Transforming Disappointment

First of all, congratulations to Marti and her girls (the four legged ones). On Saturday, Purna (F Litter) was Best of Winners/Best of Opposite at a show in Santa Barbara, and on Sunday it was Fiona's (D Litter) turn to do the same -- isn't it great that the girls share so nicely?!

And speaking of Marti, she recently wrote something to me that absolutely was genius and has prompted a lot of thinking on my part. Basically, what Marti noted is that one important thing one needs to know about potential puppy homes is how they handle disappointment.

If you are a parent or have a partner, you have no doubt noticed that your loved one is not nearly as perfect as the Ideal One in your head. I have stopped feeling guilty about my failures as a parent because -- quite frankly -- those kids aren't so perfect either! And they definitely are not what I envisioned when I welcomed them in my life! I have already shared my keen disappointment about my daughter who had the nerve to stop growing at 5'7 and who did not go on to play college basketball at Stanford as I planned -- sigh...

Our dogs are the same way -- they are not perfect. Puppies will never be the Perfect Dog -- they will be the Real Dog. And guess what? You are not the Perfect Owner so I guess it all evens out.

Puppies need owners who "bounce" with disappointment, and who have the ability to transform their hopes and dreams quickly and easily. A dog should never, ever live as a source of disappointment and failed dreams -- no dog or child or partner deserves that.

A Perfect Dog is only that because an owner has chosen to see him or her in that way. This does not mean that one is blind to what is less-than-ideal but rather only that those things are not the focus -- the strengths are the focus.

Imagine a camera -- what you choose to focus on is what is in sharpest view. Indeed, it becomes the center of the picture and everything else fades to background. And yes, we do indeed CHOOSE what to focus on both in our photographs, and in the dogs and people who share our lives.

Some people sit and stare at the disappointments -- their focus (and stories) are all about what is less than ideal. They are stuck on the Disappointment Channel, and do not have the skills or desire to change that channel. When our partner or parent is stuck on the Disappointment Channel, all we get are reflections about what is wrong with us -- that is a joyless existence for all involved.

A dog deserves an owner who will go in to the relationship knowing that the Real Dog will not match up to the Perfect Dog. Further, when the Real Dog shows up, the owner has to have the capacity to embrace what is, and not sit and stare at what is so disappointing day after day. And remember -- the owner plays a role in who and what the Real Dog "looks" like so bemoaning the shortcomings of a dog is not fair -- the owner played a part in making that Real Dog who and what s/he is.

I say that not to place blame because I am actually uninterested in blame -- focusing on that is like focusing on disappointment -- it is useless and depressing. Rather, I wish to point out that we all have a choice about how to handle what shows up in our lives -- in dogs, people, and circumstances. It is okay to wallow a bit but then you need to bounce and get going again -- for everyone's sake.

I suspect that some might want a Zoey of their own because it might seem like she is Perfect -- and frankly, she is. But she is Perfect because I see her that way -- because I see her strengths and what is wonderful about her, and I focus on those things. This does not mean I do not know very well her not-so-strengths because I do -- but they do not deserve center stage in Zoey's life -- or in mine.

Asia is also Perfect -- again, because I see her that way. And I transformed what I hoped for in Asia so that she could excel in her life rather than be the source of disappointment and "what if's".

It is the ability to transform hopes and dreams that allows us to be both resilient and happy -- and to deal with the changes and imperfections of our lives. We need to feel the sadness for what is lost, even if what is lost was only ever in our minds, and then move on to embrace the challenges of what is real and present. We are not helpless or victims when we take charge of our own thoughts, feelings, and experiences -- and we create joy when we do.

Karma and Zoey had a conversation about this -- it went as follows:

Zoey: So I hear your murder of a Chippy resulted in a life sentence of House Arrest.

Karma: Actually, after a successful career in the extermination business I have retired and am now living a life of comfort and leisure with a personal chef and housekeeper.

Zoey: Have you been reading that stupid Blog again?!

There are so many ways to look at a situation -- I suggest we all consider the ones that creates the most joy for all involved. Tell your story with words that are strength-based and help you see what is good and wonderful in yourself and others -- including your sweet dog. And I highly discourage the Disappointment Channel -- it is boring and has way too many commercials.




by Heidi on Mon, 08/29/2011 - 13:35

"it wasn't murder, exactly, it was a strategic removal of a non-household entity!"

Cats. Mine are under house arrest forever, too.

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