Last summer, my daughter, son-in-law, and their two adorable, rough-housing black labs joined us in Washington State for an extended visit. When our two golden retrievers first met the black labs, they immediately started playing, eventually taking their melee of snapping jaws outside.
It wasn’t long after that a sharp yelp motivated a group run outside to investigate. The larger of our two retrievers, Baker, was cowering in confused silence while the other dogs still darted around him. A closer look revealed that he had a slight nip causing a bit of blood to mat up on his neck-fur, but it was the transformative look on his face that spoke volumes.
Baker’s expression indicated that he was surprised, slightly hurt, but, as my son later pointed out, he almost immediately accepted that there was a new reality in town, one that might involve the occasional incidental injury. His eyes told the story, according to my son, as if to say with pure, humble grace:
“So, this is how it’s going to be.”
Within minutes Baker was back to playing, more cautiously, but with no malice towards the labs and a wry grin added to his regular toothy smile.
I often think of my son’s astute observation of Baker’s quick acceptance of the situation. Perhaps dogs are oblivious to questioning the why or how of an uncertain new fact of life, a trait we humans could gain much by imitating. Maybe it’s best for us to at least suspend judgment while working to process and quiet unhelpful emotions like guilt, fear, and anger.
Baker and my son—and my entire family, for that matter—have been inspirational to me as I strive for happiness and a sense of peace. It has allowed me, just like Baker, to smile through discomfort, accept that which I cannot change, while saying the simple words, “So, this is how it’s going to be.”