There was never any confusion about my dog’s and my desire to please each other. Both of us did whatever was necessary to create happy days. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we did displease each other from time to time and we each had our own particular ways of expressing that displeasure. She, Lucky, peed on the Oriental rug and sulked, and I, impulsively yelled at her, and at other times I iced her out for as long as I could bear it.
The awesome thing about Lucky is that she instinctively knew how to love everyone. What I mean by that is – she knew how to precisely show she cared about how each person felt. Her touch to humans, as well as to other dogs, seemed magical. The therapist that I am knows that a precisely honed expression of caring often feels like magic to people. In my office, or anywhere at all, Lucky, my little Yorkshire terrier, was so preciously gifted at knowing just what to do as well as when and how to do it.
I had a patient who was suffering with pancreatic cancer. When she was still able to bring her frail and hurting body to the office she would lay on the couch. Each time she did that, much to her and my amazement, Lucky would jump up onto the couch and lay her little body on the exact spot of my patient’s bodily pain. With other patients, Lucky might be in a deep sleep and if a specific patient began to cry, Lucky was up and at those tears with her lovely little licks. However, she was not remotely insensitive. If, in a distinct moment, Lucky sensed that someone would not be receptive to her attention she would not move an iota to offer licks.
A friend of mine brought her grieving dog, Poppy to my home. She thought it might be helpful for Poppy since Poppy’s dog sister, Q.T. had passed away and Poppy was not doing very well adapting to the loss. Lucky and Poppy knew each other from when Q.T. was well so this visit was not atypical for either dog. My friend brought Poppy’s bed and food bowl along with Poppy since she was going to spend a few days with Lucky and me. Nothing outstanding took place that first day until it was time for sleep. As dogs do, and before deciding on her resting spot, Poppy sniffed everything and she, to my surprise, chose Lucky’s bed to sleep in, not her own. Lucky noted that, looked at me, evaluated the situation and simply, gently, walked over to Poppy’s bed and lay her sweet body down to rest. She intuited what Poppy needed and was kind enough to allow Poppy her needy gesture.
The next morning, Lucky let Poppy eat from her bowl! If you know dogs, this is not a minor doggie gesture just as accepting the bed switch was not. Lucky’s ability to overcome her instinctive impulses to fight and protect her own territory was awe-inspiring.
Lucky’s intention was always to love and boy did she know how! Mindful in each moment of life, she is the perfect role model for what it means to be present. The Now, oops - just gone, is so precious since it is how we experience life if we really want to live it. This is what I teach and Lucky was, is, my supervisor.
Whether in therapeutic relationships offered in my office, in schools, organizations or in personal relationships, this type of evaluation of the needs of others is a guiding principle. If I listen well in my office, I am considered a great therapist. If I do it as a teacher, I am considered a great teacher. If I do it as a consultant, I am considered a great consultant. If I do it in the context of my personal relationships, I am deeply valued. YOU have the same ability and opportunities to listen, precisely and build positive relationships using that skill.
My bottom line advice regarding mindful is - Listen in a way that shows you really want to hear someone and supply what you evaluate that person might need in a given moment. And, as Lucky did with Poppy, give beyond your own impulses, examine, think. This is not to suggest you deny your own needs or go against your basic values, but it is to suggest there are moments when it is wise to be able to control your impulsive responses to things.
Yes, that does take practice. Yes, you can do it. Can you do it all the time? None of us can. But can you do it most of the time?
Love from Lucky…and me, drb.