"If a thing’s worth doing…"


“…it’s worth doing badly,” is a quotation attributed to the late Lord Louis Mountbatten, which I heard on holiday in the UK in the 1990s, and which changed my life. Initially, it gave me the courage to pursue the exacting sport of Dressage (imperfectly), despite having ridden horses since the age of 7. It allowed me to endure the humiliation of scathing criticism from riding instructors decades my junior, without feeling like such a loser that I gave up on the enterprise. (I even won the Reserve Championship during the year I showed.)

Today, I performed the role of Pack Leader for Lili badly. A women and her dog, whom we have encountered several times before [always with Lili bristling at the sight of her dog], appeared from over-the-hill, out-of-nowhere, at the beginning of our walk through the school playing fields to get to the woods; and before I could stop her, Lili transgressed again. The owner (correctly) rebuked me for my poor dog handling, and declared, “Your dog is vicious! ‘He’ should never be off the leash!” The good news in this anecdote is that I managed to avoid acting out my own humiliation (that I had failed to control my animal), fear (that the angry woman would take legal action against me or my dog), and intrusion: (Where did they materialized from? The field was absolutely clear when I unleashed Lili.) But the failure was that I assumed that we would be alone, and therefore free to do our own thing in the field. Needless to say, the rest of the trek was on-leash.

Since Lili clearly needs a reassertion of the message, “I’m in charge here” from me, it will be leashed walks for quite some time to come. Since I continue to believe that what gets up Lili’s nose is more intrusion than fear (of this smaller dog), I will vary the venue of our walks, so that she does not come to regard any one of them as “her” property, from which she feels entitled to exclude other dogs.

Like Freud, the prospect of being deprived of my beloved dog’s companionship [because of her misconduct or my mismanagement] causes me such pain & suffering, that I am prepared to do whatever it takes, to keep her–and others–safe from her amygdalar arousal. At least, for once, I had my own limbic system under control.

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Filed under aggression happens, leading a pack, limbic system

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