“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”  Fred Rogers

Encouraging words.  They spur us on in doubtful times when success seemed anything but certain. They rain down like manna from heaven.

And at very critical junctures.  In fact, God always seems to sustain us with just what we need, despite all of our panic and worry to the contrary, and often from vehicles and resources we never see as ammunition while caught up in the moment.

Encouraging words nurture and nourish that inner voice inside us that tells us to “stay the course” and not throw in the towel when change seems too sudden and slippery for us to handle.

This all reminds me of my latest family pet, Jackson.  He was a great, unexpected gift from my wife on my birthday, designed to give me companionship several months after our previous dear pet of 10 years had passed away.  But there were growing pains with this new puppy, (some still to be worked out) especially as it relates his high intensity and unpredictable behavior around visitors.

For a few months my wife teetered on fearing that we could NOT keep Jackson because of these issues.  I gave in to doubts too.

And of course, whenever I heard other folks weigh in by saying that perhaps our pooch might have been a mistake and not a good match (“he needs a big farm to roam in” said one when considering his breed’s reputation) well, as you can imagine, it just doubled my insecurity in terms of his suitability with the public.

Of course these comments generally came from people that were not true dog lovers to begin with and couldn’t see any clear sky weather forecasts down the road due to dwelling too strictly on what they saw on paper today.

All of this goes to show that while council from others can be graciously weighed and considered, (and hard truths sometimes are a part of that), we also need to be careful about putting too much stock in the advice from people that advocate change too readily and without investing much thought into it.  Even some of our supposed friends do this to us, and we, in turn, likewise go forth and serve as stumbling blocks too, often unwittingly, right back to our other friends.

“Oh your dog has a problem?  Well just get rid of him then.” Problem solved.

Truly naysayers and bile releasers seem to rule in this information age we live so helplessly in.  Knee jerk protesting  gets credited as good self-advocacy and conviction, obscuring so many wonderful day-to-day success stories.

The anonymity of the internet encourages a self-entitled sense of bravado in stating half-cocked laments.

So you can imagine how I clung to good news when I heard it.  Because I had fallen in love with this Jack Russell very early on and had no plans to get rid of him.

Plus, I have always prided myself on never giving up on ANY family pet.  I was raised that way—it flows from my Mom and down to my brothers.  It is a commitment of love that we always took seriously.  And in turn, our lives become immeasurably enhanced by the journey.

One of the first big relief’s that I heard was from my niece’s wonderful husband, Barry; truly a great addition to our family and a first rate “COUSIN in law.”

It occurred on a family visit in which he had asked me how the new dog was faring, to which I casually updated Barry on some of Jackson’s growing pains.  After listening patiently without any evidence of disapproval or concern, Barry proceeded to share with me a highly relatable doggie tale regarding his Dad and his family dog.

Seems the dog was very territorial and quite possessive when it came to sharing the bed or being willing to EXIT agreeably when his owners tried to reclaim their rightful place in said bed.  So what did Barry’s father do?

Simple.  He learned to tie the dog (with the name of Peppi) to the foot of the bed at night.  Case closed.  It became a ritual and one that averted the fallout from his little quirk.  Instead of spelling an overwhelming rift in the family, a very reasonable accommodation was made by the family.

The obvious lesson in all this?  Dogs are part of the family, and except in extreme cases, need to be viewed for the long haul.

You simply find ways to adapt.  You turn problems into solutions.  Regardless of whether a spot is out of place on a not so pure bred dog or sometimes even when a bite is actually worse than the bark.

It is a love thing.  And a respect thing.

Think of all your endearing characters in movies.  The Dory fish with the short term memory loss that finds her way home.

Think of your small town strategies for taking care of its community members for centuries before agencies and experts ever adopted guidelines for how to help the less fortunate and those with disabilities as well as all those that fall below grade level.

Good old fashioned word of mouth and natural supports can do some miraculous things when encouraging words are present.

In closing I should add also add that some of the most critically affirmative words can come from folks that are not even acquaintances—in fact they can be complete strangers.

Going back to my new pooch again, I will never know, and can barely remember what this wonderful Good Samaritan looked like that passed my way on the VERY FIRST dog walk I had taken with Jackson on his FIRST DAY in the family.

It was over by the community college.  And I was brimming with pride and the new thrill of having this new pet in my life, while also feeling anxious inside regarding my suitability as an owner.

And this kind lady crossed in front of myself and Jackson and flashed a great big welcoming smile on her face while stating, “You have a very cute dog!”

To which Jackson and I wagged our respective tails in an appreciative manner and I gushed back—“Well I sure hope it all works out.  It’s our first day together!”

“Don’t worry.  You both are a great match and will have a long life together!”

There it was again.  Encouraging words.  Without any evidence to back it up or tangible gain from saying it.

It felt so great to hear on that day.  And I suspect I will remember it always.

Even when the predictions don’t come true, our human souls thirst for encouraging words like water.  They build us up and rededicate us back on the path towards fulfilling our dreams.

And the best way to repay back this kindness is to shine it back for others that need it along their journey.



About John Watts

I like to write transcendental community based essays and stories along with photo journalism pieces.
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