The One With the Greyhound

Every morning in my neighborhood park, I watch a greyhound play fetch. He has sleek, black fur, but he wears a red coat now that it’s cold. He streaks across the grass in a blur of grace and fluidity, his paws meeting beneath him and then extending for another long stride. It’s breathtaking to watch him.* I wish I had slow-motion vision so I could savor it even more.

Even before I adopted Reggie, I had dreams of doing this with my future dog. I would come to the park during off-leash hours to see the dogs fetching frisbees, chasing each other, and playing tug of war. How much fun they were having! My dog and I will have fun like this! I thought.

At the first opportunity after I brought Reggie home from the shelter, we went to the park. It was a lovely summer morning, not too hot, not too buggy. I had a new tennis ball in my bag, and I’d bought a collapsible water bowl. Reggie was sure to get thirsty after all the frolicking.

I threw the ball and…nothing. I threw it again and again and again. He looked at me with lazy eyes and walked away to pee on a nearby bush. Over the next few weeks I tried frisbees, a red rubber ball (maybe he didn’t like yellow tennis balls, maybe he didn’t like the fuzz), boomerangs, and twigs. They didn’t entice him. He didn’t want to play with other dogs either, giving them nothing more than a cursory sniff.

Reggie

You want me to fetch?

 

Other dogs and their people were having a grand time. I was missing out. I watched that greyhound zero in on the ball and felt resentment. Why wouldn’t Reggie do that? Dogs are supposed to fetch and play.

Determined to solve the problem, I decided I would teach him to follow the ball. More weeks passed, but I still couldn’t get him interested. One day I was watching him track the scents of squirrels and raccoons along the park trail when he looked up at me with joy in his eyes. All along Reggie was having a good time—just not the good time I was insisting he should have, i.e. my idea of fun.

Why does it take so long to let go of expectations? Frustration, disappointment, and resentment build because things don’t turn out the way we hoped. We get irritated because our dogs won’t fetch or our spouses forget Valentine’s Day or our sons hate football. Leo Babauta of Zen Habits says that a life without expectations “means you accept reality as it is, and people as they are, without expectations, without trying to force people into the containers you have for them…”

That’s not easy for me. It takes practice. Lots and lots of gentle reminders, but I’m working on it.

 

Have you had to let go of expectations?

Have a great weekend, everyone! 

*A word about greyhounds. While I find their speed a beautiful thing to behold, I do not find anything beautiful about dog racing.
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40 comments

  1. Hi Jackie. Very wise words, indeed! It’s hard to stop myself (eventually) and realize this when I get frustrated with the people I love. Your post also made me smile. Our springer (Max) was happiest running in the woods tracking squirrels and who knows what else….his nose to the ground and his tail in the air. He must have been frustrated that we didn’t hunt. His first owner (a British military officer) took him on hunting expeditions in the UK. Poor boy. He had to adjust to life in the USA on a cul-de-sac before we moved to a rural spot on a lake!

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    1. You should have seen me trying to teach Reggie how to fetch. I’m sure the other people in the park got quite a kick out of that. 🙂

      Glad to know Reggie isn’t the only springer who prefers sniffing to ball chasing. Did Max enjoy the water? Reggie does not want to go into the lake or the ocean!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We lost our Maggie this past summer. She was two months short of fifteen. about usual for a Shih Tzu. Our Annie is a twelve year old Maltzu (Maltese Shih Tzu mix) and is my writing partner tucked in next to me. We have two grandogs back in Pennsylvania (photos at my past post “Writer’s Blockbusters). My daughter thinks they are hers just because she paid for them but they KNOW who really are their favorite people.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I sorely needed this Reginator tale (tail?), Jackie! This morning I read the most heartbreaking story to my colleague, Godsend, about a hero dog named Stella in New Jersey who saved her owners’ lives in a fire, but she perished while protecting the woman’s purse. Godsend and I have been grieving by extension. It heartens me to know that your sidekick Reggie with the soulful eyes is alive and well and bouncing to his own ball, or maybe I should say sniffing to his own squirrels — and that’s a-okay with you.

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  3. Looking at your magic photo I feel absolutely hypnotized, Jackie. I’d kiss you from her to the moon and back so please don’t run away, sit still now! 🙂
    Have a wonderful weekend, Dina xo

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  4. Oh boy, this is such a thing with me, Jackie, that I am actively watching myself to try and catch myself out doing this to anyone (and myself by extension). It’s not an easy habit to quit. Thanks for the reminder. 😉
    At least your little introvert doesn’t try to attack the other dogs, which is what Zeus usually tries to do! Although, I have to say Zeus is getting just the tiniest bit better of late. Four years of patiently saying ‘no’ in a calm voice while he snarls and lunges on his leash is starting to pay off.

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    1. There are a few small dogs in the neighborhood that bark or lunge at all the dogs they pass. Interestingly all the bigger dogs ignore them. Poor Zeus! Maybe the king of the gods just wants to be noticed. 🙂

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  5. Oh yeah, I think I’m always letting go of expectations and that’s why I get along with people for the most part. That’s a theory at least! Meanwhile, my parents adopted greyhounds for many years. They always had two at time starting when I was in junior high. I never once say one catch a ball!

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    1. Nina, your comment made me think about another benefit of releasing expectations of other people. Expectations usually equals judgment. Not a great basis for a relationship. I think this is why your advice column is always so spot on. 🙂

      Yes, now that you mention it, I remember the lovely photo you posted of your mom with one of her greyhounds. Beautiful dogs!

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  6. So true. And yes, I’ve found dogs are either retrievers or they’re not. Like people tend to be sports fans, or not. My dog Blossom is a border collie/lab mix and while she will humor us by retrieving something one or two times, she prefers tug-o-war. That, and being chased around the house with her toy in her mouth. She thinks this is hilarious.( I am convinced that if she could laugh, this is when she would do it.) =)
    p.s. I’m pretty sure I’ve asked this before, but, WHO could possibly resist Reggie’s sweet, sweet face?? I can’t fathom how he wound up in a shelter. Surely he was only there for five seconds before you adopted him?

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    1. I can imagine Blossom having a grand time getting the humans to chase her. Being part border collie, I’m surprised she doesn’t try to herd you. 🙂

      Actually Reggie was in the high-kill city shelter for about 3 weeks before I got him. His time was nearly up when a rescue group asked if I would get him out of the shelter until they could find a permanent home for him. It was a temporary arrangement, as you can see. 🙂

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  7. Aww, Reggie! That face. 🙂 I know what you mean, Jackie. When Rocky was able to see, he would chase the toy, but not give it back. He would keep it in his mouth, then hide it under his chin. Once in a while he would give it up, but never for my husband (his rival).

    Someone once told me I needed to stop holding other people to my standards. That really helped me stop expecting too much.

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    1. Great advice, Carole. My mom would whole-heartedly agree as she has said exactly those words before. 🙂 It’s a good reminder to let people be free of expectations and judgment.

      Please give Rocky a nice scratch behind the ears for me. 🙂

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  8. I have more balls in my house than I did when my kids were little. devil Dog loves to play. My problem is that she barks at everyone and is too over protective.
    That Reggie is adorable.
    Expectations are hard to shake, they are so ingrained, aren’t they?

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  9. Aww, yes. Letting go of expectations. I push to try to focus on what is, instead of what isn’t. Constant reminders sprinkle through my life about learning to let go – hard, but possible.

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  10. Miles was the opposite. He would play fetch until he couldn’t move. It got tiresome, continuing throwing his red ball. Now that he’s older, red ball has been retired and we spend a lot more time sitting in the park than walking or playing fetch. It’s quite the change. But he loves his outdoor time and I enjoy seeing him smile.

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  11. Our dog loves to play “fetch,” but she gets it confused with “keep away.” She runs to the stick, picks it up and trots AWAY from me. I am about ready to give up my unreasonable expectation that she comes when I call her – doesn’t happen unless SHE feels like it. Sigh. I need a dog whisperer.

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  12. I hear you on the expectations bit. Letting go of that was tough for me too, not so much because I put people into containers but I thought since I try so hard at being a good friend, wife, daughter, etc I figured they would try too … Not the case. Then I realized that not all people are ten-gallon-sized people like me, some come in pints and their capacity is so much less. But Reggie’s situation is different he’s all gallons! It’s just his idea of fun was different, but still fun. I discovered the different types of fun for different kinds of people when I did my Happiness Project. It was another A-Ha moment. Good post and great reminder!

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  13. That is such a beautiful photo of Reggie!

    Our previous dog was also not a “fetcher”. She used to run after the ball and then run off with it. Rosie (who is of the same breed) loves playing fetch – or being the “goalie” when we kick her ball towards her. Sometimes the fetching thing gets a little tedious (for us) as she can keep it up for ages – so be careful of what you wish for! 😉

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