Walking Wicket the dog

My new friend has been teaching me.

Wicket is a 12-year-old, one-eyed rescue dog who joined our family about 15 weeks ago. It was love at first sight – a perfect match. He wanted to be special, and we had a lot of love to give. Perfect.

But Wicket has challenged some of my deepest assumptions about the world. I can’t think of anyone else who’s been able to do that so well, so quickly, and with so little effort. He is an amazing teacher – I would even say philosopher.

Let me give you an example. I have always assumed that time is a finite resource in my life and I should make every moment count. Don’t sit around and talk – get on with it. Don’t let the grass grow under your feet, as my mother used to say. But that’s not what Wicket says.

Wicket takes me for a morning walk every day. He hooks me up on my lead and off we go on adventures. I enter a different world – not the world of my assumptions, but the world of his. Let me give you a taste of what he’s been teaching me.

There’s more going on than you think

To me, going for a walk pivots around two issues – pace and distance. I try to get as far as I can in the time I’ve got. It is a Very Fast Train approach to walking. But Wicket shows me a different approach.

Wicket is slow – painfully slow. He has been teaching me to relax, to not be so impatient, and that walking’s more about the journey than the destination. But he’s also shown me something else.

There’s a whole lot more going on than I’d ever noticed. Wicket is open to everything on the journey. Every tuft of grass is a new world to explore; under every tree there’s a new universe. Smells are everywhere, and they all seem to tell a story. I can’t even imagine what that story is, but Wicket takes his time trying to work it out.

Often, I am so busy in my Very Fast Train approach to life that I don’t see life. I’m focused on my agenda, but in many ways that blinds me to what’s going on around me. There are people I don’t notice and stories I never hear. Much of the richness of life I miss, because I’m too focused on some point in the distance.

I don’t find it easy, or natural, to learn what Wicket is teaching. But I’m going to try to put it into practice here on social media. I’m going to try to listen more to what is going on.

The same journey is always different

From my perspective, Wicket takes me on the same walk every morning. We walk out the gate, down the hill, over the creek, up the other side, and then we make our way home via the footbridge. It’s the same circuit every morning.

But that’s not how Wicket sees it. He sees reassuringly familiar places, but there are always new things to see and experience. It is ever curious and always open to what he finds afresh every day. The trail has never been fully explored. It’s a rich, emerging, and exciting adventure.

I often find my self on automatic. I have my routines and they have become short cuts, in a way. Some of them become boring over time. Maybe I need to look at them differently. Maybe it’s not the journey that matters; maybe it’s the person making the journey. Wicket says whether the journey is boring or exciting depends on the person, not the journey.

It’s what you leave behind that counts

I’ve got to be frank – Wicket’s not a ‘take nothing, leave nothing’ kind of guy. He doesn’t take anything, but he does leave his mark. He let’s other dogs know he’s around. He confidently marks his territory – he’s not boasting, but he is saying, “I’m here, and you’d better get used to it.”

There is a boldness there that I need to be open to. I have something to give to the world, but it’s easy to undersell yourself. It’s easy to look at more impressive people and think, “My contributions are not as important as theirs.”

It’s easy to question whether we can leave our mark on the world. But who else can leave our mark? Leaving our mark is our contribution to a larger story of place and time. Here and now is our stage, and this is our time to do what only we as individuals can do.

Wicket is a good teacher. He is patient and an excellent role model. I hope I can continue to learn from Wicket, and I hope I can be a Wicket to those people I coach.

So, let me ask you – do you have a Wicket in your life? If so, I’d love to hear what your Wicket has taught you.

Written by Dr Steve Barlow