August 25, 2016

On Dogs and Authenticity

It's a complicated, confusing world out there. I've been doing a lot of introspection about trust and honesty lately, about living my life authentically and presenting myself as nothing but wholly me in whatever circles I inhabit. I'd like that to extend to this blog, whether that means expanding its topics or writing more posts like this one which astonished and touched me with its responses and shares far and wide. This doesn't mean I'm going to be oversharing here on my dog blog, but I was reminded that what people are affected by are personal stories. While I'm dog-obsessed, I have far more diverse interests than just dogs, although I notice that dogs inform and influence unexpected aspects of my life.

Ruby and Boca have led the way with their giant ears and curious noses, opening up my world more than I ever imagined. Ruby's reactivity has given me compassion both for challenging dogs and the struggles of their caretakers. Boca's easy adapatbility and constant happiness with exactly who and where she is has given me an appreciation for the simple and the present. I can't begin to quantify the relationships these dogs have precipitated, from fellow reactive dog owners to trainers across the globe, fellow pet bloggers and my Paws on the Ground teammates who've become true and dear friends.  My road trip across the southwest with Boca allowed me both a unique time to bond with my potcake and a much-needed period of reflection and stock-taking, not to mention the opportunity to meet many of those aforementioned individuals I've come to respect and admire in person.

In navigating relationships old and new, I find we are so often doing this dance of expectation, second-guessing and self-doubt. We get wrapped up in old storylines or skip ahead in new ones. We protect others from the truth because we think it's kinder (it isn't). What I think so many of us love most about dogs is the absence of such dances. Dogs don't deceive us. We may do them the disservice of misinterpreting and anthropomorphizing their behavior but they are never anything but honest. If we take the time to understand their body language, they so clearly communicate their wants and needs, their fears and desires. They let us know when we've made a mistake and are endearingly, unfailingly willing to let us make amends. Every day, if we're listening, our dogs will ask and answer us. Last night a little girl wanted to pet Boca but Boca was more interested in sniffing the ground. The dog was still a dog, the little girl's night was still made. Ruby woofed at me while I was distracted by my phone until I got her tennis ball - the special one she found on our hike - from underneath the couch. It's a relationship made almost entirely of communication, and non-verbal communication at that! No wonder you see so many quotes and tshirts about loving dogs more than people, although I find many of them offensive.

I love people, and relationships, and deep connection. It's why I continue to write here and to reach out into this world. My purpose in writing about authenticity is to remind myself what I aspire to, along with warmth and openness. It struck me that these qualities were what so many people adored about my mom. Here is the part where I tell you that although positive training and reactivity have been a main focus of this blog, I have done very little training lately, and Ruby's reactivity is no better and possibly a little bit worse. I am always balancing acceptance and management. I've made some mistakes with the long line playing Frisbee where she's rushed at other dogs and hit the end of the line. I've since moved where we play and increased my vigilant scanning of the area to be sure we aren't surprised by people coming around corners. I'll also tell you that while I haven't been writing about it, the rescue group I belong to has saved around 150 dogs since the beginning of the year. We've had some terrible setbacks and questioned our mission and our judgment at times, but we're still here. It's what we can do: keep showing up, keep being true, maybe even pushing up against our comfort zones to be a little more ourselves than we were yesterday. 


  1. Such wise words Lara! Thank you for sharing this. My biggest struggle is feeling ok with ALL of me, strengths and weaknesses. This is a journey and it is refreshing to read a blog post that isn't 'self-edited'. It helps to know others are learning and growing too. All too often I find that we only present what we want people to see, and hide the rest. Living honestly, that's my goal too.

  2. I agree. Being present in the moment and honest about it might be the biggest gift animals give us, and I land on the reverse-anthropomorphic side. I try to see myself more like them. Love this post; here's to bringing all our parts together.

  3. I love this. I cannot articulate more at this moment, but I love this.

  4. Fabulous post that speaks in so many ways to what we're all living with daily as we grow into better humans.

  5. Brilliantly said. "Keep showing up, keep being true, maybe even pushing up against our comfort zones to be a little more ourselves than we were yesterday." Great mantra for life!!


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