On adapting

imagesSo as you may have guessed from my prior posts, we are now in the process of training a dog. Which means to some extent, our dog is also training us. It’s a fun, and sometimes baffling process. Years ago, I read a book called “Second-hand Dog,” which made FC9780876057353me realize that with any dog that’s not a puppy, you will never know what happened before it came to you.  There’s no dog therapy (Well, I guess there is. But I’m not sure there should be…) Bergie can’t share details of her feelings about her new life, or any of her prior lives. There’s just her and us together, trying to learn how not to take her chew toy stuffed with peanut butter on the leather couch. Or our bed. Stuff like that. On a big-picture level, it has me thinking about how we all have habits that work in our current lives that might not work in a new context. My need for that first cup of coffee in the morning before I start the day, or my love for home-improvement based reality TV.  There are dozens of these little elements – the bricks of daily life – that might not be possible were I suddenly moved to a different place.  I’d have to adapt. Adaptability is on of the most awesome things about dogs.  Friends have commented on how well Bergie has adjusted to her new name after only one week (she used to be called Rose), and all I can guess is that it’s probably the 2nd or 3rd (or 8th or 9th) name change she’s seen.  We could probably pick a new name each week (a rotating tribute to EVERY Boston Bruins player!) and she’d roll with it as long as we scratched her ears, fed and loved her, and provided safety and structure. We won’t do that. But I bet we could. I wish I were that adaptable. I almost flunked sophomore English because the teacher insisted on shortening my name to “Patty” instead of “Trish.” When I wasn’t paying attention, I wouldn’t even hear her calling on me…and so I’d get in trouble for ignoring her. And if I was paying attention, I’d correct her. Which made her dig in her heals and insist she could call me whatever derivation of Patricia she wanted…and dock points from my already mediocre report on Dickens.  (I think of this class every time people ask me, “So, did you always know you’d be an author?” Well, no.)

I’ve gotten better on the adaptability front since sophomore year. Growth and maturity and perspective. You know, those things that ensure we’re not perpetually stuck at age 15. And yet as I imagine being thrown into a completely new world with people who don’t speak my language, it’s hard to envision that going well. It makes me want to hold things loosely, and to develop a trust that new things can be better than what came before, even when they’re different.  Or something like that :)