I re-read Seligman’s Authentic Happiness this weekend. Ever read it? Seligman is one of the American Psychologists who decided to focus on mental health rather than mental illness, and yeah for him I say. I’m writing about it here because it got me thinking about our happiness and our dogs.
In the book, Seligman asks us to determine our “signature strengths,” and suggests that the road to happiness is to do what you are good at and what you love. (He has a questionnaire in the book to help you decide your strengths. Mine include Curiousity and Love of Learning. I’m not saying what my weaknesses are!)
So here’s my question related to dogs: Is that true of our dogs as well? Is their happiness, at least in part, related to having an opportunity to do what they love and what they are good at? It seems intuitively that it must be true, and that like us, so many of our dogs are asked to do things that they aren’t good at. I know I spent a couple of years working with one of my Border Collies (Pippy Tay) on working sheep, until a sheep chased her across the field at a herding dog trial, and everyone in the stands laughed so hard they fell out of their seats. I may be indulging in inappropriate anthropomorphism, but I called Pip back to me and she walked back with her head and tail down, as if she was (dare I say it?).. ashamed.
I still feel guilty for not realizing sooner that, although she was brilliant at certain aspects of herding, she simply didn’t have the motivation and the courage to work sheep competively. I stopped training her on sheep, let her herd at home when it was fun and easy, and switched her to working with dog-dog aggressive dogs. She was brilliant at it, absolutely brilliant, and I truly believe she loved it.
As the years went on I saw so many people in my office who had dogs who, to me, didn’t enjoy agility or obedience or whatever, and yet their owners felt they “shouldn’t give up.” I’ll grant it can be a hard call to know if you should try to work through a problem, or decide that your dog just doesn’t enjoy a particular activity, but it seems to be an important one, yes?
Meanwhile, back at the farm: It snowed 3 or 4 inches, but compared to the blizzards and floods of other parts of the country, we can’t complain. The vegetation that has emerged is frozen solid, but tulip and other bulbs are amazing hardy, bless them, and I suspect they’ll be fine. But, with the snow, came new lambs… Lordy, lordy, I do love newborn lambs.
Here’s a bird’s eye view of Lady Godiva (daughter of Snickers and niece of Truffles, what else could I name her?) and her new born lambs. They are absolutely tiny (maybe 3-4 pounds?).. not so good when you are raising market lambs, but I love that they are all white and seem to be doing well.
Lady Godiva is a ewe lamb, meaning she’s just about one year old right now, and this is her first lambing season. What a good momma she though.. see how, in the photo below, she is flexing her back legs to make her udder more accessible to her lambs? Good girl! The nursing lamb is wagging his tail–always a good sign, since they usually only do that when they are getting milk. The lamb on the ground has nursed less. I’m anxious to check him later this afternoon… he has some milk in his belly, but not as much as his brother. I’m hoping for a big, fat milk-filled belly this afternoon.
One last image from this morning,of the morning sunlight coming into the barn. Nothing special really, but I just love barns and old wood…