i woke up this morning making mental lists of all the reasons i don’t like dakota. it’s good that *h is out of town so he doesn’t have to be a witness to this, since he loves dakota and this would cause him a lot of pain. he will probably read this, but he’ll know i’m mostly venting.

in general, i think it’s tough for most people to not like something that’s cute and fluffy, and most people who come over comment on how pretty dakota is. this makes *h like her more and makes me dislike her more.

why? you might ask. it’s a legitimate question, so i’ll give you an honest answer. it’s one my friends and family have heard before, so if this shpiel is familiar to you, feel free to skip it.

i call dakota the cheerleader. she’s the poster of what a dog should look like. she could be a dog pin-up. if you put a few mountains in the background, or some snow or a rainbow, she could pose for a dog calendar. yes, she’s that pretty. and i feel like she uses that to get what she wants.

which sends me back to that high school mindset of hating her for not earning what she gets.

other dogs have to behave or be good or work hard for compliments and treats and adoring fans, but dakota is a fan magnet. it kind of makes me gag.

of course *h puffs up with pride every time someone tells him how beautiful dakota is, because he has a trophy dog. he’s got the prettiest dog at the dog park. he’s the lucky winner.

but yesterday’s incident brought up something else i don’t like about dakota that simmers just below the surface on a fairly constant basis, and that is that she is poorly trained.

yeah, i know. big shock, right?

dakota has been to obedience classes, where she has charmed the teachers. she has practiced her tricks, and she can give you her paw for a treat from now until infinity. she will sit for a treat almost always (except when she is running away or killing my chickens, obviously)- but i think that the things she is able to do are show stunts. they don’t reflect real discipline. they reflect a desire for rewards and an ability to show off when she feels like it.

*h would tell you, honestly, that dakota is 90% trained. i would tell you, honestly, that she is about 20% trained.

i was thinking about all the ways i would tell *h to be more consistent with dakota when he gets back home. i was thinking about all the implications of letting her get away with small transgressions like sleeping on the couch when she’s officially not allowed on it ever, or letting her stay outside when we call her in and she doesn’t come, or not disciplining her when she jumps up on guests.

but then i started thinking about myself.

i started thinking about all the ways that i do or don’t train myself each day to be the person i say i want to be to.

all the times i yell at my youngest instead of getting up to guide her in the behaviour i want from her.

all the times i threaten my kids with consequences instead of trying to understand why they are not doing what i asked them to do and trying to find a way that we can all win (no, i am not a hippy dippy parent that thinks families are democracies. but i don’t think they have to be tyrannies either.).

all the times i take one more bite or one more portion of a yummy food instead of thinking of how gross i will feel when i’m overstuffed and how much i will regret it when my clothes are too tight.

all the times i watch a video instead of exercising and check the blog instead of calling my grandma or doing a favor for someone in need.

don’t get me wrong- there are lots and lots of things i do right. there are lots of ways that i set a great example for my kids, and i’m very proud of that. but here’s the take-away from this pondering:

if you don’t practice on the small stuff, you set yourself up for failure on the big stuff.

so if we don’t practice recall with dakota each day when she is calm and not overwhelmed with instinct and desire, there is no way at all that she will come when i call her when she has a nice juicy chicken in her mouth. none.

and if i don’t practice being calm and in control of myself and my desires when i am well-rested and not under pressure, i have exactly zero chance of being the person i want to be when things are tough. none.

so i have to know that, just like lifting weights will gradually make my muscles stronger and enable me to lift more and more weight over time, practicing character development will make my character better and enable me to do better and better when faced with challenges over time.

does this mean the start of a new and improved julie?

i’d love to say an unequivocal “yes!” but we all know that would be a lie.

i think it will be more of a ‘one day at a time’ kinda thing, and i hope i won’t lose sight of my goal.

for today at least, i’m going to try to really wrap my head around the concept that dakota getting the chicken was our fault- for lack of training and lack of discipline- and my fault, for not watching her when i opened the door. it was not her fault, because she was only doing what she could reasonably be expected to do, given the circumstances. i’m going to try to be less angry and more forgiving. and maybe practicing with the dog will help develop that muscle in me until it gets strong enough that i can practice it on people (an area in which i need lots and lots of help).

i’ve been watching a show –dog the bounty hunter. one of his lines particularly struck me last night, and i want to share it with you here:

where mercy is shown, mercy is given.

isn’t that beautiful?