I love my dog. I love him for many reasons, but today, it’s because every day he reminds me that we can learn, we can grow, we can be completely different than we were before.
How many times do we hear people say “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”? As someone who strives to learn every day, I know first hand how hard it can be to undo decades of habit to do the thing I will myself to do. Many days, I feel like it’s an impossibility. Then, I have days when I do things like fly off a mountain in a hang glider and I know that anything is possible. But, sometimes I walk away thinking that maybe flying off a mountain in a hang glider doesn’t ultimately change anything at all.
That’s where Tisen comes in.
Tisen has transformed himself from a nearly-dead street dog to a urban-dwelling, middle-class gentleman who likes to hike. He wants to make me happy. That’s his bottom line. While I’m not sure I could handle a person being so into me, in a dog, it’s kind of nice.
When we went to Savage Gulf Natural Area to hike the other day, we encountered something called a suspension bridge. The dreaded structure was not the kind of suspension bridge you drive over, but rather a flexing, swinging, bouncing rope-and-wood bridge meant for no more than 2 pedestrians at a time. These bridges make me nervous; I have no idea what they are like for a dog. For Tisen, it was clearly a gauntlet of terror.
First, he would not step onto the bridge at all. I walked across first to give him a reason to cross. Then Pat came behind, encouraging Tisen to come with him. Tisen considered climbing down a sheer rock cliff to the stream below over walking onto the bridge, but Pat managed to get him up the entrance ramp to the bridge. But there, he stopped. It wasn’t until Pat had crossed and Tisen was left standing alone that he decided he’d better cross.
He made it all the way across the gulch (which really wasn’t so far below as to be completely terrifying), got to the top of the exit ramp, stared down at me with his longing eyes, then eye-balled the ramp down to me and decided he’d had enough. He turned around and went all the way back across the gulch.
We managed to coax him back across and all the way to land on the other side. We completed our hike to Savage Falls and then wondered what was going to happen on the way back across. When we got to the suspension bridge, I went across first, Pat coaxed Tisen up to the bridge, and Tisen led the way across looking like he’d been crossing suspension bridges most of his life.
In about an hour, Tisen transformed himself from a ‘fraidy cat to a top dog. He’s my hero.