The K9 handler and I strolled back to the command post after completing the task we were assigned. His dog had already made the find so we walked easily, enjoying that happy glow of a job well done. He said to me, beaming with pride, that the dog had recently put in a four hour day. Four hours!!! And the dog didn’t appear tired when that day’s work was completed. I’m sure he saw the shadow cross my features. I have no poker face at all. Four hours is nothing, I thought. “You’re not asking much of your dog,” is the thought that entered my head.
I didn’t say that. I took another moment to think about the man and his dog. He was clearly proud of his dog who had just performed well. I don’t have a dog of that breed, and my experience handling a working k9 under similar circumstances is limited at best. I clamped my jaws shut until I could come up with a positive, encouraging, friendly, and genuine response and then I shared it. What possible good could have come from me raining on his parade, even if we pretend for a moment that I was correct? Would he change his opinion of his dog? Not likely. Would he be hurt or angry, or bewildered by what could only come across as a unpleasant response from someone he just met? Maybe. Insulting his dog when I have limited knowledge of the specifics would have spoken volumes about me and said very little about him and his dog.
Recently I was similarly judged and found wanting. This experience always rocks me back on my heels. Digesting an insult, no matter how unintended it may be, is a project. Good thing I know that yoga is not all pretzel limbs, a toned butt, and an eco-friendly mat with a lotus design on it. Yoga is looking at the ugly panty lines of self, owning them, and then committing to being inwardly honest, outwardly truthful, and dedicated to vibing on a higher level. Digesting an insult is a yoga class in and of itself.
It would have been easy for me to insult that handler. Maybe I was correct, that his dog was not being adequately challenged. I could easily climb upon my high horse and wax eloquent about how important it is for the dog to be perfect. Lives depend upon it. I would have facts on my side. I could have easily made the claim that correcting his false impression about his inferior dog and his inferior training was for the best, and an invitation to help him be better. I could hide behind the claim that I was being helpful.
But would that really have been honest? Scathingly, intensely, deep down to the bone honest?
Or would the comment carry the jealousy and small-minded pettiness of my need to know more and be better than? Better than that handler, better than his dog, better than anyone or everyone? Because the fact is, I don’t know details about the dog, the situation, or the task. I don’t regularly engage in that specific activity. I don’t own that breed of dog and never work with them. Truly, if I was lucky enough to be correct, it would be luck, not experience or familiarity that provided for my accuracy. Hubris is where I’d be coming from. And that is a seriously ugly panty line on me.
The day I stop being open and start telling others how crap they are, I will know I have lost access to learning and growth. And shit – that damn yoga thing about vibing on a higher level – I guess learning and growth is really more important than being right and telling anyone else how wrong they are.
Social media connections have meant that I am incredibly lucky and blessed to have developed a large and vibrant community of people I call friends — friends I never met — who share information and emotion with me. We laugh and cry over our dogs antics and ailments, and cheer each other on through the challenges. Yes, there are also those that like to be the Monty Python foot coming out of the sky and proving FACTS (kaboom – you are all wrong and you are crap owners-trainers-handlers and your dogs are crap and your training methods are crap and your ability to manage is crap blah blah blah), but they are blessedly few and far between. We crossed paths recently and we will again, I’m sure.
I see that impulse in me and I own it and I’ll work on it. That’s the best I can do. Thank you to the person who insulted me; thank you for showing me that part of myself and challenging me to work on it. I hate this work and simply want to be right, and tell the world how right I am. But hey, that’s the work, at least for now.
We’re all flawed.
Pay attention to the dog, not the dogma.Heather Rolland