When our sons were toddlers, I would invite them to select the color of thread to use for patching holes in their pants.
I can picture the soft curls on their heads as they bent over the sewing basket in my lap, tiny hands rustling through the scissors, buttons, and pins before picking their chosen spools.
It was serious stuff.
The other day, while walking Pettigrew, I shared this story with my husband after, with a sharp tug on the leash and my yelp of surprise, I hurriedly followed Pettigrew as he changed course and headed in the opposite direction than I had anticipated.
My husband failed to see the oh so OBVIOUS connection between the thread selection story and my hasty steps in Pettigrew’s wake.
Truly, there is a connection!
Autonomy, choice, and independence.
To have some level of control over one’s life is essential to happiness. To be always out of control, at another’s mercy, is to feel helpless.
And so, to paraphrase Mr. Rogers who used to say “look for the helpers” whenever there was an emergency, I look for opportunities to cede control to those who, of necessity, have little control.
And, when it comes to control, Pettigrew, despite being an elder statesman, isn’t that different than a toddler.
So, just as I encouraged our children to choose the color of thread for the patches on their pants, when we are out walking, I let Pettigrew choose our path. It seems he has some method whereby he makes sure we cover all of his “routes” at least once a week. Some walks are reserved for when we are visiting other dogs, but should we fail to have our regular playdate, later in the week, he will take me on that walk, just the two of us.
And, the other day, he took me to a friend’s door, about half a mile away. We arrived just as she was leaving her house. Did he know? I can’t remember him ever “walking” me there before.
Luck? Coincidence that we arrived just as she was stepping out? Or, is there a master plan?
I like to believe that Pettigrew always knows exactly what he is doing and why. It’s part of the reason I let him choose.
For another take on our daily walks see Shall We Dance.