Six months later, the dogs had grown to fifty and sixty pounds, and I was still awful at training them.
One day, as had become the norm, they spent a deafening ten minutes barking at the mailman, who was delivering letters across the street. Once he passed our house, they moved on to destroying yet another throw rug.
I screamed, “Bad dogs!”
At first they were so consumed by chewing that they didn’t hear me. When I yelled it until I was shrill, they sat down and gazed up at me.
Then they urinated on the carpet.
My thoughts reeled back, to a time when I was only four years old. Back then, I tried to be good, yet my days were mined with opportunities for trouble. On one particular occasion, not much differently than a myriad of other times, my father had yelled at me. This time, though, was different. At that moment, he sounded like I did when I hollered at my dogs. Back then, the same as with these two dogs, the big person’s anger blotted out everything else. There was no comprehension of why my father was angry. All I knew was that he seemed angry enough to kill me. Out of terror, just like the dogs had, urine streamed down my legs.
Looking into my dogs’ upturned faces brought me to the present. They trembled. Their eyes moist, they blinked hard.
Tears ran down my cheeks as I sank to my knees and hugged them. It had taken six long months for me to learn that, all along, they had been trying their best to please me. Despite my ineptitude as a trainer, they had refused to give up on me. They had given me the benefit of the doubt that I was trying my best, the same as they were.
In addition, they never gave up hope that I would learn to love dogs, specifically them. Through their example, I’ve learned that the more I gaze upon everyone in my life with the benefit of a doubt, the happier we all are. We’re all doing our best, even when we could do better.
Thanks to them, I learned that dogs, as well as cats, are wonderful!