Friday evening my 7-year-old accidentally left the gate open and our 2 dogs took off into the neghborhood. Neither I nor my son saw them go out, and a neighbor alerted us to the fact the dogs were a ways off from the house, running along the bike path that is next to our property. Given that most of the neighborhood is heavily wooded and the average lot is around 1 to 1.5 acres, the dogs were able to sneak through the trees and get fairly far away pretty quickly. As I went off to look for the animals one of the dogs, who is much more high-strung than the other, came running through the woods and went right to the door, where I let him into the house and he trotted inside.
The other dog, however, could not be found. Another neighbor went with his son into the woods and caught a glimpse of “Lou,” the English Setter who goes about 80 pounds and is a total clutz. He managed to elude them and disappeared towards the wet, marshy area that runs behind the properties on the opposite side of the street. I spent the next 3 hours walking through the woods, and all over the neighborhood, going many miles in the hopes of catching a glimpse of him but with so many wooded areas between homes and a large, swampy meadow as well, there were just oo many places for him to get off to. I walked and walked until dark before giving up the search until morning.
I was well aware of how exhausted I was becoming, the blister emerging on my foot, the sharp pain and tightness that was creeping up my back and the incredible soreness that was gripping my legs – but all that time walking around gave me time to think about things that have been on my mind lately. For one, I thought about why I was spending so much time out walking to find a needle in a haystack, knowing the dog would likely be picked up by animal control, a kindly neighbor, or just return home on his own? The answer, I concluded, was because although there are many things in the world that I have screwed up, the one thing I think I am pretty goo at is being a Dad. I was out there not so much for the dog, but for my son, who was pretty upset at himself for having left the gate open and letting the dog come into harm’s way. In addition to my concern for him was my need to always show him the right way to do things – when something is your responsibility you do whatever you need to in order to make that thing happen. It’s about dedication, diligence and duty.
I came across another thought while I worked on that one, too -. While my career is far form what I’d hoped it would be, while I never seem to have enough money or time to do the things I want, or provide the things I want, that beating myself up over poor choices or missed opportunities really isn’t worth the effort so much.
More than a reminder to focus on what’s important, this walk was sort of about realizing, and accepting, where life needs us. I have watched others go farther in their careers, make more money, and have more of the things that I often think I should have, but I also know that the only thing I’ve ever truly wanted was a family. Even long before I met Mrs. Right, my only goal was to find Mrs. Right and have kids. Why? I have no idea. I have walked away from more lucrative career opportunities, and always did so with concern for what it would mean for my future family before I had one, and my current family once I did.
What I decided upon, however, was that no matter what life needs from you – it’s not necessarily a situation where happiness is wanting what you have vs. having what you want. Nor is it strictly about accepting one’s lot and trying to carry on. It is about focusing intently on what you are good at – and enjoying the benefits that come from being good at that thing, even if they are not necessarily material in nature.
So, thanks to my big, dumb dog for those moments of perspective and clarity. When you least expect it, the enthusiasm to carry on comes from unexpected places.
And, by the way, a neighbor found the dog wandering in the yard around midnight and brought him home for us, too.