Getting the Mission Right
Submitted to NPR’s This I Believe
This I believe
Achieving the goal is not nearly so important as what we accomplish along the way. I know this because I was born to achieve a particular goal. I didn’t make it, but I accomplished my real mission along the way. Here’s my story:
So, okay. We’re driving home. Dad invited me up into the front seat with the car command. I was never allowed to sit in the front seat before. Did I mention that I’m a jet-black Labrador retriever–a service dog in training for Canine Companions for Independence (CCI)? The sun glinted on the ocean and made me squint my black eyes. It was warm on my shiny, black fur.
“Washed you right out, they did.” Dad sounded so disappointed. “You won’t be helping anyone. They released you, girl.”
I don’t like the sound of that word. I wag my tail, thumping it over the whoosh of warm wind coming through the open windows.
“You were bred and trained these 20 months to work for your partner. You were to open doors, pick up dropped keys, load clothes in the washer–”
I lick Dad’s neck and snuggle up against his shoulder. Wait just a minute. I can do all that. And more. I can sit for hours on end in your board meetings. I lie under the table in restaurants and leave the pieces of meatball and French fries that people drop–just try that if you haven’t eaten since breakfast. So what if I indulge in chasing small animals once in a while. Big deal.
You got the mission wrong, Dad
Remember the night we met Elton John at Caesar’s Palace? We were out back, taking a walk when he came by with Arthur (his cocker spaniel who could use some training himself if truth be told). We spent fifteen minutes talking about the work I would do for my disabled partner one day. A month later, Elton sent us a signed copy of our book, Love Heels, and then sent us a signed music score to Candle in the Wind. We auctioned both off and raised $5,000 for CCI. Speaking of auctions, what about that gala we went to when our friend, Dean Koontz (novelist and a great guy), bid half a million dollars for the right to name a CCI puppy? How many wheelchair bound people will that money help? Huh?
What about the two Cub Scout troops and the three elementary school classes you took me to? I showed over 200 kids and their parents how we dogs help the disabled. And remember, Daddy-O, that day in the grocery store when you turned around and saw a line of kids and their parents six-deep waiting to shake my paw.
I accomplished my mission
This I believe: The journey was my mission. It’s all my gorgeous 65 pounds of love and heart had in me. I was always an ambassador for CCI and the disabled. We showed so many people that the best gifts go to those whom you’ve never even met, who never asked you for anything and for whom a thousand thank you’s could never begin to express their gratitude. Regretting that I didn’t reach the ultimate goal you had in mind shouldn’t overshadow our accomplishments along the way–which were considerable.
Maybe tonight you’ll let me sleep on the bed with you instead of in my kennel. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get reacquainted with Mr. Squirrel who lives in the tree in my very own backyard.