Friday, March 27, 2009

What a Puppy taught me about Perseverance

Ellie - Day 1


What can a puppy teach
you about life?

A lot!


Last October we “won” an auction at the Chris Elliott Fund annual fundraising event. We went home with a beautiful 8 week old Golden Retriever puppy that we named “Ellie” in honor of Christopher Elliott. The story of how Ellie came into our lives is documented in my blog post Sometimes the best packages come wrapped in fur and continues with my monthly pictures Ellie at 7 (months).

I thought having a puppy would be a great thing for the kids. I thought having a puppy would force us to deal with different words that start and sometimes end with the letter “P.” I thought having a puppy would be a great way to see our community in a new way – by walking. All of these have proven to be true.

I have also learned a lot more about myself than I would have ever expected. A few of the “P” words I learned from Ellie are:

  • Patience – Having a puppy is an exercise in patience, but one with an incredible reward. A well behaved dog.
  • Practice – It is said that Success seeks those with a prepared mind. A similar parallel can be used for training a new puppy. It’s a two way street. The puppy trains us almost as much as we train them. It takes continuous practice.
  • Perseverance – This is the biggie. You have to keep going. Whether you want to or not – you have to keep going. The puppy wants to learn, wants to bond, and wants to be let outside on a regular basis. It takes perseverance to “grow” a well behaved puppy into a dog.

image Perseverance in the case of a puppy is a long road, but it’s nothing like what Ernest Shackleton encountered during their voyage on the Endurance. Or is it?

Ernest Shackleton is one of the greatest explorers of all time. He and his crew had to improvise and explore the extremities of their patience and perseverance to survive for two years on the ice in Antarctica.

imageOk, so maybe training a puppy isn’t this extreme. However, I can see a few parallels to what the crew of the Endurance experienced to what an owner of a puppy experiences. The first and foremost is Perseverance. In order to grow a well behaved dog you have to look at the big picture. To ignore some of the daily inconveniences and think long term. Celebrate the victories along the way and build upon them to reach the ultimate goal.

In the case of the Endurance crew it literally was survival. In the case of the puppy – it’s probably more of a mental survival (with the sacrifice of a few chewed shoes along the way).

Much of what I have learned from Ellie I try to translate to my daily life. How I work with my colleagues, how I interact with family and friends, and how I keep moving towards the big picture goals.

What about you? Do you have a similar experience with a puppy or other cherished pet? I’d love to hear your story. Please post a comment and don’t forget the link to your your story. Or you can always find me on Twitter or e-mail.

Photo Credits: Courtesy of the Royal Geographical Society; photograph, Underwood and Underwood, New York

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