My dog used to herd my sister. He was a collie puppy and she was only a year old, still wobbly with the whole walking thing and the only one near his size. So he, following his instincts, would walk around the room, persistently nipping at her ankles in an effort to get her to move in the direction he wanted. Eight years later, that very same dog has given up on moving around my sister around the room. Instead, he’s taken on an even more challenging task; he’s trying to teach me lessons that I believe I really need to know.
So maybe it’s a little odd to mark my dog as my teacher, but I think most teaching has a give and take element to it; I try to teach him to fetch and he relentlessly tries to teach me more substantial skills such as how to have faith and how to forgive. Hopefully, I’m doing better in my lessons. My dog teaches by example. He stands with his ears perked up by the front window or my bedroom door, knowing that sooner or later I will come home or I will open my door and let him in. Outside, in the backyard, he has complete faith that one of these days that squirrel is going to slip-up and come tumbling right into his awaiting jaws. From him I’m beginning to learn that faith is not simply believing something to be true, but trusting my judgment and reasoning enough to act on my belief. He could believe my bedroom door will open and walk away, but because he has such faith that it will open he acts on his belief; he sits and waits. And I watch his example, time and time again, letting it slowly sink in.
The closed door brings up another trait he keeps showing me, his easy-to-get forgiveness. After all, I was the one who shut the door in his face in the first place. No matter how many times I leave him behind at home for reasons he can’t understand, or push him off the couch when he’s getting comfortable, he always forgives me, even enough to suppose I didn’t mean it and hop right back on the couch. Unfortunately, it’s not an entirely difficult task to think of times when my lack of willingness to forgive someone when he or she hurt me has ended up putting both of us in more pain than before. If I could just forgive the mistakes of others as easily as he does, I wouldn’t have to be forgiven for nearly as many mistakes myself. I’ve realized this by looking at his example.
I believe in faith. I believe in forgiveness. Most of all I believe in unconventional teachers, the ones who teach by persistent example. In short, I believe in the lessons I’m learning from my dog.
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