by Jennifer Tolle Whiteside
I may have mentioned that our family adopted a new dog in March. After losing our dearest companion of 12 years in December, we thought we were ready. Bumble, our new addition, is exactly what we needed, although we did not know it. He is everything our previous dog was not -- young, energetic, distracted, loud and pretty bossy.
I have been attending dog obedience class with him for seven weeks now. We are expecting to graduate and move on to the next class. (“Expecting” is the operative word here; believe me it is not a given.)
Ah yes, there have been some improvements. No longer does he pull my arm out of the socket when we walk, or lunge at people when we are walking around the greenway. (Again, a public apology to that very nice man that Bumble jumped at in April at Lake Johnson; I know he scared you, so truly sorry.) His “counter surfing” is improving, and by that I mean it is less frequent. And he really does seem a bit calmer.
So what has changed? Me. Yep, it is true. Turns out I was the one with the bad habits, not the dog. I had to change the way I parented him. I had to learn how to be the leader in this relationship. No longer can I stare adoringly at my cute puppy. I must be firm, strong and quite frankly kind of mean. Or at least do it with a stern voice. It is hard to remember all of this and be consistent. I mean, he is just so cute and is always so happy to see me.
So again, a reaffirmation of one of life’s hardest lessons: learning that you can only change yourself. Yep, the adage is true for relationships with people and I guess with dogs too.
We have a new software program here at the Foundation. We know this will help us be more efficient and to keep track of information that helps us work more effectively and allow us to work remotely with our fundholders. New and improved. We think it is great.
The “but” of this is, it takes training. And it takes a willingness to change. We have to do things differently. We have to learn how to use it, which means taking the time to learn it and taking the time to actually use it. The bottom line is it is all about change. Undoing old habits and doing things differently takes energy.
A long-held belief is that it takes 21 to 28 days to learn a new habit. Well, studies show that it can actually take 66 days before a new habit is formed -- or even longer. And clearly, if change were so easy then everyone would be doing it.
The key is willingness. I am sticking with it. My counter-surfing days are over.