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January 31, 2017

My Dog Taught me that I am just like my Father.

A few months ago, a man walked up to my truck and said, “Is this your dog?”

I answered, “Yes.”

“He’s so cute. What a pretty face.”

“Thank you,” I answered. “We love him so much. He’s wonderful, except that he chews the dashboard on our car.”

He just said, “Oh,” and walked away.

On the drive home, I thought about the conversation. It occurred to me that my response was straight out of my father’s text book.

As a teenager, I grew so tired of my dad’s replies to people’s compliments about me.

“What a nice daughter you have, so pretty,” someone would say.

“Pretty,” my father would reply, “you should see her messy room. Nothing pretty about that.”

At the time, I wondered about his odd choice of responses. What did my messy room have to do with me getting a compliment about my looks? About being nice? Nothing!

A few years ago I broached the topic with my mom. She said, “Well, dad didn’t want those compliments to go to your head.” He succeeded in that regard. As a matter of fact, his response to anything close to a compliment usually made me and the other person so uncomfortable that they also left, or changed the subject.

And that’s exactly what I did when the man complimented Scout. He told me how cute and pretty Scout was, and I replied that he snacked on the dashboard.

On further reflection, I finally had an opportunity to explore this odd response. It seemed to run in the family. Why did I choose to mention Scout’s shortcomings? Why had I not simply said, “Thank you”?

It bothered me.

I am so grateful to have a dog like Scout. I feel so lucky to have found him. He is cute, and pretty; truth be told, that was the first thing I noticed about him when I saw his picture on Pet Finder. And, since he has lived with me over the last 18 months, I have come to know his heart, as well, and I feel absolutely blessed to call him our dog.

Scout is extremely smart. He is caring, and truly concerned about me, my partner, our other animals, and every person who enters our home. He checks in with us throughout the day to make sure that all is well and wants to be with us more than anything in the world.

I wish for all people to have that type of deep experience with their dog. So, why am I afraid to say that life with Scout is indeed wonderful? Because it is too good to be true? What thoughts ran through my father’s mind when I was a child? Did he feel he had to make other people comfortable? Did he feel that because his daughter was pretty and smart that he had to apologize, to tell them about her messy room to even the playing field?

Most likely my dad will not remember those days. If he does, I doubt that he would either be able, or care to, locate the actual reasons for his responses.

I know that despite, or because of, my dad’s responses, I turned out alright. I also know that thanks to this encounter with Scout I explored, and was finally able to put to rest, this old family pattern.

Next time someone tells me how cute, or pretty, or smart Scout is, I will simply reply, “Thank you, I feel blessed to be his human.”

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Author: Nicole Birkholzer

Image: Courtesy of Author

Editor: Travis May

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