Today I was walking Brio and Maple in the park and met a woman I hadn't seen there before. She had a lovely big dog and we stopped to do the sniff-and-greet thing (the dogs, that is, not us). A boy went by on his scooter, and as a precaution I picked up the end of Brio's leash which I had dropped. He has a history of getting aggressive and defensive around skateboards and scooters, though today he behaved admirably.
The lady asked me why I'd done that and I told her. And she---as it turns out---trains dogs. She asked if I had a minute and I said Sure! I'm always open to learning something new whenever I can. So she taught me a few tips on how to correct Brio's undesireable behaviour. Before I knew it, this turned into about an hour-long training session and chat, and I learned a lot of useful things. She agreed with me that Brio is pretty unique, a super-smart animal, highly trainable (he certainly responded to her immediately), and highly energetic. (And beautiful to go along with the brains.) She has a Husky/Border Collie mix, so she knows how that energy thing goes. And she was amazed by some of the stories I told her about this incredible, quirky dog.
Of all the things she taught me and showed me today, one thing in particular stands out. She told me that God had given me---not the dog I had wanted or expected---but the one I needed. That I had him for a reason. And as we chatted and she found out more about me and my family, she exclaimed, "That's why! Of course! You needed this kind of dog because you are adventurous. You can handle this kind of dog!" And she said I had raised my kids to be adventurous too, from the sound of it.
Now I had never thought of myself as adventurous before. I honestly see myself as a bit timid and hesitant and shy and I don't like change or unpredictability. But as she talked, I began to see myself and my family differently, through someone else's eyes. I can especially see it in my kids. I always sorta thought they were just impulsive. But sure enough! they're adventurous. They've taken themselves off to the sub-Arctic, to do jobs they've never been trained to do before. One is talking about travelling to the Philippines, another is saving for a trip to Japan. Even as little kids, they were always keen to try new things to eat (eel and squid, for example, were particular favourites) or try out new activities (ranging from gymnastics to fencing to karate to archery to acrodance). When I told this woman my son has a Husky mix as well, she laughed and said of course he does! He's your kid! He needs an adventurous dog too!
I thought about our conversation all the way home. It was odd to hear someone say they think of me as adventurous. Unusual, maybe. Quirky, probably, like Brio. But I never saw the things in my life as indicators of adventurousness. But maybe I am. I immigrated at the age of 22. We travel. We renovated two houses. I got published at the age of 40. I play the banjo and the bagpipes, for pity's sake. Even the languages I learned are uncommon ones (nothing useful like Spanish, for example!). I live in an oddball house different from all my neighbours' houses. And in my garden you don't find tulips and tomatoes, but oats and wheat and sugar beets and edible lilies. I guess it stands to reason that I'd end up married to a Yiddish-speaking Mormon bagpiper who practises Zen meditation and makes his own sausage. So yeah, maybe this lady was on to something.
Back on January 28, 2013, I wrote a snippit on this blog about penguins, and how every so often you get one adventurous penguin that heads off into the hills on its own to discover new territory, a free-spirited explorer who breaks off from the group. And maybe, a little voice in my head snickers, I am that penguin. Fancy that! I never would have thought it.