You can’t teach an old dog new tricks…. Or can you?

This really happened… I took this photo! I feel like the universe is telling me that Copper and Zoe want to ride with me.

When I pulled up next to this dog sitting on the motorcycle I was certain he must be tied to the seat…. Nope! He was there of his own free will. I walked up to the dog and said, “Hey puppy, you’re so cute.” (clearly my idea of cute has been distorted since I went from being a dog hater to a dog lover) To the untrained eye I’m guessing that dog would have seemed mean upon first glance. The dog didn’t move or make a peep…. But I’m pretty sure he smiled at me and sent me a subliminal message …”cool bike right? I bet you wish you could sit here!”

You know what happened next, I got SUPER excited and starting pondering how I would go about teaching my dogs to ride. Throughout the day I asked myself a slew of questions, one of which was, I wonder how long this dog’s owner has been training him to do this. Is it something you’d have to begin when they were a pup or could it be taught to an adult dog. This thought process went round and round in my mind, and coupled with the thoughts I’d been processing about false beliefs we learn at a young age and take with us throughout life, earned this dog a spot on my blog.

A few questions I asked myself were, 1) could you train an adult dog to do this? YES. 2) If you put an adult dog who had not been trained, with a command to STAY on that bike, would it be the dogs fault for hauling butt the second the owner walked away? NO 3) What if the dog was afraid of loud noises and had never been trained to stay, how would you train the dog to ride on the back of this bike and stay on it when left alone? This is where the dog on the motorcycle reaffirmed the life lessons I was already on the brink of learning for myself about my own life.

When we are babies and small children (pups), and life happens, we adapt to our surroundings, we learn a variety of behaviors (or coping mechanisms), we adopt these ideas as truth and they become our reality. We take this “training” with us into our adult lives. Each of our stories is different, but it has only been recently that I have FINALLY learned, (due to the fact I have spent a good portion of my life in denial, not wanting to FEEL the emotions of the past or acknowledge the damage caused at a very young age from abuse) the following: 1) Never trust anyone, you can only depend on yourself. 2) Do not ever allow anyone, especially not an authority figure, to tell you what to do. 3) You do not belong, you are used, dirty and worthless. 4) You are not lovable and do not deserve to be loved, especially not by yourself.

These beliefs became my truth, or, the roots of my tree, they are what anchored me and dictated my behaviors. I was “trained” as a pup that this is “who I am”. Over time I developed coping mechanisms based on my “truths” that got me all the way to age 46. I was strong, I was funny, I can and will avoid “feeling” at all costs. I’m a pro!

Something changed… through yoga therapy and with the help of a very dear friend and “life coach”, I have been loved into softening, opening up, becoming vulnerable, trusting, having faith, and currently am working on “feeling emotion”.

I pondered the training of the dog on the bike. I highly doubt the owner yelled at or belittled the dog. I would imagine he was loved into obedience through positive reinforcement and praise (dog treats). Imagine if the dog were rescued from an abusive situation, would it respond to anger and violence? I highly doubt it. Think about this… if that dog had been trained through force and fear tactics, would the dog have sat there calmly when I approached it, with a loving demeanor? Absolutely not! I would assume it would be barking and showing it’s teeth at me because it felt threatened.

Isn’t it the same with humans? Do children who are forced, through fear, end up STAYING? Do they feel loved and nurtured and show those same emotions to others? NOOOOOOOOO! So doesn’t it make sense that whatever we learn or are exposed to as children is what ultimately shapes our personalities, habits and coping mechanisms?

Which brings me to my tree analogy. We all appear to be a somewhat healthy tree above the surface. We all appear to be rooted and anchored, or don’t we assume that each person (tree) has deep healthy roots and that the tree will not fall over in the wind?

What if at the age of 46 the tree finally is taught that the roots they developed and have held fast to their entire life, are not anchored in truth? What if all, or most of the roots that is holding the tree steady are based on false truths or beliefs that were developed early on in their training?

The only way to fix this problem is to weed out those bad roots while slowly developing new roots, anchored in truth, through love and nurturing of self, once we realize that we do belong, we are loveable, and we do have a right to be here.

The tree may need to be supported or braced until the new roots take hold, but change IS possible. Once a person becomes AWARE that they are NOT OK, ACKNOWLEDGES that perhaps their roots may be anchored in false truths, SURRENDERS, or begins to see the unhealthy patterns and decides to let go of the past and has the courage to “feel” the emotions as they leave the body, they can then learn MINDFULNESS, to live in the moment and to stay in their body, rather than in their head, and finally, have FAITH to trust they are where they are meant to be, have a right to be here, and can plan for the future with their newly developed empowerment and love of self…. Not only will their roots become strong enough to anchor them in a healthy way, they will grow and flourish and their tree will begin to produce fruit that will feed and nurture others. They will start to become the person God intended them to be.

Every tree experiences adversity. It is through embracing adversity that the tree becomes stronger. It is through anchoring ourselves in Christ that we are fed and nourished and can finally feel truth in our bodies, understanding who we really are.

So… the answer to my question is YES!!! Old dogs can absolutely be taught new tricks.