As I reflect back on where I was this time last year (physically, emotionally, mentally), I am honest in saying I was not at my best. Since I was in a dry spell of writing here, I just actually took a look at my Facebook wall to remind myself of where I was. On this day in 2012, here’s what was on my mind:
“Sometimes in our lives, we all have pain. We all have sorrow. But, if we are wise, we know that there’s always tomorrow.”
So, yeah. I was a bit of a Debbie Downer. But as pragmatic and hopeful a Debbie Downer as I could be, I guess.
I was about to take a few turning points in the months to come. One of those turning points would be where I learned the importance of listening to Balton. Like, really listening. And defending him, so he could learn I had his back and he didn’t need to take situations that scared him into his own hands.
One of the exercises I learned in the months to come was the importance of asking your dog “how is this for you?”
Suzanne Clothier brings up this all too important question in her seminar on Arousal, Anxiety and Fear in Dogs. In the seminar, Clothier addresses what this question means in the context of training your dog. Crystal Thompson from one of my fave blogs, Reactive Champion, attended a seminar with her in person, and she sums the context of this up pretty well.
“The most important, and perhaps the only, aspect to this question is, “Do you feel safe?” If not, why not? And what can you do to help the dog feel safe?
If they don’t feel safe, then no matter what you’re doing, it’s not humane.”
This time last year, I didn’t have enough knowledge to know to ask that very five word question. Not of myself, not of Balton. But since that time, I have gained knowledge, and now make a point to ask that question regularly. And adjustments need be made if the answer is anything other than a confident “I’m good. Really, and truly, I’m good.” Sometimes that means utilizing tools to feel better about a situation. Sometimes that means leaving the situation altogether, or approaching in a way that makes you feel better.
Applying these lessons to my dog has started to come more naturally. Applying these lessons to myself has been a bit more of a challenge. How often do we really sit and reflect, and ask ourselves “how is this for you?” Safety can be translated for our purposes to physically, emotionally, mentally well. If we are to be humane to our four-legged companions, we must first be humane to ourselves.
We cannot enjoy the pleasant moments of life if fear, stress, anxiety are hanging over us. We cannot be good to others (human or animal) without being good to ourselves. And when we are able to answer well to “how is this for you?” we may (and should) start asking that of others, and knowing how we can help others feel safe. How we can make them feel well.
Treat yourself well. Treat others well. It’s not always easy, but it is important.
To Tidings of comfort and joy this season, and to celebrating the fact that in our moments of pain and sorrow, we know that there’s always tomorrow…
Some deeper reading on self care and asking your dog “how is this for you” can be found at: