how my dog is helping me with my perfectionism

how my dog is helping me with my perfectionism

my dog makes me look like an asshole


That is how my dog, Guinness, likes to announce himself to strangers, other dogs, and weird noises. He pulls. He barks. He gets up on his hind legs and announces his “menacing” presence to the world. Treats do not distract him. Loud noises only encourage him. He is on a mission and that mission is to be as big as possible and defend me. My perfectionist nature the furthest thing from his mind.

When announcing my presence, I make as little a splash as possible. You won’t find me blasting loud music in my cubicle, parking on the wrong side of the street, or dare I say it–ARRIVING LATE (there’s a great bit from Mike Birbiglia’s special about people who are late and I wholly identified with his annoyance).  I am downright considerate, dammit!

Guinness does not care about my reputation as a considerate human being. He cares about the bunny he saw 10 feet away that he needs to protect me from. Why does it matter to him that it’s 5 a.m. or that the bunny isn’t in his yard? I cringe as he lunges. I hide as he barks. I retreat into the house, giving up on trying to control him.

it all comes back to perfectionism

For others to think I am in any way out of control or unqualified is a stab to the heart. Me?  The one who researched what treats to buy, where to go to obedience school, and best practices for training? The one who got him on a schedule? The one who painstakingly tracks when I’ve washed his toys, when we’ve fed him dental chews, and when he needs new meds?

My anxiety kicks into high-gear. What if they think I’m a bad neighbor? What if he barks all day while we’re gone and secretly hates me? Should we not have gotten a dog? What were we thinking?!

Many times in my life I have gotten stuck in this time warp of what I think others expect of me, what I expect of myself, and the validation that happens or doesn’t happen when one of those areas doesn’t measure up. When all of your validation comes from external sources beyond your control, you’ll feel powerless and miserable. It’s how my depression worsened, my anxiety turned into panic attacks. It’s why I had to leave college two times in one year.

taking it one moment at a time

Then I stopped. I breathed. I took stock. I looked down at my dog staring up at me. He didn’t think he was an asshole. He didn’t think he was embarrassing.

Why do I need to be embarrassed? He’s a one-year-old puppy. He’s learning. His goal isn’t to embarrass me. He’s going with his nature, his instinct to run, play, and protect. So I know that yes, he barks at others. And yes, it’s not ideal. But that shouldn’t stop me from walking him, playing with him, and encouraging him to get better.

Just like my perceived failures or mistakes shouldn’t stop me from trying harder, going against the grain, and hopefully making some progress. So cheesy, yet so true.

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