One of the exciting aspects of owning a Goldendoodle is the Golden Retriever half of Cooper’s genetic make-up. Our five-month-old puppy loves to retrieve things.
Whether he finds a shoe, a used paper towel roll or a large stick, Cooper will proudly carry his treasure back to his home base to examine and explore. On Monday, he found the most prized possession yet in his career of retrieving objects.
We were walking around the trail behind our house, and he sniffed out what at first appeared to be a black clump of mud and prairie grass. He grabbed it in his mouth and began marching proudly toward home. I wasn’t concerned at first, but then I noticed that one end of this clump seemed to be a long tail. At the other end was a set of sharp white teeth.
I soon realized that this was being held together by a frozen mass of fur, rib cage and body parts.
“Leave it, Cooper!” I screamed. “Leave it!”
As soon as the words came out of my mouth, my brain was already admitting defeat. I can’t even get Cooper to drop a newspaper or a shoe. How could I possibly think he was going to let go of something so fascinating, so disgusting and so filled with treasure as a frozen animal carcass?
A few weeks ago, I had admitted to the entire staff at work my serious doubt in my dog’s ability to leave something. For the past few weeks, I got to lead our staff through a few training sessions to work on setting goals for the year. During our first session, I asked everyone to identify their “limiting beliefs.” These are the mental blocks we create in our own minds to tell ourselves that we couldn’t possibly do something.
As an example, I told the story of a dog trainer I follow who trained his dog to not touch an entire steak dinner on a plate sitting on the floor, using the command, “Leave it.” I’ve worked on “Leave it” with Cooper many times, but the reality is that I have a limiting belief that he could actually show enough self control to let go of something that he really wants. I realized that I’m actually afraid to try to teach Cooper to “Leave it.” I’m afraid I will fail. And I’m afraid he will fail.
But how much better would my life be if Cooper would actually leave it? He wouldn’t run away with people’s shoes that they leave by the front door. He wouldn’t try to steal food off the counter. And maybe, just maybe, he would even drop a dead opossum.
I was basking in regret watching him carry that dead, decaying animal in his mouth. I realized that in a few seconds, he was going to find a nice cozy spot in the frozen prairie grass and he would settle down to rip to shreds what was left of the dead animal. My mind was racing with all of the germs and disease that might be contained in that rat fur, skin and organs.
“LEAVE IT!” I screamed, which only encouraged him to hold on more tightly and trot faster.
I wasn’t going to grab the possum with my bare hands. So I came up with the only other solution I could think of in the moment.
I picked up my 27-pound dog by the back end and began flinging him back and forth. His teeth were clenched around the possum’s tail. The carcass was swinging with him. After about the sixth swing, Cooper couldn’t hold his treasure any more. The tail slipped out of his grip and the possum went flying.
I grabbed the front part of Cooper’s body and carried him several more yards ahead so he wouldn’t be able to race back to grab his prey.
I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry as I pulled Cooper leash to try to get him back home as quickly as possible. I started thinking of my other limiting beliefs… I’ll never be healthy again because of autoimmune disease… I’ll never be part of a church community again that feels like home… and the list goes on.
My limiting beliefs are easy to ignore and choose not to deal with. But that opossum was a good reminder of how ugly and gross my limiting beliefs can be. I need to face them head on or I might just end up with a dead opossum in my house.
Do you have a limiting belief that is holding you back in life? What is it?