My Portuguese Water Dog, Scout, turned seven today.[If you’re wondering why the breed seems familiar, it’s what the Obamas have – I got mine first, though].
I’m not one of those dog owners who treats their pet like a surrogate child, but there’s no doubt that she’s a big part of my life. Aside from the two walks a day, she is a factor in virtually every other decision I make.
She’s taught me a lot of things about myself … about patience [she’s the first dog I’ve had, and I almost gave up on her after 18 months], about communication [she needs clear, simple instructions – that she frequently ‘decides’ to ignore] … but she is also a very effective mirror for me to monitor myself.
What I have learned is that she reflects my mood back at me. When I’m calm and relaxed, so is she. When I’m agitated or upset – so is she. It took a while to realise this, but now that I have, Scout is a good ‘early-warning system’ for me. When I notice she isn’t quite herself, rather than getting angry with her, it’s actually a cue for me to have a little look at myself … and usually I realise that there’s something on my mind.
This is true in other areas of life too – often, the things that we think are triggering us are actually a symptom of something being wrong, rather than the cause. The next time someone or something provokes a strong reaction in you, it might be worth asking – what is this telling me about myself?