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When it comes to making choices...

I was talking to a new friend today who was telling me she believed that people’s personal experiences lead to their choices. We didn't dive deeper into that part of the conversation at that moment. As we talked about other topics, we eventually started talking about our dogs. I told her that I had never been a dog person.

First of all, I wasn’t raised with dogs, cats, lizards, gerbils, or hamsters. For a few years, we had tropical fish. That’s it. I don't know why we didn't have pets in the house when I was growing up. Maybe my parents didn't have house pets when they were growing up. I was probably 8 years old when I found myself being chased by a dog that was larger than me. I was walking home from the neighbor kid’s house next door. There was a small bush in the front yard of my house. I started running around the bush as the dog came after me in an angry rush. I knew I could only sustain this speed and avoid the dog for so long. I looked up and noticed that the front door of the house was open. I thought to myself, “I just need to open the screen door and close it as fast as I could to avoid getting caught by the dog.” I decided that I was going to run around the bush three more times and then I was going to grab the screen door handle, open the screen door, and get inside the house before the dog could get me. Running for my life, I counted ……One time around the bush, two times around the bush……three….BITE! It happened. The dog caught me. I tried so hard to avoid getting bitten. I was in tears. The worst part was that I had to go to the doctor’s office to get a rabies shot which didn’t feel great either. My dad was furious. He found the owner of the dog and learned that I was not the dog’s first human target. The dog was put down.

Fast forward 30 some years. Working in healthcare I came across many dogs. I acknowledged the dog owner and might give the dog owner a treat for their dog. There was no way I was giving the treat to the dog no matter how small the dog was.

As my mother-in-law needed more care, her dog, Riley needed a new home. My husband and I had watched Riley on several occasions, but never did I guess that Riley would become a permanent member of the family. The first time I had to pick Riley up at my mother-in-law’s condo, I literally did not know how to pick him up to put him in the car. He’s a 12 year old, grumpy-old schnauzer that’s about 25 pounds. Thankfully, my friend was with me and she showed me how to do it. Still, that fear of being bitten was in the back of my mind. When Riley came to live with us permanently, I told my husband that Riley couldn't be on the couch or the bed. That lasted literally like two hours, maybe. Riley instantly befriended me. I think he knew that I wasn’t super comfortable with dogs. He made it easy to become a dog person. So, I became “his dog person.” He knows that I feed him his meals and occasional banana pieces, take him to be groomed, and take him for his medical/dental appointments. I’m generally the one to let him out to “go potty” at any waking hour by his gentle pawing at the human bed or bedroom door. He’s also the only family member who will listen without judgement, comfort without expecting something from me, and “protect” me from UPS/FedEx/USPS.

I could have had a dog earlier in life, but because of my experience with a large dog early in life I CHOSE to not even explore the idea. I had no idea what I was missing. So, I ask you, what experience did you have in the past that’s preventing you from making progress or enjoying your life fully today? Did you fail? Did you make a bad decision? Do you have regrets? I think we all do. The good news is that we also have the CHOICE. The choice to do something in spite of or because of the experience.

I challenge you to think back to that one experience that impacted your choices for a period of time and consider whether or not those choices are still serving you well. Would making different choices around that experience serve you better? Let me know what your experience is that you are reflecting on and what choices you are currently making because of or in spite of it.

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