As a much younger person, when I trained my first specially-abled dog, I had great ideas of what we could accomplish! No one told me I couldn't teach a blind and deaf dog to jump over a hurdle she couldn't see, or to fetch a ball she couldn't watch or hear falling to the ground. And together this dog and I accomplished everything we set out to do and learn. I wasn't limited by anyone's expectations of what I could or couldn't teach her. (In fact, no one expected her to learn anything, but they didn't care enough to pay attention to what I was doing or comment on it.) And to me, there were no limits to what she could learn. This amazing dog taught me that if I didn't place limits on her and I kept my expectations high, great things could happen.
Often we are limited by our expectations. Let me explain ...
In order to accomplish or create something, we need to have a thought that we can do it first. If I didn't think that I could teach that dog to fetch, would I have even tried it in the first place? No, of course not. None of us likes to fail and we don't set out to do something we expect to fail at. I had a thought - it all started with a thought that it might be possible. Believing that something is possible is the first step toward achieving it.
I meet many people who believe that Treasure spends her days just sitting in a corner waiting for me to do things for her because she can't see or hear. Some even think that I must feed her each morsel of her food because she can't see to eat it on her own. They don't believe it's possible for her to navigate without the sense of sight. They don't think she is able to function on her own.
Let's think for a moment about if I thought those things about her as well.
When I first brought Treasure home, if I believed that she was not able to navigate and function on her own, would I have treated her any differently? I think I probably would have. I may have put her in a very tiny area, expecting that she would be content to sit there all day waiting for me to do everything for her. I may have fed her each morsel by hand, holding it right to her mouth so she didn't have to look for the food. I mean, she is blind, after all. Treasure never would have learned and tried new things because I would have done everything for her. While this may be a funny picture to those of you who know me and Treasure personally, and know what she is capable of, this picture really isn't that far off from what might have happened.
We limit ourselves and those around us by the expectations we surround ourselves with. When we say we can't do something (or our dogs can't do something), we are usually right. But I don't think we are right because those things are impossible to accomplish. I think we are right because if we think we can't, we won't try. And if others think we can't, we often won't try either.
If you haven't figured it out yet, this post is not just about our dogs. Expectations can limit what we can accomplish ourselves, with our dogs, and with those around us. Expectations can limit what our children, friends, family, co-workers, etc, try to accomplish as well.
From the very beginning I believed that Treasure was great and intelligent and could learn and accomplish anything. I have tried not to limit her except where her physical safety may be at risk. It is an amazing journey she is taking me on - one that surprises me every day. The more I am open to the possibilities, the more she shows me that she can rise to the occasion.
Today is Specially-Abled Pet Day and we celebrate all the amazing special animals out there that inspire us and break through the limits of expectations! Especially my two very amazing specially-abled dogs!