Jessie is 9.5 years old now. She’s the most gentle, soulful and sweet dog you could ever want to meet. I love her so much I can’t even express it properly. The irony is that I spent the first 7 years (!!) of her life with us without fully appreciating her awesomeness!
We adopted Jessie from a rescue agency when she was not quite a year old. She was incredibly shy and completely mute. Totally submissive to all other dogs and humans. She cringed when people raised their voices. She didn’t know how to climb stairs. Wide-plank floors made her stop in her tracks, not wanting to walk on them. Clearly, she had been somehow traumatized or abused. Plus, she had fleas. :(
The whole idea of getting a dog was mine at the time. Our son was only 4 and seemed scared of dogs, and my dad was lonely at home waiting for us to come home from work and school every day. Plus, I grew up with two very special dogs and cherish my memories of them. My husband was ok with the idea, but a bit indifferent, or so it seemed to me.
When I registered with the rescue agency and they sent me Jessie’s picture, I knew it was fate! She looked almost exactly like my last dog. Gorgeous, shiny black coat with a white throat and chest and - most importantly - floppy ears and bright amber eyes. Classic border collie with a touch of black lab. Perfect!
She settled into our family easily. My husband took on the task of feeding her and walking her every morning, dealing with her medications for allergies. My dad doted on her, patting her for ages in between their afternoon naps. My son loved to pat her as well and quickly lost his fear of dogs.
As for me, well, I was...so busy! I loved Jessie, yes. But I didn’t have much time for her. At least I didn’t carve out the time for her. She and I co-existed, and I was the back-up human for feeding and walking duties when my husband had to travel for work. Otherwise, she would greet me when I came home from work and we would both be enthusiastic about our reunion. And that was about it.
Just before Jessie turned 7 years old, I left my corporate career to go out on my own as a coach and consultant. Suddenly, I was home more often - 3 days a week on average! And so began our morning walks most days. I would join Rob and Jessie. And then I started my quick “go-hug-Jessie” breaks when I was losing focus and needed a break to jumpstart my energy. And finally, I started taking on feeding her more often, and talking to her. I get so much enjoyment from loving this cute little rescue mongrel I can hardly believe it!
Flash forward to today, and she’s like a whole new dog. She COMMUNICATES with us. Because I communicate with her! She has found a whole new language to get attention and get what she wants (go outside, have a cookie, go for a walk). She even SMILES! Not kidding. She tries to mirror smiling when she wants me to do something. She opens her mouth slightly and shows a touch of teeth, wagging her tail furiously all the while. And I am always the target of these smiles. She knows they work like magic on me.
The whole family enjoys her even more now that she’s come out of her shell. Her capacity for learning new words and behaviours is ever-growing. So much for the “can’t teach an old dog new tricks” adage.
Some days I feel a bit wistful, wishing I’d taken the time to appreciate her and coax her out of that shell a whole lot earlier, instead of being so driven...and busy. The cool thing is that now when I catch myself feeling this way, I simply remember that there is no point wasting time and energy on regret. I’m better off spending my time in the present, getting a few extra walks and cuddles in with my sweet Jess. Such a valuable lesson for me, even if it did take me 7 years to get there!
What about you?
Do you relate at all? When have you been too busy for something or someone, only to realize later that you missed out because you simply weren’t or couldn’t be fully present?
How can you avoid missing out on what’s truly important to you going forward? What’s a baby step you could take?