There is a simple lesson that I’ve learned in my admittedly not too experienced 19 years, and that lesson is that my dog gets way more excited when there is an energetic puppy in the house.
Now, I know what you’re thinking- gosh, Rachel, that is a such a profound life lesson. You are nothing but a tiny little genius, you are.
But in all seriousness, this lesson is something that I learned the hard way. We have three dogs. I would say that they’re all equally adorable, but that’s a lie. Shadow, my dog, is without a doubt the cutest dog to ever come into existence- and I’m somewhat obligated to say that because he’s my dog.
Anyway, once upon a time, my family decided that it would be a great idea to get a crazy little puppy. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we had four dogs. And two cats. And four humans. I understand your confused and slightly aghast facial expressions right now.
Back to the point- we got a puppy. And he was an energetic little dude, as most puppies are. Shadow, who had previously been the most energetic dog in the house went nuts in the shadow (ha ha get it? Shadow…like the shadow and my dog’s name? HA!) of the new fireball puppy. We was constantly hyperactive and barked all the time and acted like we filled his water bowl with Red Bull.
Due to reasons beyond our control (not having to do with Shadow’s behavior), we had to give our puppy away. And lo and behold Shadow returned to his still obnoxious but not so severe- Shadow-esque personality. He became Shadow again- not the annoying, overexcited version of himself.
Shadow and our old puppy taught me a valuable lesson, and that is that we humans are not so unlike dogs. We inadvertently take on traits of those around us.
For Shadow, that meant that he became just a little more wired than we could tolerate. For us, that can mean becoming a little more of a gossip, a little more negative, a little more judgemental, or maybe a little more insecure.
Now before I start a rant about the negative effects of peer pressure, I’d like to introduce you to Jasper.
Now, this isn’t just a blog post about my adorable dogs- Jasper isn’t just a dog. He’s an enforcer. He’s a white german shepard and if you are an animal in this house and you misbehave, he will let you know that you’ve done wrong. He has a mean bark and a fierce look when he’s laying down the law.
Shadow, bless his cute little doggy heart, is kind of lacking in the brains department. He tries, really he does. But he’s just not the brightest tool in the shed. He is motivated by one thing, and one thing only- food. He can hear you unwrapping a chocolate from three floors away while two showers and the TV are on. But I digress.
Shadow will do anything for food, even when he knows it’s wrong. Even when he risks hurting himself or jumping on a cat, he will do anything for so much as a crumb of food.
But Jasper watches. He monitors the coffee tables and the kitchen counters. He protects the food from being stolen by my little hoodlum of a dog. But more importantly, he protects Shadow from getting in trouble. When Shadow makes a move to devour human food that he knows he shouldn’t, Jasper lays into him and makes him stop. Jasper tames and protects Shadow.
So back to my life lesson. We are heavily influenced, even if we don’t try to be or don’t want to be, by those around us. Our old puppy turned Shadow into a crazy version of himself. Jasper turns Shadow into a better version of himself.
As humans, we have puppies, and we have Jaspers. We have people in our lives who, somehow, someway, turn us into lesser versions of ourself. They keep us from becoming all that we can be. They make us feel a certain way about ourselves, they make us act in a certain way, maybe without even knowing that they’re doing it.
But we also have people in our lives who lift us up. They help us to become all that we can be and all that we’re called to be. They help us make the right decisions when we’re headed for the wrong ones. They help remind us that we know better. They help us feel protected and loved and cared for.
In the bible -Romans, Corinthians, Proverbs- we are told to keep good company. To walk with the wise. To be surrounded by those with good morals.
God knows the goodness and necessity of community. He knows because He is community. He dwells in the trinity- in a community of His own. Our father experiences firsthand the joys of community.
And he yearns for us to exist in the same community- in a group of people that lift one another up, who encourage one another, who are accountable to one another, and who travel alongside one another towards Him.
It is not God’s desire for us to be surrounded with people who tear us down and make us lesser versions of ourselves. It is God’s desire for us to be surrounded by those who encourage us to be more like Him.
There’s this saying out there:
And if that’s true, we all need to look at the people we spend our time with. Are they people we don’t mind becoming like?
So, my friends, look at your life and the people you choose to spend it with. Are they puppies, or are they Jaspers?
Sidenote: This is my dog, Buddy. (He’s the brown one). He’s the oldest and smartest and as I was writing this, he gave me giant adorable eyes that screamed “How can you write a blog about the other two muts in this house and leave me out?” So, here’s to you, old Bubba.