What I’ve Learned from our Golden Retriever | Hacker Noon

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@justin-robertiJustin Roberti

Media, PR, gaming, tech, fintech, and blockchain. Zage.io

What humanities “best friend” has to teach us.

All Stella were pictures supplied by me. She dominates my Instagram.

I have the distinction of having made a number of poor decisions in my life, but adopting a Golden Retriever was not one of them. I’m sure this could apply to any breed of dog, or cat, or potentially other pet, but I do love the Golden Retriever.

They think they are funny. How can you compete with a dog that actually wants to be funny?

Photographic evidence of Stella laughing.

Which leads me to the first thing, Stella Boom-Boom, otherwise known as Stella the Golden Wonder, has taught me.

#1 Getting mad is pointless (and potentially funny to others)

Since Stella was old enough to confidently propel herself through our neighborhood, she has wanted to play. I mean literally every moment she was not asleep was dedicated to wanting to play, very, very much.

Stella at 4 months old.

Stella thought my games were boring. So, she found that ripping my sleeve was pretty much the most entertaining thing she could do. She was right of course, since my reaction was pretty big and it forced me to play as I try to not have my clothes ripped.

I wish I could say it didn’t infuriate me — but it did. By the time I was on my third good hoodie and my child is on their eighth winter coat, I was pretty sick of Stella ripping our clothes. The dog defied me and cost me money and she clearly knew it and everything friends with trainers, books, and web sites said to do didn’t work.

It wasn’t Stella’s only game, but it was one of her favorites. She would wake up, be a lovable, splendid dog in every way, rip our clothes for an hour while we went to the park, then have some lunch.

Stella playing whether you like it or not.

And getting mad about it not only didn’t help — it made me feel less in control and Stella just thought it was funny.

It was without a doubt one of the most profound and clear lessons that I have ever experienced concerning the futility of getting angry to control a situation. Getting mad prevents understanding — I needed to understand what was happening to do anything about it.

As soon as I relaxed, the sleeve ripping game was done. I wasn’t playing back so it wasn’t funny. We needed new games, which led me to the second thing Stella taught me.

#2 Plans are fine, but following your nose makes them better…

Public relations is sometimes like playing a very aggressive game. You talk to 200 reporters so that you can find the two to five that will ask for an interview.

But to be completely honest, in over 20 years of doing PR, I’m haven’t made a single important relationship with someone in the press that was based on some sort of pre-meditated approach. Typically, you or the reporter said something funny, someone responded with another quip, and you became friends.

When I left my last job, I was really touched by the number of reporters that came and found me to check in on me. But those relationships didn’t come from following a script. I found commonality with strangers by following my nose.

She does love to scratch her back on hard-packed snow.

So Stella makes most of the games now. My role is to supply an endless stream of new toys.

Sometimes Stella veers off the path and takes me across the field, or onto the other side of the park, or down by the stream. When she wants to sniff, we sniff, when she wants to roll on her back in the sand volleyball court she does that. Honestly, I have to give Stella that her ideas are almost always more fun than my ideas.

#3 Sometimes just shut up and smile

In the fourth grade, I was called the “human dictionary”, by my peers which is really not the worst thing I’ve ever been called but I get their point. I do talk really a lot and I tend to think out loud.

Stella says nothing and smiles and people come from across the park to get to know her. Now, not everyone can be as naturally gorgeous as a Golden Retriever.

Dogs don’t smile ironically, which is one of the better things about them.

But Stella shows me regularly that the most important transmissions are non-verbal. She has no trouble making herself understood, she’s assertive about what she wants, and she tends to get it without ever making anyone mad.

To be honest…

Every now and then, just to be funny, Stella will jump up and grab my sleeve the same old way. She looks at me like, “Remember this? That was funny.” Then she gets down like a good girl and doesn’t try to rip my sleeve.

And she’s right, it is kind of funny.

Also published at https://medium.com/@justinroberti/three-things-ive-learned-from-our-golden-retriever-9f71c8ca4bd1


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