My dog Fae is a gentle and timid soul. She tends to view the world with an anxious and worried demeanor. I think she’s expecting the proverbial “other shoe” to drop out of the heavens and onto her head. Or, perhaps, she’s waiting for the universe to come after her. She is afraid of pretty much everything: strangers, my cat, the dark, rain, butterflies, her own farts … Well, you get the general idea.
Fae’s rather squirrelly outlook on life makes taking a walk a challenging adventure, even at the best of times. It always starts out quite well. At the first mention of a walk, Fae dances around in excitement. She wags her tail and uses little howls of delight to tell me all about the good things in life as I strap her into her harness and leash. She bounds out of the front door, tail held high and a huge smile on her doggie face. A walk! A walk! What could be better than that?!? Nothing, that’s what!
We always have to walk the same route. Even the slightest deviation causes Fae to whine anxiously under her breath and constantly whirl around to look behind us — just in case someone is following her. She is not a dog who wants to discover and sniff new things. Even so, she seems to have a good time, in her own way. Until we reach a certain spot, about ten minutes away from our house. Once we cross into that invisible no-man’s land, Fae sits down on the sidewalk and refuses to budge. She eyes me with nervous, side-long glances, as if to say, “This is the farthest I’ve ever been from home. I’m scared of what the next step might bring. What if the sidewalk ends and I fall off the edge of the world?”
We stop for a moment or two. Sometimes, Fae and I look at each other. Sometimes, Fae studies the grass and the cracks in the sidewalk next to her front paws. And then, I tell her, “It’s okay, Fae. Let’s just take one more step.” It’s enough to get past her invisible barrier, and we finish our walk. Perhaps not as cheerfully as we started out, but we hang in there until the end. And that’s what counts.
I think I’m a bit like Fae. There are times in my life when I think to myself, “Self, this is the farthest I’ve ever come. And I don’t know what to do now.” There are things I don’t think I can handle. There are things that scare me. There are times when it feels so much easier to sit down on the sidewalk and quit.
But maybe I can learn a lesson from my gentle, strange, and brave dog. I should take a deep breath and take a step forward — just one more step. Because, if I can hang in there until the end, I will have done my best. And that’s what counts.