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Lessons from a Contemplative Goldendoodle: Paying Attention


Gray has been intentional since the New Year to practice the disciplines of the faith. After a brief conversation where we tried to get her to think about some goals (without putting pressure on her), she admitted that she feels a little aimless. Her concern has been how much she sleeps during the day, how little she seems to get accomplished. We never want Gray to think she needs to be “productive” just to be productive, but we do want her to think about soul-care. It ended up being a great talk with her. These are the breakthroughs with our dogs we must stop and celebrate. ​​​​Lately, she’s been quite the example to my husband and me. Oftentimes we are rushing about, riding the hype of our “to-do” list, and Gray is quietly getting in touch with the beauty of the back yard. Rain or shine, at our house or on our travels, Gray sits at the window, captivated by the trees fluttering in the wind, the birds soaring around the bird feeders, and the squirrels doing whatever the heck they want. Gray will sit still for 30 minutes or more fixed and filled with thought. Nothing holds her attention more than looking out the window.​​ ​​ Recently, Gray turned the tables. She has encouraged us to slow down and pay attention. It's difficult to translate, but she seems to be saying: “There isn’t anything more important than starting your day paying attention to Creation. It will give you perspective, help you de-stress, and make you glad you are alive.” It does bring her some peace; maybe the long naps are just a sign of being at ease? I have been less quick to judge her 4 hour sleep sessions. The reality is, knowing her character, she is probably in deep prayer.

​What is personally encouraging is how much Gray reminds me of Robert Frost, Wendall Berry, and Andrew Wyeth…some of my favorites. These men wandered around, gazed at something without rushing past it, and allowed the natural world to fill them up like hearty stew. They wrote down what they noticed so that we could learn to notice too. Birds, flowers, clouds, and grass, to them, were all magnificent. Sights worth writing about, worth painting…nothing less than miracles along the path. These men had full lives, but not so full that they didn’t SEE and HEAR. If Gray could speak English and learn the trick of balancing a pen in her paw, I think we would have some good poetry on our hands. I have a friend who works at a shrimp dock on Shem Creek in Charleston. A few times a week I get a text with a picture of the sunrise. Not only does she notice it, she is moved by it. So much so that she wants to lift my gaze a bit too. And she does.

Everyone needs a few people like this, a few poets and artists who redirect our eyes, and a dog who has a contemplative side.

Sadly, ​we miss so much beauty by being on our screens, distracted with our work, and too tired to engage in life.

I say let's be more like Gray. I don’t mean to say that my dog is a better Christian than your dog, but truth is truth. Honestly, she may need to come mentor your wild dog…just a thought. P.S. As I was writing this, Gray rang her bell to get me to go outside with her…I think she had a secret plan: “Once my mom looks out the window and sees a few poop piles, she’ll rush out to clean up them up! A perfect plan! After she takes care of my mess, maybe, just maybe, she'll stand a minute to feel the breeze and look up at the beautiful, dark clouds above us…

We can play fetch too. What else would she possibly have to do anyway?” I think that's the correct translation...

©2020 by Dawn Poulterer-Woods