We brought Gracie to her forever home this past Thursday. Leaving her mom and her last remaining sister was traumatic for her and the first few days she just wanted to be held. Each day has seen some little changes though. Her fierce resistance to the leash—she immediately turned into Statue Dog—was forced to give way to necessity. She now believes the leash is a wonderful tug toy and she delights in wrestling it to the ground.
She’s learned how to go up and down steps but she shows no interest in her toys or the box game. She knows the clicker means a reward. Mostly, she knows that I am her Human and she sticks close to me.
I stick close to her too. We constructed a pen with her crate in it so she has plenty of nap time, but when she is with us I pay her attention. Jane Killion, dog breeder and trainer, says that “attention is the mother.” It is the most important gift we can provide—letting them know that we are as much here for her as she is here for us.
I wondered how Gracie would handle my exercise, especially because her pen is right next to where I work out. I envisioned having to endure workout sessions with whining in the background. But, attention is my mother as well. I take care of Gracie first, and then I take care of myself. I think too often many of us forget to pay that attention to ourselves. Our spouses, the kids, the job, our friends—they can all come before us and sometimes we just don’t have anything left over to give to ourselves.
So, I get Gracie up each morning, get her outside and fed and watered and loved and played. Then I put her back in her pen and I exercise.
She doesn’t make a sound. I play my music, I grunt at times and count others. It just doesn’t bother her. She has been with us only five days and she and I already have our routine down. After exercise I go upstairs to get cleaned up and sometimes run an errand or two. When it’s her time again, she is the focus of my attention and I try teaching her some basics. Clicker means treat. Look at me. Going outside to potty means the leash—and pottying outside means I will lavish you with praise.
Attention is the mother, for all of us. Being attentive to someone; truly listening to them with an open heart and mind; taking care of them in little and big ways. It’s even more important now, when our lives have become so much smaller. Giving one another our attention lets each of us know of our own importance. It is so much easier to do when we are fulfilled, when we have paid attention to ourselves.
I hope you are paying attention to yourself, to your wants and your needs. It would be so easy to slip into emotional fatigue or anxiety or depression if you don’t vigilantly work to keep your mind and body and spirit as whole as possible. So, here’s my promise to you: I will pay attention to my healthy lifestyle and my family and friends and my little Gracie-Lou. Please make the same promise back to me!