living in the shadows of the nonexistent dog

Cute, and oh so  sweet puppies, little fur balls that are brand new to the planet, scampering, investigating, rolling, tumbling, chewing, gnawing, biting, just trying to figure out about this whole thing called ‘life as we know it’.

These are my days, filled with puppies. New friends to meet, new relationships to be formed, new stories to be told, and experiences to be had.

Puppies are honest open books, no filters, no hidden agendas, just fresh little souls.

A puppies raw energy can be a lot for those that have never had a puppy before, especially a working or herding breed type of puppy. It can feel chaotic and crazy at times, but this is all part of development and shouldn’t be squashed.

Learning how to temper a puppies raw energy with love, honest true deep heart space filled love, and blending that with honest and intentional emotions that connect us all, is a combination that smooths things out, each and every time. And I cannot say the word honest enough, because if you don’t really mean it or you can’t really feel it, it’s not lost on your puppy.

Each puppy is a unique little being, with a personality, dreams, and thoughts, all their own.


All too often, actually more often than all too often, a bright eyed happy scamp of a puppy comes in to see me, and all I hear is the endless list of the horrible things this puppy is doing. This puppy won’t listen, this puppy is stubborn, this puppy hates me, this puppy is picky, this puppy is too much, this puppy is over the top with energy … and is acting nothing like my last dog.


No puppy can live up to the unrealistic expectations from an owner that misses their previous dog so much that they have somehow canonized their past dog in their minds, and have forgotten any of the trying or difficult times, and only remember the perfect.

These puppies live in the shadows of a dog that no longer exists, that maybe really never existed in the way the owner is trying to convey.

These puppies never have a chance of truly being successful as they are, or who they are, or what they want to become. They live in comparison, they do not live in understanding.

These puppies that live in the shadows of the nonexistent dog are met with ambivalence at best, and a casually condescending tone at every turn.

Through the comparison of the nonexistent dog this puppy will be set up for failure pretty much all or the time, there is no way to succeed.


When these puppies come up to me, and crawl in my lap, or look deep into my eyes, or want to engage in a bite fest, it is truly forming a brand new relationship, a getting to know you time. I let them show me who they are, I try to find what it is they enjoy, or like, or are interested in. I observe what might be a little scary for them, or what causes them some concern. I let them smell me, some like to bury their nose in my ear, some in my hair or neck. And then there are some that like to put their little nose right on mine and do this little exchange of breath with me, back and forth. Bottom line, we are getting to know each other, we are learning about each other.

Hello, glad to meet you.

Each puppy, each new little being crawls into my heart a little or a lot. Some are looking for a deep saturated connection, some are looking for a buddy of sorts, all different.



With all of my dogs in my life, not one has been like the other, not one has had to live with the expectation of being like another. Each one an individual, each one having their own relationship and connection with me. Some of my dogs make me work very hard and try to teach me things even when I am not ready to learn, and some of my other dogs have been an easy gift. Some opinionated, some pretty neutral. One that was super serious and dark and moody, and one that was a surfer dude by any measure. Honest.

While I miss my dogs that have died, some days so much so I can almost feel them here with me, I remember them realistically, not idealistically. I loved them, they were my family, my friends, part of my life experience and I hopefully was the same to them.

If I had a wish today it would be for everyone to get to know their puppies for who they are not what they want or need them to be. Who are you little one?


6 Comments Add yours

  1. dogfish6 says:

    This is wonderful. The last third of your post especially resonated with me. People I know have expressed dismay that I dislike the term “heart dog.” It’s only because each of my dogs is, or has been, a unique individual and all have brought something special into my life.

  2. DuncanDes says:

    A beautiful and respectful reminder, Nancy. It applies to a lot of us who’s lives are immersed with dogs in various flavors of dog sports too. “Know their puppies for who they are, not what they want or need them to be”. Respect and patience can be so powerful and rewarding.

  3. Susan S says:

    No one could replace the dog we recently lost, but the newly adopted Idaho shag is so completely opposite our “grumpy ole man” I have to laugh out loud many times a day at his antics. We truly wish he would not chew everything in sight or bark in joy nonstop in the car, but then he rolls over and gives me a sappy grin and I melt.

  4. dayphoto says:

    Very well said!


  5. mtwaggin says:

    True true true on every level. None are like the other – just as no child is like another. I could tell you for each of my MANY dogs how each was an individual and I have always trusted that the Universe has chosen me as their person for ME to learn something and appreciate them all for those unique traits that are theirs.

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