I have a dog that routinely embarrasses me. Although I know golden retrievers have a reputation for being friendly, this description does not begin to convey my dog’s affection for every human. Upon meeting a girlfriend of mine, my unruly hound licked her face clean of all makeup in one split-second assault. She almost broke my uncle’s nose when he bent to pet her and she exploded with 80 pounds of force straight into his face to “kiss” him. I have spent the past seven years apologizing for my dog’s exuberance. Two attempts at obedience school have not made a dent in this problem. I’ve since learned that my canine suffers from “excessive greeting disorder.” (There is an actual support group for this.) I can make her sit. I can make her stay. I cannot curb her all-consuming need to smother the world with her brand of love.
So, I look at it this way. There are worse problems than having the world’s friendliest dog. Aside from her overactive enthusiasm, she is also sweet, gentle and doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. She is a giant furry pillow the kids can do anything to without complaint. She’s my shadow, silently following me room to room just to be near me. This dog approaches every man, woman and child with the expectation that they will be her next best friend. You have to admire that kind of optimism.
Seeing her from this perspective helps temper her overbearing moments. It strikes me that successful parenting is also largely a matter of adjusting one’s perspective. Have a toddler that refuses to be potty-trained? Think “independent free thinker.” Awkward child who prefers his or her own company to the masses? Try “introspective non-conformist.” Kid who won’t stop talking and drives you crazy with incessant questions? “Inquisitive people-person.” Video game junkie with no ambition to leave the couch? Well…let me think about that one.
One of my favorite quotes comes from my kids’ preschool days: “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” I try to keep this philosophy in mind as I see another unwitting victim approach our yard to pet the big yellow dog with the goofy smile and the tail wagging 90 miles an hour. Yes, she’s “enthusiastic” – and I wouldn’t have her any other way.