“The reality is…” 

This is how our first dog trainer, Elinor, who we paid just shy of one thousand dollars, started every sentence. Whether answering when Enzo will behave well enough to go to a dog park, how to get him to stop jumping or what to feed him, the answer started with “The reality is…”

The reality is, when you string that many precursors together, it adds up to precious time. It’s like calling one of those customer care departments and hearing:

“Good afternoon and thank you for calling the Time Suck Corporation. What I’m going to do first is ask you your name – don’t worry, I’ll be sure to get the correct spelling (insert chuckle) – and after that, I’ll ask what the problem is. Once I repeat the problem back to you and we agree that I’m accurate, I will do what I can to assist you. How does that sound?”

It sounds like the violent whoosh of air when an owl in predawn hours, swoops down into your yard disappearing with your chihuahua – like sixty seconds of my life I’ll never see again.

Of all the times, our Mom-Jeans, practical shoe-wearing, economy-on-every-level-except-words dog trainer has uttered these words in a sentence, the one that stuck with me was when she said,

“The reality is… you bought a feral dog.”

I assume she wielded this weapon of a statement to stop my iridescent hope that Enzo has the potential to be a good boy, and perhaps to combat the atoms in the air which might be gathering into the question: Is it him, or is it you?

Last week I put in a request to switch to Kyle, the other trainer who works in my area. 

Kyle appeared in my driveway, with a scruffy beard, checkered fleece vest, Wrangler jeans, cowboy boots and a baseball cap. During the course of our hour together, Kyle, in a deep southern accent, pointed to Enzo laying on the pavement and said things like:

“Oh, I like that, (Oh Ah Laaahk thaaat)” and
“Oooo we gonna have some fuuuuuhhhn” and
“We just gonna tweak a little.” He said this while leaning slightly to the left, turning an invisible screwdriver in his hand. “How’s that sound?”

That sounds mighty fine, Kyle. Mighty fine.

Elinor told me if we allow Enzo on furniture uninvited, he’ll soon be standing Pointer-style on the couch, while our family huddles underneath offering a raw steak up to him from a steel glove. Kyle says he has no problem with Enzo on the furniture if that’s what we want.

Kyle says when Enzo growls when we move him, to gently pet him in the offending area and give him treats until he learns. Elinor said, if we continued to ignore Enzo’s warning growl, he’ll cease to offer it and go directly to biting our son’s face off.

When I told Elinor about Enzo refusing to pee anywhere other than our property, she nodded her head as though she’d told us so. “The reality is…” she said.

Kyle said, “Ooooweee, that boy’s got some bladder control, don’t he?”

I think Kyle might be comedian Larry the Cable guy. (Now that’s funny right there. I don’t care who you are, that’s funny.)

Since Kyle, I’ve begun to narrow my focus on Enzo’s finer moments, like right now as he sighs at my feet. And the fact that he waits until I signal him to scarf his food down, because he can learn. That he plays and snuggles, and the progress with friends he’s making at Camp.

The point of this post is not that Kyle is a better trainer than Elinor. Elinor knows her stuff and like all of us, she’s doing the best she can. What I’m saying is, the way we think about something, changes everything about everything. The thought that Enzo was feral had caused me to let him claim victory on the tug-o-war rope. But now, with my new thought in hand, I’ve started training in earnest again.

Think about that: I changed my thought and it led directly to changing my behavior – a changed behavior resulting in a more well-trained dog, less aggravation, and untold more joy.

Since I’ve seen Enzo through Kyle’s eyes, I’ve stopped surfing the internet for how long dogs of these breeds live. I’ve ceased threatening to give him away which has halted the panic and tears in my son’s eyes (our own thoughts affect everyone around us). When Enzo trots around the house with my socks in his mouth, I reach for my camera. When he deftly opens the garbage cabinet in the kitchen with his paw and drags trash out, I admire his ingenuity.

I have a feeling all of this is worth something, maybe even the thousand dollars we’re spending to train him.

Here’s the REAL reality: the degree to which you accept what you tell yourself (or what is being told to you), affects every aspect of your life and that of those around you. Try changing your thought on one thing in your life and see what happens.

Abby Havermann

I’m Abby Havermann, an Author, Speaker, and Coach focused on inspiring women to claim the value-driven, meaningful and impactful personal and professional lives they’re meant to live. I enjoy a good book, a dry glass of wine, a difficult hike, an occasional Netflix binge, and learning from my Humble Pie moments in life to grow myself and others so we can work together toward the greater good.

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