When he was very young – about 10 months old – he started taking his mother’s lead from my hand and holding it when we went for walks. It took him months to develop the technique and the concentration to hold her lead (leash) and go the distance. I just added a command to it (“Take Tilly”) as he was prone to grabbing the lead when he felt like it. Usually to show off to someone.
And why shouldn’t he? Why should we all not develop some odd and quirky little thing we are good at and show it off, get noticed, get some feedback and praise? Being paid attention to in a healthy way promotes growth.
To the tree climbing bit. There is an enormous, ancient and semi-collapsed weeping willow near to my house. It has an awesome hole in its vast trunk and with a bit of effort I can climb up in it and from there, gain access to the solid branches. I love to sit in that tree. Carter watched me figure it out last year and I could see that he was working on the problem. You see (say this quietly) he has Very Short Legs. Not a tree-climbing kind of figure. But in common with the most determined of his breed, he brooded on the problem for some time and then, quite spectacularly and with an audience to watch, he made his first bold move.
Self-confidence and an innate desire to do something new fueled him. With every sinew and muscle pushed to its limit he leapt into the hollow. Exhilarated with gaining the first base camp, he focussed his pumping energy on a tricky move, a jump to the jagged outside edge of the trunk which provided his next, precarious paw hold. To see his laser-like focus on this task was a privilege. I could actually see the energy jumping in his body as he contained it then launched his sturdy little body forwards and upwards. Had he missed, he would have been out of the tree and hurtling to the ground in a millisecond. But no. I encouraged him every step – “great work Cart! Wow, look at you! What a dog! What skill”. Sure, my heart was in my mouth as he climbed higher and higher – I had no idea how he would get back down. But then his face appeared in the socket of an old branch hole, grinning and proud. He took a view that most dogs will never get – from 20′ up he perused his kingdom.
Everything I have ever been taught about focus, desire, meditation, relaxation and self-belief were demonstrated to me by my dog. It wasn’t an easy thing for him to do but it was a thing he wanted to do. An act of pure personal desire and growth. As is his pear eating habit, but that seems a small thing compared to climbing trees.