes towards them, they walk away. Then he picks up speed, they also pick up speed and fly away! I promise you his little face screams the words: “It’s not fair! Flying shouldn’t be allowed!”
One good morning we went walking. As usual, once we were within the gates of the park, I’d take him off the lead and let him walk/run freely. This time, we met an Alsatian with his human. Michael and the Alsatian said their doggy hellos to each other, tentatively at first but soon they warmed up in a playful chase. They ran around in circles, Michael at his toppest speed, the Alsatian seemed to be more relaxed. I was relaxed. The Alsatian’s human had assured me he was a gentle giant, and he did seem that way. So they went around, running rings around us. Then, within a split second, Michael must have felt spooked: he broke away from the rounds and sprinted for the gates. He didn’t stop there… I didn’t see him, couldn’t see him because he’d run so fast out of the park and so far away…
I was frozen for a little while. The Alsatian’s human apologised profusely and put his dog back on the lead, while I gradually thawed and made my way to the gate and onto the road, with my heart in my mouth. Then I saw him: across the road, looking on it with a question mark on his face. I didn’t call his name – I didn’t want him to move as I’d never walked him off lead on those roads – way too busy and he is so small! As I walked towards him, thoughts were now racing of all the many ways in which this could have ended as a tragedy. Gratitude came later. At this point in time, I was very very afraid. As was Michael.
I walked up to him, picked up him, gave him a cuddle (he loves those!) and said: “Michael, we’re going back into the park – we will face our fears.” This happened about 4 months ago. After that experience I noticed he was much more wary of other dogs, especially bigger ones, and I was much more nervous about taking him off the lead, until we were further away from the gates and nearer the belly of the park. However, he is increasingly getting his cheeky confidence back around the other canines, and I am losing my own nervousness about taking him off the lead earlier in the park.
This experience has brought home to me the power of associations: if fear is standing in the way of your goal/dream/ambition, and you hang around those who are fearful – for themselves and for you – you will very likely have your fears reinforced. Conversely, if you spend time with people who are confident; if you allow yourself to be influenced by them and receive the confidence they will invariably have in you, you will find yourself acting increasingly confident…
With whom would your rather hang out today? Remember, you always have a choice!