Right now, Tonto the Goldendoodle is Gabe and I’s life. We spend all of our time when we’re off work with him. We go home every day for our lunch breaks so we can let him out. He sleeps in our room with us and gets lots of walks and treats and lovin’. We are probably a little bit too infatuated with him but we just can’t help it! He is too cute! So naturally, we enrolled him in Puppy School so that he could be even more amazing than he already was.
Before we began school, we worked with him on some basic commands like sit and come. After a lot of treats he did master sit. But that’s about all of the preparation we had done with him prior to classes starting. We spent our time snuggling with him rather than working on skills. I thought we were the best puppy parents that ever lived on this earth and our dog was the smartest and sweetest dog of all time.
But then reality hit. We headed to PetSmart one fateful Wednesday evening, excited to show off our dog. We thought there would be quite a few puppies in his class, but there ended up being only one other dog. It was an adorable little Golden Retriever named JoJo. She was about a month younger than Tonto, and quite a bit smaller than him too. But we instantly noticed she was definitely more “alpha” and was already taking control within minutes. She was real cute so it didn’t bother us.
The dogs sat and chewed on their treats while the instructor went over the basics of the classes we had just enrolled in. Multiple times, JoJo tried to steal Tonto’s treat and of course he didn’t care because he is the most submissive dog ever. In my mind I was thinking, “Stand up for yourself, Tonto! Come on, be a man!” But of course I didn’t speak these words out loud.
After the short orientation, we started working on teaching our dogs some commands. We started with ‘sit’ and I was excited to show off the fact that Tonto already knew how to do this. But so did JoJo, so it really wasn’t that impressive. Then we worked on the ‘look at me’ command (because apparently when dogs look into your eyes it makes them feel good) and Tonto was really struggling with this one. He was distracted and was not interested in looking at mom and dad’s faces. I was a little frustrated, but figured we’d have better luck with the next skill. We started working on ‘stay,’ and I peeked over at JoJo. That was a mistake.
She had of course already mastered all of the skills that we were working on during this first night of school. She already knew sit, stay, and shake (which Tonto also really struggled with). Then she began showing off her even more advanced skill of rolling over on command. And ‘sitting pretty.’ Tonto was too uncoordinated to even attempt to sit pretty and would fall over whenever the trainer tried that one with him!
I felt defeated. I thought we had the smartest dog there ever was and I thought I was the best possible dog mom there ever could be! But I hadn’t put in hardly any work to actually train Tonto, so I felt like a pretty bad parent. I had spent too much time just loving on him so we had no time to actually master any skills in his short life. We spent our days running around in the backyard, snuggling in bed while watching The Office, and playing fetch down the hallway.
Shortly after my pity party, I realized something very important. All of the things I was doing with him every single day were the only things he needed. He couldn’t care less about mastering skills, he just wanted people to love him and pet him. And I recognized that my feelings of inadequacy were probably the exact feelings that parents of little humans feel every single day. We have a way of making ourselves feel like we are never doing a good enough job. We compare ourselves and our children to the people we are surrounded by, which often times makes us feel insufficient. And we regularly fail to realize that we are doing just fine. We are doing exactly what we are able to do with the knowledge that we have and that is good enough! God would have never given us little ones to care for if he didn’t fully trust us to raise them.
Tonto’s worth has nothing to do with how smart he is or how many cool tricks he can do. It really doesn’t matter at all if he can shake my hand before I give him a treat or if he can roll over when I ask him to. Intelligence is good, and we should strive to always be learning. Diligence and dedication are also pretty great qualities that we should try to emulate. And obviously, a huge part of our role as parents is to teach our children imperative life lessons to help them be successful in this world. After all, if we don’t show children how to succeed, it would be very hard for them to be happy in this life. But all I’m trying to say is that if lesson time is overpowering loving, quality time spent together, then we are doing something wrong. If we are basing our loved ones’ worth on their ability to take a test or write a paper, to master a skill or just do everything we ask of them perfectly, then we aren’t fully understanding our role as protectors of God’s littlelest children. We all come into this world with a purpose, even the animals. My goal as a dog mom should be to help Tonto fulfill his purpose, regardless of what it may be. And I guarantee you that his reason for being on this earth and living in my home has nothing to do with his ability to quickly learn what I may try to teach him.
I have not been a Mom to a human baby yet, but I am so thankful for the lessons that my dog is teaching me that will make me a much better mom when the day does come. I’ve learned that the only thing our children need from us is love. They need a home where they feel unconditionally valued. They need someone who will support them, even if they never do learn that cool trick they’ve been trying to master. Most importantly, Heavenly Father cares a lot more about how much love and support we show our children (and dogs 🙂 ) than how much time we spend instilling worldly success into their little minds.
So go home, give those you love a big hug and a kiss, and know that you are doing so much better than you may think you are! If your loved ones feel unconditionally adored, then that is good enough. Even if they have strayed from the path that leads to happiness, know that your LOVE is what will guide them back to a place of safety and peace. All is well.
Bright Blue Stone
p.s. For those days when you are feeling exceptionally overcome with your weaknesses, find comfort in knowing that God can turn any weakness you have into a strength if you will only let him. Ether 12:27