Gretchen Rubin wrote in The Happiness Project about the year she spent “test-driving the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific studies, and the lessons from popular culture about how to be happy.” The Puppiness Project is my attempt to learn the same from Honey, my Golden Retriever.
The young woman twiddling with her phone was blocking our path on the sidewalk. When the way became clear at the intersection, I told Honey, “With me” and we passed the texting woman at a perfect heel.
I praised Honey for her behavior as the woman behind me said in a high, squeaky voice, “Oh, what a well-behaved dog you have” which told Honey she had an admirer. She whirled in place and leaped toward the woman for the lovies Honey knew were coming her way. The woman, jumped back clutching her phone to her chest.
I apologized to the woman for Honey’s behavior. But I couldn’t be too upset with her. Honey had only believed her own press.
The press has its own interests
The saying, “don’t believe your own press” was a reminder to movie stars not to believe all the nice things written about them by the media outlets that published news fed to them by studio public relations departments. It was mean and cynical.
But I’ve been reminded of its value lately.
I started Something Wagging this Way Comes for personal reasons. I wanted a record of life with the first puppy I’ve ever known since shortly after birth. The blog has expanded beyond that original goal but it’s still a predominately personal memoir.
I had different ideas when I started Hands on Home Buyer, my other blog. It’s an outgrowth of my professional experience as a home buyer counselor for a housing nonprofit. I thought I could bring my encouraging, insightful, and humorous approach (words taken from my own press) to a wider home buyer audience. And maybe change a few lives or even supplement my income a bit.
You see, I believed my own press.
In seven years of teaching home buying classes, I’ve never gotten a bad review. Graduates of my classes stay in touch for years. But I’m realizing the raves say less about me than they do about my students.
The reason my students are so enthusiastic about my classes is that they’re eager to learn. They’ve absorbed all the information they could find elsewhere and are grateful for a few minutes of personal attention and the chance to test their knowledge. They’re excited about the class because it fits where they are in their lives.
And a few hundred exceptional home buyers is not much of a base for a blog.
Being directed by your inner voice
Listening to your press is also a sign that you’re not paying attention to your inner voice.
If your passion is telling you to do something, what does it matter if no one is listening? You need to do what you are called to do.
But it’s hard. We’re told to look for outward signs of success. In blogging, it’s page views, comments, “likes,” and twitter followers. In the real world, it’s salary or status.
It’s a challenge to pursue a path when the standard measures suggest you’re failing.
I don’t know how to find the balance. I can only live with the questions until I figure it out.
Honey’s inner voice
The core of Honey’s nature tells her that happy, enthusiastic voices directed at her demand a response. The best response? Happy wiggle butt dance accompanied by a floofie tail in the face.
Even if the happy voice is saying, “what an obedient dog you have,” Honey must reply in the only way she knows how.
I know I need to work on impulse control with her. But her love for everyone she meets is one of the things I love most about Honey. I’ve had faithful, one-woman dogs who pined whenever I left. It’s flattering. And you can form a tremendous bond with a strongly attached dog. But I’m happy to be living with my promiscuous pup who would be just as happy to go home with you as she would with me.
Honey’s press has its own interests too
Here’s the thing about getting jinxed by people who compliment Honey on her good behavior. I suspect most of them don’t really like dogs very much.
They like dogs that never run away, don’t bark, and don’t counter surf. They like dogs that always walk quietly by your side and stand there patiently while you pet them. Dogs that shed, fart, or run zoomies through their flower beds? Not so much.
You see, people who really love dogs, who understand that a dog is a dog and not a little person in a fur coat, don’t say to other dog people, “what a well-behaved dog you have.” We know that much of that is a combination of hard work, the dog’s background, the person’s background, and the time of day. We might, however, say, “I wish my dog could do that.” Or “how did you teach her that?” Or even, “was it hard to teach him that?” But very rarely would we say, “what a well-behaved dog you have.”
So maybe Honey doesn’t believe her own press after all. Maybe pulling on her leash to get to the person who complimented her behavior before flopping on her back and flailing her legs in the air to solicit petties is her way of saying to the world, “A dog is a dog. And none of us will ever do exactly what you want us to do all the time.”