With the exception of NCIS and NCIS LA, I don’t watch much TV. It’s not that I’m better than anyone, it’s just that I never picked up the habit, thanks to working afternoons for years. Point is, if it weren’t for NCIS, I’d trash the cable and live happily. Well, there’s a little matter of Charlie, though – and step-daughter Jennifer – both of whom do watch the tube. And, since I’m being honest, there are a few other events that draw my attention – notably the Super Bowl (mostly for the commercials, unless the Saints are playing) and the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Both air in February and both require cable or, at the very least, good friends with cable.
On the eve of this year’s dog show, the Westminster Kennel Club posted clips and tidbits from Madison Square Garden, getting Facebook fans all worked up. I love this show! I love seeing the dogs, I love wondering who in the world dresses those handlers, and I love the announcer’s droning voice that forever defines this annual event for me. I especially love the moment a dog wins. He knows it’s good. He cavorts, jumps, and catches the excitement of the crowd and his handler and does what he does best – be a dog – despite the fact that he’s important and a celebrity. We should take a lesson from him.
In all the excitement of this year’s Westminster, I came across a link posted by my good friend Jon Six, who at one time bred Chinese Crested dogs and, in fact, has the distinction of breeding a prime example of the breed in Trubo’s Barney Google Cadaran. Jon posted the Westminster page featuring Barney, who at 10 months of age became the youngest dog to win his breed and compete for Best in Show at Westminster. That’s quite a feat, because every single dog in that show is an established champion and would merit the ribbon.
Barney also happens to be my dog Sluggo’s daddy.
Looking under the listing of Barney’s offspring, I don’t see Sluggo listed, but I’m not surprised. He has the papers to be registered, and his littermate (the champion Trubo’s Fritzi Ritz) is listed, but there’s no sign of Sluggo. In the dog show world, I guess my little guy would be the backward brother who’s still living at home, not making his mark in the dog world. Those who attach meaning to pedigrees would sniff and pass him by. No, Sluggo’s not show ring quality, but I would argue that he and millions like him do make a mark on the world.
Naturally, when I greeted Sluggo this morning, warm in his bed alongside his uncle Dennis (also a Crested) and his adopted brother Diego (we have no idea what), he wasn’t concerned about doggy acclaim. He did what he does best: he bounced, he twisted, he kissed, he jumped, he spoke, he loved. He was totally, authentically Sluggo.
There’s a really good lesson here, and I think it’s this: Be what you are suited to be and be happy at it. We are best when we lean into ourselves and focus our attention on who we are, following our own North Star. Look at Sluggo. He’s a dog with an impeccable pedigree but an imperfect set of teeth. He might’ve been a standout in the show ring, but he’s technically imperfect, which makes him an everyday variety dog. I don’t care, and he certainly doesn’t. What he cares about – treats and companionship and pats and kisses – are in no way tied to status. Nor is what he gives –unconditional love. They’re basic to life itself for him. What matters to Sluggo is that he is Sluggo, he has a pack to belong to, he is D.O.G., he has love to give and love to receive, along with a treat or two (or three … our dogs are all spoiled).
Sluggo, son of the truly amazing Barney Google, is the most authentic individual I know. I wish I could say the same, but like most humans, I still struggle with living authentically. Sometimes the glitter of a show ring lures, the trappings of keeping up with the Joneses beckon, and the need to be what others expect me to be whispers in my ear. When I finally recognize what’s keeping me from living authentically, I just turn to Sluggo, who’s never NOT keeping it real. And I let him, with his innate wisdom, supplant my North Star until I can find my own again.
West Virginia artist and author Jody Wright has crafted a small book packed with true wisdom, 50 Things Humans Should Know. Secret # 32 says, “Show Your True Colors. Your inner compass knows which direction to point. Never be afraid to let your true colors show through.”
Ah, we should all have four-legged friends who can, through their living, teach us that very principle. Be authentic. Emulate your dog. Remember, dogs rule.