The Puppiness Project – Learn to Focus

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.

A Dog With a Job

Golden Retriever walking in the rain

I know I’m supposed to be focused on walking forward. But I want to make sure my photographer gets my best side.

Honey always has to work for her food. Today she had to work a little harder than usual.

I couldn’t find the Kong we usually feed her out of. So I decided to make Honey search for her breakfast.

While Honey practiced a down-stay on the kitchen rug, I hid one piece of her food somewhere on the first floor. When I got back to the kitchen, I told her to “find it” and waited for her to sniff out her breakfast. We did this over and over until she had found all twenty or so of her food morsels—hidden in shoes, under furniture, on window sills, and in the recycling bin in the closet.

When Mike came down to eat breakfast and put on his shoes, Honey ignored him. She was a dog on a mission. Nothing could interrupt her tracking the scent of her food.

If Ideas Were Raindrops, I’d be Drowning

Maybe I don’t let myself get hungry enough, but I have never shown Honey’s level of focus on anything.

As I write this, I have Pandora playing Gillian Welch. I just put a few pens and a stapler into the desk drawer and wondered if I should get up to clean my glasses (which I’m not even wearing). I wrote down two ideas for future blog posts in my notebook. I ran my mind over the post I’m working on for A Traveler’s Library. Then, while capturing the link in the last sentence, I got distracted by the post and left a comment. Big focus fail.

Somewhere in there I thought of the next sentence for this post and got back to typing.

In the middle of the night I’m flooded with thoughts. Over the past year I’ve started meditating when I awaken in the early morning. It doesn’t focus me as well as nose work does Honey. But it’s a start.

When I strip down my surroundings, I’m happy focusing on one thing.

When camping, we seldom use lights after dark and let our eyes adjust to the darkness. I don’t miss the radio—its absence allows me to hear chipmunks, loons, and frogs. On a sailboat, I don’t even feel the need to read. Watching a cat’s-paw across the surface of the water is entertaining enough.

Golden Retriever in Doggy Ride bike cart

Focus, woman! You’re driving precious cargo!

The World At The Tip Of Your Nose

Studying history in college taught me to always look at the big picture. And I try to stay informed about history in the making. Striking mine workers in Africa will shape technology in the wealthiest part of the world. And China is overturning traditional ideas of capitalism.

I find it hard to shut the brain off.

But then I wonder why I feel the need to bring so many new ideas into my life. If it’s to be a better citizen or a more compassionate person or someone who uses natural resources with respect, am I really reaching those goals? Or would I do more if I shrank my world a little bit, or even occasionally, the way Honey does when she’s sniffing out her breakfast?

After all, am I more compassionate thinking of the millions of suffering people in the world and feeling helpless? Or when I focus on the people in pain I meet each day? And am I using our world’s resources more responsibly when I’m reading about peak oil online or when I go outside and look for snakes while walking Honey in the woods?

Maybe focus is good for more than sniffing out food.

If I try to do one thing at a time, perhaps making mischief with Honey by playing hide and seek outside the high school class rooms or looking for people near me who need help, the focus will make me a better person.

After all, Honey knows how to focus. And she’s kind and smart and friendly. What could be better than that?

Welcome to Monday Mischief – The pet blog hop that wraps up the weekend! This Blog Hop is brought to you by Alfie’s BlogSnoopy’s Dog BlogMy Brown Newfies and Luna, A Dog’s Life and you can read more about how to link up here.

Monday Mischief Pet Blog Hop

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. You’re definitely on to something. Being friendly, helping the people around you, enjoying creatures and eating healthy – good stuff.

  2. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the problems of the world, real or imagined. Dog focus can help our own mental health a lot.

  3. I love playing “find it” games with Shiva. It’s absolutely hilarious to watch her. I am always amazed that no matter how long it takes, she never gives up. I wish I had some of that perseverence these days.

    It is hard to focus on one thing when there are so many things I want to learn and do. With the world we live in, it’s almost impossible not to get distracted. Heck, I’ve started an email, made a phone call, and grabbed some water, all while attempting to finish this comment. Slowing down would be ideal, but how does one begin with so many things demanding attention?

  4. It’s really hard for me to focus on just one thing! That, and I think that I’m as forgetful as I am because SO MUCH new (or different) information seems to be coming at me at all times.

  5. I often read and hear how we really can only focus on one thing, even when we think we are multitasking; the brain is just switching back and forth quickly to give us the illusion of doing more than one thing at a time. I’m all for letting stuff simmer in my unconscious while working, walking, reading or listening; like you, I need to have a notebook handy so I can jot down ideas as they come. Honey’s day is not lessened by her focus; indeed, her focus enhances not only by her physical activity but also the brain activity her searching demands. So it can be with us….now, where did I leave my glasses?

  6. Focusing on one thing is very difficult for me. My husband tells me that I am a scatter-brain! But then again, my brain tends to shut down when I need it the most and then turns back on when I am laying in bed:)

  7. Meditation definitely helps, doesn’t it? Of course, I’m writing this comment, while watching television and having a snack. :) I find it hard to focus on one thing at a time!! There’s just not enough time in the day!!

  8. I can multitask and do several things fairly well, but I do better when I concentrate on one thing at a time, but I’m not always great at prioritizing what’s the most important. It’s a conundrum!

  9. I’m a dog that gets distracted way easily, oh look a ball, oh wait, a stick, oh what’s that, a pile of….even at Nose Work I can’t seem to find focus unlike the other dogs. My peoples say I’m a bit “special.”

    This was a great post, I think I’m going to share it with my peoples. :-)

  10. This is something I need to work on too, for sure.

  11. BA HA HA HA! AS we sit here, I`m watching Long Island Medium, editting a post for Kol’s Note, considering minor changes to a recipe for Cooking with Dogs and trying to convince myself I don’t want another leftover turkey sandwich. Plus reading blogs and commenting…Dog help me if my eye catches something shiny!