Choosing Who We Want to Be (In a Tough Circumstance, Over Which We Have No Control)

harper picnic blanket

Harper and I had a bit of a traumatic thing happen to us on our evening walk a few days ago.

I was walking him on the road that we walk at least twice a day, almost every day of the year, when two loose seventy-pound dogs charged us and attacked him. I don’t know how long it lasted; time felt suspended to me. Some seconds, or a couple of minutes perhaps.

I yelled at the dogs. I implored the people responsible for the dogs, who were standing in their driveway, to call the dogs off. They stood by and did nothing.

I finally must have summoned up enough Alpha Dog energy to scare the dogs, and they backed off, but not before they sank their teeth into Harper in a few places.

Before I go any further, Harper is going to be fine, which is a miracle. He got away with a deep puncture wound and some soft tissue damage. He has very thick fur, and that helped him. He couldn’t get up or walk the next morning, but the vet’s check-up revealed nothing more serious, and he just needed an antibiotic and some pain meds. He’s already on the mend, albeit a bit skittish about going out.

As I process the event, it has been the gift of a big learning for me.

I thought: What do I do with this? My dog was attacked, and could have been killed. I could have been injured. The people responsible did nothing to control the dogs or to help us.

There are so many times in our lives when something happens to us that we have no control over, and that doesn’t feel fair or right. Countless people have experienced much tougher things than I did the other night.

At first I was scared and furious. My friends were asking me what I was going to do; would I report the incident? Or speak to the people responsible for the dogs?

Then I meditated. A lot. Meditation is my go-to for honoring the fear and anger, but eventually being able to let them go. I want to respect my emotions; they are part of my humanity. But if I remain in outrage or anger, those people and those dogs have hijacked everything that matters to me. Then I am saying “no” to life, rather than “yes”.

I asked myself what matters now. Here’s what matters:
●    That I love Harper through this.
●    That I do as much as I can to keep him safe.
●    That I restore my peace of mind.

It was pretty clear immediately that I couldn’t do those things from a mind that was addled with fear and judgement and outrage.

So I kept meditating, and I asked myself my governing question: Who do I want to be, here?

Viktor Frankl said: “Man’s last freedom is to choose his attitude and his way.” He was writing in the 1940’s, about his experience of living in a concentration camp.

I get to choose who I want to be here.

I get to choose who I want to be in any circumstance, even (or maybe, especially) in those situations that I wouldn’t choose or wouldn’t want or that seem unfair.

I choose to be peaceful. I choose to be grateful. I want to be loving and clear.

When I find myself drifting off of that “home base,” I’ll meditate, as a first step to restoring my inner peace. I’ll focus my attention on what I can genuinely appreciate. Then, love and clarity are more possible.

This might be a lot more difficult if Harper had been more seriously injured, but the principles are the same. I’ve been given an invitation to continue to release my fear, frustration, and outrage, and to return to my inner feeling of well-being, from which I can be loving and clear.

I’m not going to speak to the people with the dogs. In my clarity of mind, I can see that they don’t feel responsible for the dogs, and they have absolutely no interest in controlling them. If they had, they would have called the dogs off.

I’ll speak to my friends in the neighborhood to let them know that there are some unstable dogs around, so they can be alert.

I’ll carry pepper spray, to protect myself and Harper in the case of further incidents.

And, I’ll change our walking route, to avoid contact with those people and those dogs.

At first, I didn’t know what to do, but when I had restored my peace of mind, I knew what was right, for me. I remembered to ask myself: What matters now? Who do I want to be? The answers to those questions were my guides.

What matters now?
Who do you want to be?

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