My Dog, “Zipper:” Thriving with Impermanence

I have this little yellow dog I got by accident back in the year 2000. I wasn’t shopping for a dog, but apparently she was shopping for me. She arrived on my doorstep–bedraggled and belittled. Her hip had been crushed in a previous accident but re-healed to the point that surgery was useless (causing me to name her Zipper for her crooked walk). Her tail was tucked so low I couldn’t see it beneath her skinny belly with nine nipples (most dogs have eight).

And that belly, it would turn out when I went to have her spayed, housed four small pups.

For years, this dog I never intended to own has slowly worked her way into the landscape of my life…first by sprinting (zipping) at ridiculous speeds in circles up a hill, through the woods, and across my lawn (reinforcing the appropriateness of her name)–often flinging mud on my face in the process. Later, by becoming best playmate to my two small girls, who would pretend she was a pull-up toy…and then a princess…and then a pony…depending upon their developmental stages.

And especially, by spending a few minutes of every morning doing her own thing: lying in the heat of the sun, usually in the most dusty spot in the yard, and looking entirely dead. More than once, I’ve had to run up to Zipper and shake her from her meditative sun-trance to ensure that she really contained life.

Now that she is 12 years old, I know that she has fewer days ahead to do her thing than she’s already cast behind her.

I’m reminded that very little stays the same:

  • Very little in life stays the same.We get married; we get divorced. We have children; they have children. We get dogs; we later get cats.
  • Very little in business stays the same. We lose old jobs; we get new ones. We create new brands; we kill old ones. We make new connections; we shed outdated ones.
  • And particularly, we think we have the answers, only to realize we are still asking the questions.

Here are 5 tips I’ve learned for handling life’s impermanent things (like mortal dogs):

  1. Celebrate the dog lying in the sun. It might vanish in a year, but today it is our story. Be willing to experience joy even as deeply as grief.
  2. Find other dogs with other quirks. No single friend, partner, job, pet, brand, client, or outcome deserves entire credit or responsibility for our fulfillment. Commit decisively, but flourish intentionally through multiple channels.
  3. Be stable. Want trustworthy-ness and consistency? Practice them first; then recognize how they feel and look. We won’t likely attract something that we don’t first invest in becoming.
  4. Spend time in the sun (or shade). We can’t be there for clients, customers, boss, friends, or family while running in circles up hills all day. Recharge routinely, without a smidgen of guilt.
  5. Befriend change. Today’s impeccable leaders adapt and innovate. Like a swimmer stuck in a rip tide, stop fighting and paddle parallel to the shore to return to a prime surfing spot. If we face the situation, cut ties, shift directions, move to a sunnier spot, we may find a good place to lie down again–or run.

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