A Focused Arrow

Baby Arrow at 6 weeks

My wife and I recently added to our family—we got a new puppy!  Arrow is a miniature Australian Labradoodle, and she is sister to our other dog, an American Fox Hound named Bo. 

She’s only eight weeks old, so that means we have been spending a lot of time making sure Arrow grows accustomed to using the bathroom outside and helping Bo adjust to his new sister.  It’s been wonderful to see how Bo patiently accepts her and puts up with her playful nipping and curiosity. 

Arrow has been such a gift!  She’s cute, just like a little stuffed animal, and everyone loves her. Often, after she roughhouses with Bo, she runs over to me, and I pick her up and hold her on my lap as I work while she falls asleep, tuckered out by all of her playing and exploring.  

In the middle of all this chaos we’re experiencing—a pandemic that seems to be getting worse in the US, continued racial injustice and unrest, and an uncertain election season with lots of division—Arrow has brought me so much pleasure as I watch her interact and play with Bo and grow accustomed to her new home.

Arrow has also been a teacher—especially about how to stay grounded in the present moment.  She’s entirely into the moment she’s currently living in.  Recently, I took Bo and Arrow outside to play, and as they bounded around the yard together, friskily snapping at each other’s heels, Arrow suddenly scooted to a stop, a large yellow leaf catching her eye.  She looked at it, sniffed at it, and then picked it up with her teeth, carrying it around the yard with wonder and inquisitiveness.  I’ve observed over and over again, she’s “all in” with whatever has her attention.

Granted, dogs are not wired like humans.  Their brains are different from ours—they process events, circumstances, and emotions as a dog.  Nevertheless, there is still a lot we can learn from animals, including from my puppy Arrow.  Here are a few of the lessons she’s been teaching me:  

  • Don’t dwell on the past. She’s not fixated on her past, about the pain and sadness of leaving her mom and biological brothers and sisters and the only home she knew.
  • Don’t obsess about events that may never happen. She’s not thinking about her future, her stomach all knotted up about what could happen next, where her next meal will come from, etc.
  • Enjoy each moment. She fully delights in whatever has captured her focus—she’s into whatever her attention is on at that moment. As I write this, she’s chewing a ball.  Of course, there are a hundred other things she could be chewing on, but she is so into this ball with undivided focus and really enjoying it.
  • Bring awareness to emotions, but don’t identify with them. Arrow doesn’t stay stuck in her feelings.  For example, she really misses me when I leave the room.  And it’s totally ok and healthy for her to miss me in the moment because she feels what has her attention—maybe the emotion of loneliness.  But she doesn’t stay sad for long periods of time.
  • Let each moment be what it is, then keep going. When I have to correct or train her for a healthier, safer experience in her new home environment, she doesn’t hold a grudge against me.  She doesn’t wallow in anger and allow it to influence the rest of her day or change her opinion about me. She immediately wags her tail as soon as I show her love and cuddle her. Her little tail happily wiggles back and forth when she looks at me, my wife, and her new brother. She has so much to wag about. 

As I watch her fully living life, I’m almost wistful—that’s how I want to live life too!  And I can.  Here’s how:

  • Set intentions to purposefully be mindful.  Throughout the day, I focus intentionally on sensations such as breathing and allow the movement of my body to ground me in the moment, instead of dwelling about the past or obsessing about the future that may not happen.
  • It is ok for me to experience disappointment or frustration.  I simply notice my feelings, and with acceptance, allow myself a moment to just be with what is. It’s ok to feel whatever I am feeling.
  • Increase my “tail wagging” by focusing on my blessings. I take moments to give thanks for the “little” gifts like petting my dogs and watching the squirrels, for the gifts of sight, taste, and touch.  I want to focus on things I take for granted.

The next couple of days or weeks may be interesting, maybe even challenging.  We may continue to experience some uncertainty, sadness, and discouragement in our nation (and perhaps in our personal lives, as well), but may we embrace some of these important lessons that the newest teacher in my life offers us. 

Let’s all take a deep breath and live like Arrow, who’s focused on this moment.

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