When it’s over, it’s over; move on

Happy Gus

l wish I could be more like Gus.  No,  don’t want to be able to run on all fours or lift my leg to pee, I just wish that I  was able to handle some situations the way he does.

Take yesterday, for example.  We started out in the field as usual.  It was a beautiful morning, and we were having a great time with some new friends.  Unfortunately, there were two separate incidents when I had to apologize and we had to change course, because Gus wouldn’t give up a ball that belonged to another dog.  I’ve written about this before.  He just gets so worked up and has to run after that ball, no matter who it belongs to.  He even jumped up on a very nice man, who had been throwing the ball for him, when he tried to put the ball away out of sight.  I really felt awful.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t wish that I could forget all my manners and act crazy from time to time.  What I wish is that I was better at letting things go once they’re over.

We left the field and the balls behind, and Gus trotted along happily, as if nothing had ever happened.  It wasn’t so easy for me to get over how I was feeling.  I kept on walking, as I tried to shake off my frustration with Gus’s behaviour.  The next thing I knew, we had been out for two and a half hours!  It wasn’t a total loss, because it was a gorgeous day, and we both got a ton of exercise.  Gus behaved great for the rest of the walk, and we ended up in a beautiful ravine. We met lots of people who commented on how wonderful he was, but  I still kept thinking about his earlier bratty behaviour. When we finally got home, the first thing I did was to explode in frustration about what had happened.  This was after two and a half hours of trying to walk it off!!

Dogs have this incredible ability to live in the moment.  I’m not sure if it’s a survival skill, but their focus tends to be limited to what’s right in front of them at that particular instant.  I remember when Gus was a puppy and we took him to classes.  We were told that we had to reward his good behaviour immediately after it happened, or else he wouldn’t associate the treat with what he had done.  The same went for correcting problem behaviour.  We learned that if we hesitated for a minute before corrrecting something he had done, it would confuse him because he would have already moved on to something else.  The moment would have passed.

I’ve seen this play out in other circumstances as well.  I’ve learned over the years that the dogs in the field tend to sort out their differences among themselves.  If one dog is annoying another, or takes a ball that belongs to someone else, the ensuing “vocal” behaviour tends to make it clear what the issue is, and the situation usually resolves pretty quickly.  Usually after “speaking his mind” in this way, Gus will go right up to the other dog and begin licking it affectionately; as if to say, “Hey, we’re okay with each other, right?”  No hard feelings, no grudges.  On to the next game of tag.

This is what I really wish I was better at.  I don’t hold grudges, but as you can see from what happened, I tend to hang on to things long after they’re over.  I don’t really know why I’m this way.  I just tend to feel things quite deeply, so it often takes a me a while before I can shake something off and move on.  I have made a personal commitment to work at being more like Gus, and to learn how to let things go, especially if they really aren’t that serious.

This morning on our walk we ran into one of the people from yesterday in the field.  I apologized again, and told her how frustrated I had been with Gus’s behaviour.  She looked at me like I was crazy, and told me that it really wasn’t any big deal.  Gus was right again – it was definitely over.  And on we went. . .