What do you think of when someone mentions a golden retriever?
Friendly. Silky, blond coat. Loves to swim, right?
Well, not my Honey. At least for the last one.
Somehow she never got the memo telling her that goldens love the water.
Luckily, we love her for the dog she is. And not just the dog her breed told us to expect.
But sometimes it’s hard to separate the traits we identify with who we really are. Let me explain.
What Kind Of Person Sails In The Cold?
I’m a little sad today.
Yesterday was the closing day of the sailing center. And we didn’t get out on the water.
In truth, it would have been miserable.
Yes, it was windy, a good thing for sailing. But it was also 45°F (7°C), cloudy, and damp.
And that’s not even thinking about the ride there, pedaling into the wind beside campers and truckers who can’t think of any reason not to pass a bicyclist with five inches to spare at sixty miles per hour.
Or that I have a bad cold and feel tired and weak after hacking out my lungs day after day.
But I still wanted to go sailing:
- to gain experience with different conditions,
- because it was the last day of the season,
- but most of all, because I’m the kind of person who does things even when they’re hard.
Yep, I think of myself as someone who does stuff even when it’s hard. Perhaps especially when it’s hard.
Who Do You Think You Are?
How often do we do things because of who we think we are?
I can tell you lots of good reasons for some of my life choices.
Cars have a huge impact on our land and natural resources. They are expensive, noisy, and polluting. It makes sense to ride a bike instead.
But I’ll admit, I do get a haughty bit of attitude when I see a neighbor hop in her car to visit the same store I bike to. In the rain. Pulling pounds of groceries in my bike cart and stuffing my panniers. I’m tougher. I’m doing it the hard way.
(In all honesty, I’ll also admit a teensy wish for someone to say, “Hey, I’m going to the store. Why don’t you come with me so you don’t have to drag your groceries home on the bike?” I don’t always feel like Xena Warrior Princess.)
I’m not proud of it. I’m just telling the truth.
So maybe it’s time to reevaluate my identity as someone who takes pride in doing things because they’re hard. Try to see other good things about the choices I make. Or listen to people who love me enough to let me off the hook from the way I try to present myself to the world.
Yesterday, it was Mike who took sailing off the table when he saw I could barely move faster than a crawl to get dressed.
I’m thankful he looked past how I like to present myself to see the real, tired, and sick me.
And that he didn’t treat me like one of those crazy people who suggested I teach Honey how to swim by tossing her off a dock.
Honey Doesn’t Care That She’s A Golden Retriever
It’s not true that Honey hates the water. She’ll go out of her way to splash through a puddle. And she likes to wade in the water up to her knees.
And while she can swim, if she has to, she really prefers not to.
It’s not that she hasn’t seen other dogs enjoying the water.
As part of her socialization, we’ve gone out of our way to introduce Honey to dogs swimming and enjoying water play. She’ll frolic with them in the shallows. But once their person tosses a bumper and they go swimming off to retrieve it, Honey turns her attention to other things.
She hates swimming so much, it even overrides her love of retrieving.
Honey, like many dogs, seems to have an affinity for her own breed. So I think she understands, on some level, what a golden retriever is. Perhaps it’s that their physical appearance and mannerisms make their body language the easiest for her to understand.
But Honey doesn’t care that most goldens like to swim and she doesn’t. She’s just happy living her life. Without worrying about her identity as a golden retriever.
Which is probably the best kind of golden retriever to be.
Your Turn: Do you have an image of yourself you feel you have to live up to? Does your dog always live up to the expectations you have for her breed or mix or background?
Since you’ll probably never see swimming footage of Honey, here’s a cute golden retriever puppy taking his first swim. You’re welcome.