Monday, April 30, 2012
Inside every dog, there's a potential for greatness, and all it takes to let your dog shine is to find what he loves to do, what his passion is. Dogs are a reflection of us and when you take the time to learn who your pet is, you might be surprised by what you find in his heart and yours.
‘Great’ has different meanings in the dictionary, according to how the word is used in a sentence. In this case, great (greatness) means outstanding, superior in character, important, noble or distinguished. Each of those words, in my view, aptly describes our canine friends. All dogs have a potential to achieve greatness when they are shown respect and given guidance to find their true calling.
My dogs will never star in a movie or win Best in Show. None of them will ever take first place in dock diving or fly through the air to catch a Frisbee in front of an adoring crowd. However, each one has achieved greatness simply by being. They aren't perfect, and they try my patience at times. They love to join in and howl with the neighbor's dogs when a siren is wailing. They bark at neighborhood cats and go crazy when a squirrel is in sight. But they're all exceptional, in my eyes, and when one snuggles next to me and rests their head on my lap or against my chest and looks at me with loving eyes – that is greatness to me.
Not every dog is cut out to be a show dog or excel in agility. Not every dog has the drive or intensity to herd sheep or sniff out someone lost in the wilderness. A potential for greatness has nothing to do with competing in dog sports, being a therapy dog, or any other job we give to dogs. However, when you teach a dog how to weave through poles or catch a flying disc, you give him an opportunity to discover and learn something he could excel in.
Maybe you aren't the type of person who enjoys competing. That's alright. Finding what your dog loves to do doesn't mean you have to go out on the dog show circuit or compete in dog sports. Your dog won't care if he's racing around an agility course in his backyard or in front of an excited crowd watching from the stands. Yes, some dogs do enjoy being in the limelight, but if you can't get him there, he's happy performing just for you.
Animal trainers scour local shelters because they know it's possible to find talent hiding in one or more of the dogs waiting to be adopted. But greatness can also be found in a broken down, abused and forlorn dog as well. It takes a kind heart to recognize another one that needs mending and see the potential of a sad dog curled up alone in a cage. Ara Gureghian found his dog, Spirit, in a shelter and knew when their eyes met that the dog needed him just as much as he needed a friend. While Ara was helping a dog everyone else had given up on, Spirit was helping Ara by giving him unconditional love. And love has a way of helping to heal scars in both humans and animals.
When Sue Cohen's dog Zip was severely injured by a hit-and-run driver, she never gave up. As Zip slowly recovered, it was discovered her back legs were paralyzed. Before the accident, Zip was a top competitor in agility and running a course was what she lived for. But dogs can't jump over bars or weave through poles in a wheelchair. Now, Zip's potential for greatness comes not from her ability to race around an agility course, but in her ability to inspire those who witness a brave dog with a dogged determination to never give up her passion. For Zip, just being out on the course is good enough for her and she can still run, even if it is in a wheelchair.
A dog’s potential for greatness isn't about stardom or winning. It is about determination and never giving up. It's about unconditional love and building a bond. It's about taking each day as a new beginning and forgetting about yesterday. Every dog has a potential for greatness and when you see the smile in his eyes, you know that is what he was born to do – even if it's just walking by your side.
Photo by Hanna Gustafsson
Read more articles by Linda Cole