Walking Tiger is pure joy. There is an ease in the connection, a trusted bond evident in the matched rhythms of human and dog. The leash is loose in my hand and the worries loose in my mind. We move forward together, sharing the experience in our unique ways (he spends much more time with his nose to the ground and leg to the sky than I do:)!). We walk in parallel, the journey strengthening our connection and our trust.
It wasn’t always this way with Tiger. First, mutual trust had to be established. He needed to know that I was a competent guide and I needed to believe that he wouldn’t snap or bolt when given freedoms. We needed to learn the other’s rhythms and patterns. I’ll admit that Tiger was easier to train than I was – I let my fears have too much power for a time. But with time and practice (and lots of patience on Tiger’s part!), I learned to relax and enjoy the walk.
The skills and strategies I learned at the end of Tiger’s leash have also helped me in my relationship. Through the leash, I learned how to trust myself and another. I trained my mind to relax and my grip to loosen. I learned to enjoy the walk rather than fear what might lay around the next corner.
I learned that when I use too much restraint with Tiger, when I pull back out of fear, my reaction only transfers the negative energy to him and gives it power. Pulling back too tightly only causes him to want to pull against me. On the other hand, if I trust in him, he responds in kind, staying by my side instead of straining to get ahead. When I trust him, he acts trustworthy. The leash now acts as only a reminder of the bond, not as a restraint. Relationships are no different – try too hard to hold someone back and they will fight to be free. Trust them and allow them to choose to be by your side.
When I first started walking Tiger, I tried to avoid other dogs. I knew he was friendly, but I was not confident enough in myself to handle him (he does weigh almost as much as me!). As my confidence grew, I stopped giving passing dogs such a wide berth. Time and time again, Tiger proved himself as he either gave a friendly greeting or ignored the other canines, depending upon the situation and my intent. When I am wary, his body language reflects my distrust and warns the other dog away. Now, even when loose and aggressive dogs follow us, he (and I!) remain calm and confident. The partners in a marriage should not be afraid to encounter others either. If you treat everything as a threat, it will respond in kind.
As I have become more comfortable with Tiger, our world together has expanded and enriched. He would not be the dog he is, nor would we have the bond we do, if he remained locked in the security of the house. By exploring together, we have grown together. Relationships need room to breath, spaces to explore and adventures to look forward to. If they spend every day trapped inside, they will become as lazy as an old dog.
One of my favorite habits that Brock and I established early on was taking frequent walks together, often with Tiger sandwiched between us. Those walks formed the backbone of our relationship as we explored and bonded, talked and listened, building trust and finding connections. This is our time together to take pleasure in the fellowship and enjoy the walk.
I have Tiger to thank for my lessons in walking a dog. And now I am ready to apply them to walking a marriage:)