This is not a dog story.
All of us have felt caged in, weighed down, frustrated and angry before. Many of us choose to resort to complaining about it, especially when our paths to success or improvement seem too difficult to navigate, or we lack the strength to continue.
We happen to be taking care of six dogs right now ( and three cats). All of the animals at this place were rejected by society, and life. Most grew up on the streets or in animal shelters, and some of them have extremely troubled backstories, none worse than Berlioz the cat, who arrived here without hair–lost it all because of the nightmares she went through as a kitten/small cat. The people in the shelter had taken to playing classical music all the time in her room; they figured it might calm her. Hence the name.
But Berlioz is merely an example of the pain we all go through in life. As said, all of the animals here, and every one of us as well, have their crosses to bear. But for every problem we face there is a solution waiting for us, if we just take the time and have the patience to find it.
That would mean that our redemption, salvation, land of milk and honey, GI Joe with the kung fu grip–whatever we desire–is already waiting for us behind the obstacles we imagine are so/too difficult to surmount in the circumstances we find ourselves in right now. We may say that these goals are hidden away behind a gate we can’t open, for what ever reason.
This gate can mean anything for anyone. For some it is the doorway to a better life with no financial lack. For others it guards a world they would like to reach without pain or shame.
Step 1: Define your gate
For our six dogs, the back gate separates them from the happy place where they can run and chase things and live the way Nature intended so long ago.
For five of our dogs, opening the gate is beyond their abilities, due to their lack of size, of thumbs, of the needed mental wherewithal.
But Negrita is a different dog. She is small-ish; too small to be a medium-sized dog and too large to be a lap dog. Her yellowish-brown eyes are less handsome than other dog’s almond-brown ones. She is maybe not chubby but keeping her that way is a full-time job. She is fast, but our two greyhounds and Podrick–possibly/probably an Ibizan hound–are faster. Negrita is also strong, but she lacks in size and the two mastiffs, Chewy & Espe, treat her like a fly.
What she does have are brains, and she is not afraid to use them. She understands at a very deep level how the words “human” and “benefactor” are related, and ingratiates herself expertly and persistently. It is impossible to be mad at her and difficult to refuse her extra treats.
Negrita looked at this back gate above and decided not to acknowledge it. There is always a solution, and if she really wanted to find it, she would by God find her way out one way or another.
If you had the desire and the brains of Negrita, you might also choose to turn away from the gate and seek freedom elsewhere. Maybe you would analyze the problem and decide to take a step back to look at the problem from a different angle.
Step 2: Collect information
Maybe, just maybe, you might decide to turn around and head back the way you came. Yes, on the right is a high stone wall–no escape there–and on the left is the fenced-in yard you know you can’t escape from, but you know standing around staring at the gate in frustration will not help either.
What would happen if you tried to get behind that wall?-you might ask.
Step 3: Take action
You get to the beginning of the path. Do you still seek freedom? Then you must stay focussed and continue to seek solutions. What about that space there on the right? Where does that go?-you might ask yourself.
Step 4: Keep working/Never Stop Learning
Step 5: Be Creative/Ask Questions
If you’ve come this far you may content yourself knowing you are much farther than 5/6 of everyone else in your group. Now it is time to bear down. Grit and determination are needed.
Try jumping up on the wall, then to the top of the stone wall (upper right in Image #5).
Step 6: Play! Experiment! Solutions won’t get found by not trying
It is so easy to give up. To say you’re not good enough or rich enough or pretty, tall, strong, smart, green or right-handed enough.
But you’ve already come so far. Do not be satisfied with past progress, but if it helps to keep you going, revel! Even better, though, would be to celebrate the freedom and success you’ll enjoy after you’ve reached your goal-as if you’re already there.
Step 7: Stay Positive (NOT “Don’t Get Disheartened!!”)
There will come a time, or times, when you you will find yourself in places where you never dreamt of being. Cleveland comes to mind. Also, maybe you are in a toxic relationship, maybe you are terminally sick, maybe you’re living in a dump next to the dump and walk sidewalks, paths, or even streets filled with dog, cat, cow, pig, lion (who knows?) or bird dumps. Maybe your life is a total disaster area (see picture), but you must always remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It doesn’t always have to be the disaster unimaginative eyes see: maybe you have a great view, or wonderful flowering trees, or all the materials you need to build your paradise is already there but not yet formed (see picture).
Your paradise, however, will never get built when you devote your energies to focussing on failures, the difficulty of the task at hand, the shitty weather, the aches and pains in your body, the looseness of your socks, etc.. Which is why you must always remain positive, knowing you are mini-steps (3) away from reaching your goal. This includes using the right language. If you tell yourself not to be disheartened you may as well tell yourself to not think of a pink elephant. What are you thinking of? Oops.
Staying positive opens up a universe of possibilities, and one of these just might be the one you’ve been hoping for, even if it doesn’t look that way at the time.
Make a game of it. Any dope can mope. You are on your way..
Step 8: Bulletproof Yourself
All of your doubts and fears are only more obstacles you just have to step over, around, or under. Maybe you’ll have to smash a couple? Who knows. They should be used as fuel, because by now you must realize how far you’ve come, and how silly it would be to give up. This attitude preps you for your second biggest step:
Step 9: Have Faith
Some people have religion, some have a powerful sense of self. Whatever it takes, you need something to fall back on when things are darkest, like when you’ve come so far but seem to have reached a dead end.
You need what some experts call an “Absolute Core Motivator (ACM).” Anytime you arrive at a point where failure looms, or your energy fails, or that bed is way too high on the Cozy-Meter, you may break out that ACM-it’ll help you keep on trucking where there is no road (see picture), and where you have no gas or idea where you should be going. You have exorcized the ghosts of your childhood, made your peace with what- or whoever you were warring with, all of your doubts, fears and negativity have been turned to fuel, and you are supremely focussed on your goal.
Which is good because the time has come for the biggest test of all:
Step 10: Make the Leap
You are small, mortal, vulnerable. You are no genius, no superman/woman, and was not blessed with limitless resources at birth*. However, just the fact that you have come this far shows you have everything it takes to make it as far as you want to go. What are you waiting for? Make the leap.
You did not come this far to not jump, did you?
For those of you you who still view the words on these pages as just that: empty words from a stranger, go back to the picture of Negrita at the beginning. If she is not the smallest of our six dogs she is definitely the shortest – and weakest. She somehow got pregnant when she was too young for it, and her ribs expanded at a disproportionate rate, giving her a permanent “chubby” look. Her legs are short.
She was not dealt good cards for this game of life, but for whatever reason chose to make what she could with the tools she has. Every time I leave the back gate, it is she and she alone who dashes back the way she came, until she eventually leaps under the chicken wire in Image #10 and out to freedom. She follows exactly the path I’ve photographed here-with a few exceptions.
My wife and I figured out the route Negrita uses to escape her Alcatraz, and then I went to work trying to impede this route. I put the metal chairs on the wall in Image #5. I put up the square board in Image #9 so she couldn’t get a running start to leap up under the chicken wire. The bricks you see in Image #10 were too far from the front edge of the wall, and I pulled them closer to make it impossible for the dog to find purchase there. I also pushed the chicken wire down so it would be impossible to leap up underneath it.
Whatever I tried was futile. Whenever I leave the back gate I can always be assured that wherever Negrita had been, she will soon be at my side, enjoying her success and her doggie freedom to the best of her ability.
Which is how it should be.
*Also not true, but that will, also, come in time.