Pacing at the Bottom of the Rock

Despite having a grandfather who bred Irish setters (see?), I’m not all that clear on how dog breeding works exactly.

The way I think it works is that dogs have been bred over the centuries for specific tasks. The end result is that certain breeds now have instinctive drives to work in certain ways so much so that they don’t have to be trained, they just do. For example, we used to have a Shetland Sheep Dog, a sheep herding dog, who would herd the members of the family when we went on hikes. We didn’t train him to do this, it was just in his blood. Here he is:

The corollary to the instinct to perform is the frustration and anxiety that dogs feel when they’re not allowed to do what they are meant to do. For example, one day we were walking on the beach in Carmel. We decided to climb a rock and continue our walk on the bluff on top. Corey, our dog, struggled to get up the steep rock. He kept trying and trying. Eventually, we left him at the bottom, thinking that he would wait there until we got back. We hadn’t gone many steps, however, when we hard a sharp bark of victory and turned around to see Corey standing triumphantly on the top of the rock. His mission in life was to herd the family and he couldn’t do that if was left behind, so he found a way to keep up with us.

These days, I’m going through a MA in Teaching program, getting trained to be a high school Spanish and ESOL teacher. The important words in that sentence are “getting trained.” Being in training means you’re not allowed to just do. You have to listen and write reflections and read books and make presentations. You can’t just work on instinct and enjoy the vitality of living out your vocation. School feels like pacing back and forth at the bottom of the rock, looking for a way up to the top so I can just do my job. Unfortunately, in my case, the only way up is through: making it through 12 more months of training.

Still, if the only way up is through then through is a good way to be going.


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