A few months ago, Ben was home for the weekend. Ben and Rosie, our golden retriever, share a bond. When we first brought puppy Rosie home, she squirmed her way into his coat, her snout buried under his arm. So, when Ben and I go for a walk, of course Rosie comes too.
Rosie has opinions about walking. If the wind blows too hard or a distant car backfires or a stray piece of newspaper escapes somebody’s recycling bin and sails through the air, Rosie declares THE WALK IS OVER. She turns herself into a fire hydrant and refuses to go further. I can pull on the leash and beg her to stop being ridiculous, I can scold her and fuss and make all kinds of threats, but like it or not, she’s going home. Try whatever dog magic you’ve got. Rosie always wins.
Unfortunately for us, this happened on our walk. “Looks like she doesn’t want to walk,” I told him, figuring we’d backtrack, drop her off at home, and keep walking.
“Silly Rosie,” Ben said. He picked up our 85-pound dog and continued up the hill.
I felt like part of a circus act.
My neighbor Charlie watched from his yard. “You taking your dog for a…carry?” he said.
We laughed. “Don’t get used to it, dog,” I whispered.
As soon as Ben left, Rosie was up to her old tricks again. One day she’d walk, and the next day she wouldn’t.
Then, one day when I managed to get Rosie walking, we came to a fork in the road where we had a choice: turn left and take the downhill shortcut home or turn right and climb a steep hill. I wanted to climb the hill. Rosie wanted to go home.
I pulled. I pleaded. Rosie wouldn’t budge.
I decided to try something new.
If I’d known there were two old ladies walking up the hill behind me, quiet as little rabbits, I sure wouldn’t have done it. But I didn’t know that.
I gave Rosie a scratch on the head. I rubbed her velvet ears. I got down on her level, nose to snout, and in my sweetest, most excited voice, I said real loud, “Hey, Rosie! Guess what we’re going to do? You and me, we’re going up this hill! IT’S GOING TO BE SO FUN! SO SO FUN! YOU JUST WON’T BELIEVE HOW FUN IT’S GOING TO BE! YOU READY, ROSIE? YOU READY FOR FUN?”
I stood up. “READY, ROSIE? HERE WE GO!”
The ladies laughed. I felt my face burn. “I guess she needed a little pep talk!” I said.
“Don’t we all!” said the smiley lady with the pom pom hat.
Yes, smiley lady! We all need a little pep talk, a little sweet talk sometimes.
You know what? I’m going to try it on myself. The next time I have to do something I don’t want to do—maybe when I’m tired or bored or the wind’s blowing too hard and I just want to go home and crawl into bed, I’m going to make an effort not to threaten myself or say how disappointed I am in my own behavior. I won’t scold myself or yank my own leash. Instead I’m going to try some sweet talk. Promise myself some fun–maybe even a treat.
Of course, I won’t mind if somebody occasionally comes along and picks me up ’til I can get started. No sense in getting carried away with the idea.