How Do You Say Goodbye?

Janet kissing Gus on the deck July 2016

You weep.

You hold on for one last deep embrace; breathing in and memorizing the way he smells.

You run your hands gently through his fur; feeling the silky softness one last time.

You whisper everything you want to say, though you have said it to him a thousand times already, in anticipation of this moment.

You let go, knowing that the time is right and that you have done everything possible to make his passing gentle and peaceful; secure in loving arms.

You hold on tight and lean on those you love; shouldering the weight of grief together.

Finally, you breathe.

You begin to move past sadness, to other feelings. First, anger and frustration with cancer, and a loss that came too soon.

And then, gratitude.

For ten and a half wonderful years.

For a life that touched so many.

For unconditional love.

For a sweet face waiting patiently in the front window.

For sloppy kisses and boundless joy. For bouncing body wags.

For long walks on beautiful days.

For a head resting in your lap. For silence and calm, quiet loyalty.

For knowing when you needed a hug.

For hilarious moments of crazy behaviour.  For happy dances, stolen mittens and chewed up socks.

For the thrill of launching balls and frisbees into the air over and over, and the triumph of the perfect catch.

For finding friends in unlikely places.

For showing you how to stop and breathe deeply in the morning air.

For teaching you to live in the moment.

For all of the important lessons, and those still to come.

Gus in the field of grass

What are you waiting for?

What are you waiting for?

It woke me up this morning, but I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from.  I heard this muffled gentle bark sporadically; every 5 or 10 minutes.  It sounded far away, and was almost an apologetic sweet little yelp.  Now, Gus will bark enthusiastically whenever he sees someone approach the front door, but he rarely barks in the house unless someone is engaged in a full out romp with him.  I assumed it was coming from some dog outside, so I went back to sleep.

I tried to snooze for another half hour, but kept being disturbed by this little noise.  I decided that it sounded like Gus, so I went downstairs to complain about being woken up.  I didn’t get my usual furry wagging morning greeting;  a quiet empty house was all I found.  So I made my coffee and assumed that it was a neighbour’s dog I had heard.  I figured that Gus must be out in the park with Jeff, and I began my morning routine.

Halfway through my coffee I went back upstairs to get something from my room, and then it occurred to me.  The door to one of the empty bedrooms was slightly ajar.  I gave it a gentle push.  Out bounded one incredibly grateful labradoodle!  He proceeded to smother me with kisses; almost knocking me down as he enthusiastically thanked me for setting him free!

What struck me as I settled down to finish my coffee was the fact that Gus had been sitting patiently on the other side of that door for close to an hour; waiting for someone to push it open and let him out!  His quiet little calls for help had eventually subsided, and he had been waiting silently in the dark when I finally stumbled upon him in there.  Now, Gus is one smart doodle – even our trainer remarked on this fact.  He can pry open the sock drawer and help himself to the perfect pair.  He can catch a frisbee mid-air on the fly.  He can find a ball that is lost under the chaos of the branches at the park.  That door to the bedroom was open enough that all he had to do was nudge it a bit more with his nose, yet he sat there feeling trapped inside; waiting for someone else to let him out!

What are you waiting for in your life right now?

We are all quick to delegate away responsibility for our freedom, happiness or success; acting as though we lack the power or skills to make things happen for ourselves.  We say that our career will take off when someone else gives us the right break.  We believe that we will be truly happy once we lose 10 pounds.  We act as though pursuing our true passion isn’t an acceptable course of action.  We sit quietly on the other side of that door; peeking at the crack of light on the other side, but somehow not believing that we have the ability to nudge it open and bound out of the room.

Happiness and success come from believing in yourself and accepting that you are the only one who truly controls your own life.  If you are clear about what you value and what you are passionate about, it becomes easy to see the road that leads to your destination.  That door is already open.  Go ahead and give it a nudge!

It’s beautiful out there!

I know, you’re thinking “really?”  It’s only about 6 degrees out; it’s grey and drizzly, and there is a wind that’s bending the trees over!  Well, as I’ve said before, the day really can be whatever you want it to be!  Attitude is everything.

When you live with an 83lb dog, you go outside 365 days of the year, whatever the weather.  If there’s one lesson I truly have learned from Gus, it’s that getting outside every day just feels great.  I really do miss the fresh air if I have a day when I’m not able to take him for one of his walks.  I do believe that there is no such thing as bad weather; only poor clothing choices!  The secret to enjoying whatever Mother Nature throws at us is to dress for it.  Today I put on a few layers (waterproof one on top), hiking boots, a neck warmer & a hat.  I was toasty warm & dry, and the drizzly wind didn’t bother me one bit.

When you’re warm and comfortable you can get on with stretching out your limbs and truly enjoying the walk.  You have time to really open your eyes and appreciate what’s around you.

While many were huddled at home with a cup of tea, Gus and I were out enjoying the beautiful sights of spring in our neighbourhood.

Take a look . . .

Happy spring. . . now get out there and enjoy it!

You Might As Well Love It

Well, having survived the “snowmageddon” of last week, here we are in the midst of yet more snow.  Welcome to February in Canada!  Everywhere I turn, I am greeted by complaints and the sounds of people who are feeling a certain way right about now;  lots of winter behind us, and lots of winter still ahead of us!   One of my friends posted on Facebook this morning, “snow, snow go away, come again another. . . year!”  When I stepped outside the other day and greeted a neighbour with “what a beautiful day!” all she had to say back was, “I hate winter!”  Does everybody feel that way?

Well, Gus doesn’t!  This guy has the right attitude.  He can’t wait to get outside in the snow and run around, even if he’s just been roused from the coziest sleep.  You would think he was let loose in a combined fluffy playground and buffet!  He will run like crazy and dig his face deep into the snow, and then stop and take a great big mouthful of the stuff for a snack.  It’s hilarious to watch.

Sometimes he’ll just sit quietly in the snow on the deck, and it seems like he’s just admiring how beautiful it really is.

I think he’s got the right idea.

Let’s face it, even if the groundhog was right, winter is going to be here for a while.  We might as well find something about it to love.

Like how beautiful the trees look. . .

Or how peaceful it is to walk down the snowy path. . .

Or all the fun things you can do with the snow besides shovelling it. . . (okay, you do need thumbs for this!)

How many times in our lives are we going to be stuck with events or situations that might not be our first choice?  Let’s face it, if I was offered a free trip to some sun-soaked beach destination I’d be out of all this beautiful winter in a flash!  But, here I am for the duration, so I’ve decided to make the best of it.  There is always a way to put a positive spin on wherever you are, and whatever you are dealing with.  Research has proven that people who are optimistic and focus on the positive side of events always fare better, and live longer, healthier lives.  So, pull on those snow pants and lace up those waterproof  boots or skates, and get out there and enjoy this stuff.  You might even find someone out there to play with!

Who needs the gym?

Okay, so it’s the second week of January.  This is the hottest time of year for sales of gym memberships and fitness equipment.  Save your money and get a dog!

If you’re bundled up, the fresh air, sunshine and the crisp snow are more powerful stimulants than anything they’re pumping into the stale air in one of those windowless gyms.  Besides, you don’t have to listen to that droning disco music in the background!

I make a point of running around with Gus – up and down the hills, and across the snowy fields.   I get my leg exercises by kicking up clumps of snow for him to jump for.  To be honest, just tromping through the heavy snow with boots and snowpants often feels like I’m  wearing extra leg weights.

When we’re all done, I feel just as “worked out” as if I’d been at the gym.  The bonus is that it doesn’t cost anything, and I get a wonderful sloppy thank you from my workout buddy!

Don’t Be Afraid To Make The First Tracks

So here we are again.  The fields are covered in snow.  The sun is blazing, despite the -15 degree temperature.  It’s a beautiful day to be outside, as long as you’re dressed for the weather.

I love to stand at the top of the hill and look down onto the sparkling expanse of snow below.  I’m always a bit reluctant to take the plunge and begin tramping ahead with Gus.  Somehow it seems a bit sad to puncture the pristine snow with my clompy boots and his prancing paws.  Never mind.  On we go, and before long, the field is a mess of footprints and pawprints; leaving evidence of everywhere we’ve been.   For the past two mornings we have spent ages outside in the fields; running and playing in the snow, and working up a sweat despite the freezing temperatures.  We’ve had the best time.

It’s a bit like life itself, isn’t it?  When we are about to begin something fresh and new, we stand on the brink, contemplating what we are about to dive into.  It’s often a mix of excitement, wonder and trepidation all rolled together that can keep us perched there; immobilized.  As if we’re afraid of ruining that perfect image before us with our footprints and actions, as we forge ahead into new territory.

You’ll think I’m nuts, but I’m reminded of something silly from my childhood.  When we were little, my siblings and I used to argue over who got to “break the rink” on a new jar of peanut butter, by being the first one to dig a knife into it.  (Boy, were we easy to entertain!)  I guess we knew then that it was less important to gaze at the perfectly smooth surface than to get on with taking the plunge, and enjoying what would come next.

Get going!

It’s the journey itself that matters most

This morning at the end of our walk, Gus bounded up the front steps and plopped down as he always does to wait for me to toss him his cookie.  There he is in the picture, sitting and waiting for our little ritual that marks our return home.  It suddenly dawned on me that, in the four years we have spent together, Gus and I have been on more than 1200 walks!  When I think about the mileage we have covered, it is truly mind-boggling.  I have worn through several pairs of walking shoes to prove it.  As I pondered this, I was struck by an even more incredible fact.  Despite the distance we have covered together, we always end up in exactly the same place at the end of our walk:  right on our own front porch where we started!  I suppose you could say that, despite all of our walking, we haven’t really gone anywhere at all.

What a concept.  Walking and walking, yet ultimately ending up right back in the same place.  To some, it might seem crazy.  But not to me.

You see, for Gus and for me it’s the walk itself that is the whole point.

Sure, a daily walk is a great source of exercise and fresh air.  I highly recommend it for all the obvious reasons.  But, if you’ve been reading here for a while, you will know that  there is so much more that happens when we are out walking together.  Every day on our journey we meet people and dogs. We make new friends and share experiences.  We are inspired by magical sights right in our own neighbourhood.  In fact, it is while we have been out walking, ultimately going nowhere, that all the important lessons have occurred.

Today is my 49th birthday.  I’ve had a perfectly lovely day.  I got hugs and good wishes from family and friends near and far.  I had lunch with two incredibly special women. I had dinner with my wonderful family.  And I started it off with a very long walk outside with Gus on a beautiful snowy day.

I was thinking this morning that life itself is like these daily walks.  I don’t want to be morbid, but let’s face it, we are all going to end up in the same place we started out eventually.  Dust to dust, and all that stuff.  Each time we mark the passage of another year, it’s as if we are setting out on another walk – one that will end up at our next birthday.  I truly feel that the years themselves aren’t the point at all.  Perhaps that’s why I’ve never been hung up about revealing my age.   To me, it’s what we’re doing on that journey between the milestones that really matters in the long run.

As I look back on the past year, I am overwhelmed by all that I have seen, done and learned on my journey.  I have met and developed relationships with so many incredible people.  I have marveled at the wonders of the changing seasons and the magical sights that have been right in front of me all the time.  I have learned valuable lessons about myself and what I believe, and I have a clearer sense of who I am and what I value.  There have been high points and low points, but all in all it has been an incredible ride.

Tomorrow is February 11th once again, and I will lace up my shoes and set out off the front porch as always.  I can’t wait to see what I will discover next, as my journey continues. . .

Up the down staircase

The other day as I was on my way upstairs, I came upon Gus as he was on his way downstairs.  He looked at me, and then he stopped in his tracks.  He paused for a bit, as if to consider his options.  Then he watched me go past him.  After an awkward minute or so, half-sitting on the stairs, he maneuvered himself somehow, turned around, and then proceeded to follow me where I was going.

I captured this shot of him in that moment where he frozen halfway; neither up nor down.  I think you can see the awkward look on his face, as if he isn’t quite sure which way he should be going.

In a funny coincidence, I happened to be speaking to my Mom later that afternoon.  When I asked her how her day was going she said, “to be honest, I feel like I’m going up the down staircase.”  I laughed and told her of my experience with Gus.  I said that she wasn’t alone;  and that he was having the same kind of day.

They happen to all of us.  Those days where we just can’t seem to get it all together.  I’m sure you can relate, and can think of a day, perhaps even recently, when nothing seemed to go according to plan.  On those kind of days you often feel as though you’re spinning your wheels, or, like Gus, sitting halfway up the middle of the stairs trying to figure out if you should be going up or down.  They are often days that leave me feeling as though I haven’t accomplished much of anything, even if I’ve seemed to be busy all day.

The good news is that these days usually pass quite innocently. If we don’t get too stressed about them, we can usually get back into our regular mode pretty quickly.  I’ve learned to accept that sometimes there will just be days like these, for whatever reason.  Maybe we have too much on our minds, or maybe we’re just plain tired out.  Whatever the cause, the best thing to do is to just give in and cut yourself a little slack.

When I find myself feeling this way, I usually try to keep a low profile, and I try not to take on anything too demanding.  These are often great days to just treat yourself to a little indulgence – even if it’s only a cup of tea and a half  hour with a really good book.  With a little TLC, everything ends up going in the right direction!

Going on a vacation is easier than you think

Oakbank pond in the morning sun

Wow!

This morning, like every Sunday morning, I drove my kids to work.  It’s a short drive; only about 15 minutes from our house.  I always bring Gus along for the ride, and then we usually come back home and head out for our walk.  Today as we drove along the street, I was looking at the familiar scenery.  It suddenly occurred to me that Gus and I didn’t have to come home first; we could go walking in this other neighbourhood for a change.  I definitely wasn’t prepared for the experience that we ended up having.

Morning shot of the pond with ducks

As you can see, I was snapping pictures the whole time we were out, because I was awestruck by the beautiful scenery.  I have driven by this pond and the surrounding neighbourhood for years, and yet rarely ventured out of my car to walk around.  How foolish of me.  I can’t believe what I’ve been missing.  I only had my Blackberry for a camera, but I hope you can get a taste of some of the spectacular scenes we encountered during our 90 minute walk.

Berries growing by the pond

Berries growing by the pond

Ducks on the pond

Ducks on the pond

These are some of the images we came across this morning.

Gus was quite mesmerized by the whole experience as well.  At first, he was wary of the new environment, because there were so many different sights, sounds and smells.  Then he relaxed and began to explore along with me.  He was particularly intrigued with all the ducks that swam over to check him out.

Gus checking out the ducks

Gus checking out the ducks

After a while we left the pond and began to explore the rest of the neighbourhood.  It amazed me that I have driven through these streets so many times, and yet I’ve never really taken the time to get out and go walking around.  It is really beautiful.  There is a historic area, and a beautiful path that leads through the woods to a restored house from an early settler.

The path leading to the historic house

The path leading to the historic house

We peeked in the windows of the old house, and then we continued through the woods until we came to a clearing.

The clearing

The clearing

Gus had a great run through the open space, and then we found ourselves in a residential area.  We had a lovely walk through the streets, and said “good morning” to so many new people and dogs we encountered out walking.  After a while, we turned back to the area near where we had started.  There is an old church there, and people were starting to arrive for morning mass.  Just at that point, the church bells started to ring.  I remember hearing that they have a professional bellringer there, and that the music on a Sunday morning is quite remarkable.  I have to agree.  As we walked by, the bells began to play “Danny Boy” – it made me feel like we were in a movie, or in some foreign country.  It was truly magical.

The old church

The old church

We continued on our way, past the area where they always re-enact battles during the Thornhill Village Festival.  We paused by the wall to admire the view.

By the old stone wall

By the old stone wall

Then we turned back towards where we had left the car.  I remembered that there was a big park in the other direction, and it was such a beautiful morning that I was in no hurry to head home.  So off we went.  I’ve been in that park before, but it somehow looked different in the morning sun.  Gus had a great time tearing through the trees, and he found the best stick ever!

Gus running with huge stickRows of tall trees behind Thornhill Pool

Gus with his big stick in the sun

Eventually I decided that it was time to head for home.  We made our way back to the car and, only 15 minutes later, we were back in our own driveway.  I couldn’t believe it.  I really felt as though we had been away on a holiday, in some place far from home.

Is it possible that, right under your nose, there are incredible places that you pass by all the time without noticing?  We always yearn for a break or a vacation away from home, and yet that isn’t always an easy thing to arrange.  After my experience this morning, I have promised myself to really open up my eyes to everything that’s right in my own backyard, and to go exploring like this at least once every week.  I’m pretty sure that Gus will be happy to come along with me for the adventure!

The day can be whatever you choose it to be

Gus happy on a windy fall day

I’m always amazed to see it.  Over the last few weeks, the fall mornings have become darker, colder, windier, and wetter.  At six o’clock, when I stagger downstairs to make my morning coffee, it takes so much effort  just to shake myself awake and think about the day ahead.  As I look outside into the dark and drizzly yard, I have been feeling an overwhelming urge to crawl back upstairs and snuggle under the covers, where it is still warm and cozy.  Then I look over at Gus.

At this point, he has also made his way downstairs after slowly rousing from his own cozy bed.  He always takes his time, and stretches and yawns before gradually getting up.  Here is where the difference between us ends. While I am still fumbling with the coffee, Gus always goes and stands by the back door.  He will wait there patiently until I let him out.  When the door is finally opened, he explodes out into the yard, like a shot from a cannon.  He lets out a yelp of joy, and then he proceeds to tear around the yard at top speed.  If he finds a toy he’s left lying there, he will pick it up and shake it back and forth for a bit.  Then he will drop it and run wildly again, until he has checked out every corner of his space.  The whole time he is doing this, his tail is wagging like crazy, and you can see by his behaviour that he is just so completely happy! This routine is the same every day, no matter what the weather is like. When he eventually comes into the house after his morning ritual, he is always in such a great mood, and it inevitably rubs off on the rest of us.

On the deck with a ball on a rainy morning

Yesterday, as I watched this display, I thought about how Gus perceives the morning.  He doesn’t focus on the darkness, the rain, or the chill in the air.  He is just so happy to be in a place he loves, out in the fresh air and in the freedom of the yard.  He is so full of positive energy, and it often seems to be in defiance of the atmosphere around him.  It made me stop and think.

By 7:30, as I drove through the grey drizzle on my way to work, I had made a decision.  I was on my way to give a three hour lecture on connective tissues on a dreary Friday morning.  It was the end of a long and stressful week for my students.  I knew that things had the potential to be pretty low energy when I walked into the room. It suddenly hit me how I had a the ability to choose the energy that I brought into that classroom. So here’s what I did.

I walked in and said my usual “Good Morning” to the class.  Then I announced that, despite it being a miserable, rainy, grey Friday, we were not going to let it get to us.  I told the students that we were going to shift the energy, and we were going to do so by focusing on what was positive about the day.  We went around the room and, starting with myself, each person took a turn and completed the sentence “I feel good about _____________” by sharing some small thing they were happy about.  The comments ran the gamut, from simply being happy to be there, to looking forward to specific events, or to seeing friends and family on the weekend.  It didn’t really matter.  What happened, though, was quite remarkable.  Within a few short minutes, the room full of students was buzzing and laughing, and almost everyone was smiling, as we all shared our positive comments.  As a group, we had chosen to shift the focus of the day and, along with it, the energy in the room.

That positive energy stayed with us throughout the whole three hour class.  In fact, for one of the most boring lectures I have to teach, it was actually a lot more fun than usual.  I was struck by how differently things had turned out from how they might have been, if I had just walked in and made some comment about the crummy weather, and then started into my lecture.

I guess the lesson for me was that we really do have the power to choose how we want each day to begin, despite what the weather is outside.  Even more striking was the realization of how great the impact of my choice was on so many other people around me.  It was kind of exciting and scary at the same time.    Now all I have to do is remind myself of this each morning, when I’m tired and fumbling about in the dark, trying to get my coffee going.  I’m lucky though, because all I will need to do is look out in the yard and see Gus racing happily about, and it will all come back to me.

Bring home the big stick

Bringing home the big stick

You might have seen us one day.  Very often on our walk, Gus will discover a stick lying by the path, and he’ll decide to carry it home.  Now, this probably doesn’t seem unusual.   Most dogs will pick up sticks.  But most dogs don’t go after the kind of sticks that Gus does.  As you can see from the photo above, the sticks that Gus brings home are often bigger than he is.  Sometimes we even have trouble on the sidewalk because his stick takes up so much space!

It’s not uncommon for people walking or driving by us to honk, laugh, and give Gus the thumbs up sign as he proudly marches home with his trophy.  It’s quite a sight to see.

I’ve always said that I would do well to have the kind of confidence that Gus does.  When he comes upon a giant stick lying there, you can just see him considering it, and sizing it up.  Then, without hesitation, he will pick it up and position it in his mouth for the long walk home.  He never seems to even entertain the notion that he won’t be able to manage it.  Occasionally I have even tried to discourage him, saying “no Gus, that one’s too big!”  But he will always forge ahead; often wrestling with the largest sticks until he can get a good grip on them.  His behaviour shows that he doesn’t even consider the possibility that he won’t be successful.

You probably think that I’m crazy for letting him carry all this wood home.  Take a look below, and you’ll see what he accumulated during a couple of weeks last fall.  I guess I just feel that, since he’s so confident and determined, he’s entitled to have the reward of carrying his treasures home.

Gus's collection of sticks

When you are setting goals for yourself, do you reach high and go after the biggest stick?  If you’re like me, you often hesitate and feel limited by all the reasons why the goal will be challenging to achieve.  Can I really do it?  Am I qualified enough?  Will people listen to me?  This would be like Gus looking at a stick, and hesitating while thinking, “Is it too big?  Will it hurt my mouth?  Will I bump into things on the way home  with it?”  When we focus on the obstacles in our path, then we have a tendency to trip over those obstacles, and allow them to get in the way of achieving our goals.  Or perhaps they make us worry too much, and cause us to drop our standards and set our sights on some easier goal.  It’s like settling for a smaller stick because you feel that it will just be easier to manage.

If, like Gus, we refuse to think that way, and we just know that we can carry home that big stick, then we don’t even see any obstacles, and our actions will surely lead us to be successful.  If you don’t believe me, just take a look on my front porch!

The biggest stick

After I finished posting this, I came upon this quote that I think is quite relevant – I think you’ll agree.

“The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” — Michaelangelo

Watch out – they can really sneak up on you!

Gus and Lucky sneaking up

Uh oh.  I can’t believe it.  Today on our walk, Gus and I took a route that takes us past our vet’s office.  We often go that way just for a change of scenery, and also because we really love Dr. Sermer and her wonderful team, Amber and Sharon.  There’s always a friendly cuddle and a treat for Gus, and we usually have a little visit if they’re not too busy.  I also tend to take advantage of the opportunity to pop Gus on the scale while we’re there, to check his weight.  Today I did that, and I discovered that Gus had gained almost 4 pounds!!!! He’s actually nudged past the upper limit of where his weight should be.  I was horrified.

I feel like such a terrible mother.  How could I let this happen to my baby?

The truth is, if you’re not careful, it doesn’t take much for a few extra pounds to sneak up when you’re not looking.  I should know – I work with this stuff for a living!  I tell my students and clients that the secret to keeping a healthy weight is ridiculously simple:  You have to balance your energy in, and your energy out.  And, you need to get on the scale to check up on things on a regular basis.

So, what happened with Gus?  Well, because of everything that’s been going on, it has been a few months since I last checked his weight.  I think that we’ve just been getting a bit too casual measuring out his food every day.  We tend to eyeball the amount, and I think that we’ve just been gradually feeding him a bit too much, and that’s become the norm.  We didn’t catch it until he gained this much because it has been a much longer time than usual since I last checked it.

Of course, we’ll have to keep an eye on those bits of food that Gus “focuses” on at the table.  As I wrote, he does get mostly vegetables from us, but everything counts!  I guess that’s the other part of the message.  When you think about the “energy in” side of the equation, then you have to look at all the sources of energy – and be aware of those things that you’re not taking into account.  I remember thinking that the leftover bits of food I finished off my children’s plates didn’t count, and the same for any food eaten quickly, while standing over the sink!  But nope, as far as your body is concerned, it all adds up.

Then there’s the other side of things.  “Energy out” refers to all the energy you burn up, through daily activities and exercise.  If you’re trying to inch the scale down, then you can turbo charge things by simply becoming more active.  Of course, intense sessions at the gym are great, but research does show that multiple, shorter bursts of activity throughout the day are just as effective.  Personally, I look for any chance at all to simply MOVE when I can throughout the day.  Just like the nibbles and snacks, any type of activity counts, and is just plain better than sitting on your rear! It all adds up too, in a positive way.

Gus has no trouble with the energy out part.  He gets close to 2 hours of exercise a day, and he runs at full speed for a lot of that time.  In fact, if we’d let him, he’d run after a ball or frizbee until he dropped.

No, I think what happened was just a combination of getting a bit sloppy with his food and treats, and not monitoring it for a while.  In the past, I’ve caught it if he’s put on a pound here and there, and we’ve known that we have to watch out.  This time, I just let it go too long before checking up.

I’ve maintained a steady weight myself for many years now, and I’m convinced that one of the main reasons is the fact that I hop on the scale regularly.  I do eat really well, but I love food and I love eating!  I’m not obsessed with my weight, but I’ve been amazed at how quickly it can add up, especially as I’m approaching the magic “50.”  I’m always glad to keep an eye on things, and to catch it when it’s just an extra pound or two.  I always say that it’s a lot easier to prevent it than to lose it.

So, what about Gus?  Well, I’m actually not that worried.  I know that if we just pay a bit closer attention to the quantities we feed him, and keep him as active as he is, he’ll drop those few pounds in no time.  We’ll pop by the vet’s more often to make sure things are going in the right direction.  In the meantime, there’s just a bit more of him to love!

What you focus on is what will come to you

Gus tractor beam

We call it the tractor beam.  If you’ve ever seen the old Star Trek series, you’ll know exactly what I mean.  Whenever we are eating, Gus will join us in the kitchen.  He’s very quiet about it, but his strategy is clear and consistent  As you can see from the photos above and below, he will fix his gaze intently on whatever food he is interested in.  His eyes never waver.  They will follow that food from plate to hand or fork, to mouth; without so much as blinking or looking away for a second.  His focus is absolute, and his mission is crystal clear.

Tractor beam 2 with Mom

Okay, I know all you dog people who listened to your trainers are aghast by now, as you’re anticipating what’s coming next.  One of the cardinal rules of dog ownership and good manners is “no table feeding.”  Well, I’m sorry to confess this, but we’re not so good about that one!  Gus’s persistence is usually rewarded with a small bite of whatever he has been staring at.  Hey, as a family, we believe that sharing is a good thing! And don’t worry, we are pretty healthy eaters, so what he gets is mostly fruit and vegetables, or the odd bit of toast with peanut butter or smoked salmon.

Gus has totally figured out that if he concentrates hard enough, whatever he fixes his gaze on will eventually end up right where he wants it – in his mouth.  What a smart guy!

Now, neither Gus nor I can take credit for figuring out the “secret” here.  In fact, some other people have written about this “law of attraction,” and they even made a video that has made millions of dollars.  It all comes down to a very simple rule:  whatever you focus on is what will come to you.

This rule has been given many different names over the years, and it can be applied to everything from table scraps to relationships to finances.  Despite a lot of hype and marketing, it’s really not rocket science.  If there is something you want, focus all of your time and energy on that thing, and eventually you will have it.

I did watch that famous video a few years ago, and, while it has a good message, I feel that it over-dramatized the concept.  It’s not as though things will just magically appear at your door because you conjure them up in your wishes.  What happens is that, by focusing on what you want and making it your priority, you start to act and think differently.

At minimum, by focusing like this, you begin to devote a significant amount of your time and energy towards that goal.  This effort alone tends to go a long way towards helping you reach it.  Just the other day I was saying to Josh that if what he really wants is a high mark in math, then I should see him working on math most of the time, instead of playing the guitar. At the college where I teach, I tell my students all the time that they are actively choosing the mark they want in my course by how much time and effort they are putting into working on it outside of class.

In addition, what I have found is that, when you are really focusing on something, you start to recognize opportunities that are right in front of you; things that you otherwise wouldn’t have noticed.  If you are in this goal-oriented mindset, you begin to take advantage of these opportunities, and that’s where things really get rolling!  A while back, when I was chatting in the park about my blog and all the inspiration I get when I am out with Gus, one of my friends commented, “you must have more interesting walks than I do!”  I don’t think that’s the case at all.  I just think that, because I am in this mode where I am focusing on what’s going on around me all the time, these ideas jump out at me from my everyday interactions.

So, what do you make of all this?  Whatever you choose to.  But the next time you are moaning about something you want, stop and remember Gus with his eyes on that bagel.  Ask yourself, “how much of my energy am I really focusing on this goal, and what am I actually doing to make it happen?”  You might be surprised at how much power you have to bring it within reach.

Lean into the wind

Watson in the wind

They’re here.  Those blustery days when we know that summer is most definitely behind us, and fall has truly arrived.  These are the days when you look out the window and see branches bending and swaying, and leaves flying off the trees and blowing wildly down the street.  The howl of the autumn wind can even be heard from inside the house.

For many, this is a time to begin the retreat indoors.  In Canada, a great number of people disappear from October to May, in order to avoid the wind and the cold, and everything else that gets thrown at us during our extended fall and winter.  If you do see these souls outside during this time, you will find them scurrying quickly from house to car, and back. Their faces are hidden under tightly gathered hoods and scarves; their heads ducked down to avoid the fury of the wind. When forced to be outside for any length of time, these folks will usually find a corner, and huddle with their backs to the wind, as if hoping that the forces of nature will somehow blow past them, and leave them alone.

Life with Gus means that behaviour like this is simply not an option.  Out we go every day, no matter how hard the wind is blowing.  It’s not just that he doesn’t seem to mind it; Gus loves to be outside on a cool and windy day.  The picture above was taken out in the field on the day I wrote about “slobbery balls.”  Gus didn’t stand still long enough for a good photo, so this is a great shot of Watson, doing what Gus often does out in the wind.

As you can see, there’s certainly no ducking or huddling going on here.  Like Watson, Gus will sit or stand tall, and actually lean into the wind with his face turned up.  Look how he’s  enjoying the feeling, as it blows through him; ruffling his fur.

Since I’ve noticed Gus and other dogs doing this, I’ve begun to try the same thing myself when I’m out in the middle of the field.  Of course, you have to be dressed properly, and be active enough to be warm on the inside.  If you are, and you try this, you will experience an exhilarating feeling as you lean into the full force of the wind; meeting it head on. You can almost imagine that you are a kite or a sail; feeling the lifting power and the promise of flight.

There’s an interesting analogy here that struck me the other day.  The wind can be compared to our life’s problems and challenges.  There’s no question that there’s always a wind of some sort in the air for us to deal with. When things are going well, we may only feel the gentle breeze of everyday challenges blowing softly by.  We scarcely feel our hair mussed, and we carry on with little concern.  But sometimes, when we are facing major issues and problems, we may find ourselves feeling like we are on the top of a hill, being buffeted by gale force winds.  It’s the wild, unpredictable nature of many challenges we face that leaves us feeling as though we are being tossed about, like a leaf at the mercy of the autumn wind.  Our inclination is to draw our hood around us and huddle; hoping that we can ride out the storm and be spared from its fury.

Research confirms that those who cope best with life’s stresses are the ones who, like Gus and Watson, choose to stand tall and meet the wind head on; leaning into its full force.  Rather than huddling like victims, those who sit up and take control of their situation tend to not only cope more effectively, but they often even emerge in better shape at the end of the ordeal.  When we are handed a challenge, there’s no question that we often feel broadsided, and blown off our feet by the force of events.  However, if we stop and collect ourselves, we find that there is always some element in every situation that we can take control of.

The next time you find yourself in a gale, stand tall and lean head first into that wind.  It will give you an exhilarating feeling of power and control.  If you manage to find a way to fashion a sail, you’ll do even better.  You might even harness the power of that wind and find that you can use it to carry you aloft.