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.
Does your dog let you make mistakes?
If you’ve been responsible for several dogs in your life, you probably smiled knowingly when you read the title. But for those of you on your first dog, let me explain.
My first dog never let me make mistakes
My first dogs as adults were Agatha and Christie. Agatha was the instigator so I’ll talk about her.
Agatha never allowed me to make mistakes. If someone spilled their drink on the couch and I didn’t clean it cleaner than new, Agatha and her sister Christie would chew the upholstery to smithereens in their attempt to remove every molecule of flavor.
If I left a few training treats in my coat pocket, Agatha would chew into the pocket from the outside of my coat. I think of Agatha to this day whenever I put my keys in my pocket just to have them fall through to the floor.
Oh, and one time I was foolish enough to leave a loaf of bread on top of my refrigerator. The best I can figure is that sixteen year old Agatha, nearly blind from cataracts and entirely deaf, jumped from the floor to a chair, from the chair to the table, and from the table to the top of the fridge.
In our sixteen years together, Agatha left a swath of destruction–the reminder of all my mistakes.
Honey lets me make mistakes all the time
At an office picnic, my boss recently complimented me on how well Honey behaved. I told him I couldn’t take credit for it; she was just an easy dog. He replied kindly that it must have been good family values.
But it’s true. I don’t feel I can take credit for Honey. It’s not that she’s well-trained. She’s just a sweet, mild, and easy dog.
- Honey probably had two accidents in the house from the moment she came home.
- A baby can bat her in the face and pull on her fur without her showing any reaction at all.
- Honey has never once jumped on the counter looking for yummies.
Honey is a dog that lets me make mistakes.
- If I forget and leave treats in my pocket or purse, they’ll still be there when I get home.
- When a crazy work schedule keeps me from taking her on a long walk, she’ll be content with a couple of games of tug before heading off for a nap.
- And when her Kong Wobbler gets caught under a piece of furniture, she’ll cry a little, but I’ll still have a piece of furniture when I came home.
The lessons two dogs can teach about making mistakes
If you have a dog who never allows you to make a mistake, you have to learn how to forgive yourself for constantly making mistakes. And keep trying, but know that your dog may not be cut out to be a model canine citizen. It makes him no less lovable.
If you have a dog with whom you can make mistakes and still have it turn out all right, you need to remain humble and not take credit for things that have nothing to do with you. Just enjoy her while you have her.
And know that your next dog will probably make you pay for every mistake you make.