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Monday, January 23, 2012

Dogs and Peak Performance

Dogs are like artists, by which I mean creative people in general. They approach their world with high levels of passion that continually renews itself. I see artists this way. BTW, artists can be scientists or engineers, or just about any profession—it is the way in which you perceive your profession that defines an artist. An artist is someone who has all their faculties engaged at high levels. And dogs have their sensory switchboards lit up every time they step outside. Take Singer, for example.

Today, she steps outside tentatively, as if to make sure she senses everything there is to know about her world—she doesn’t want to miss anything. Her paws feel the melting snow on the deck, noting the temperature change in the air. She takes a quick look around, and focuses on one spot in the yard. I look, but I am only human—I don’t see what interests her. It is somewhat dark outside yet.

Her head alerts to a sight/sound/smell (any or either one-take your pick) and she stands in full concentration. I imagine, if we could hook her up to an fMRI machine, we’d see her brain lit up in all the pertinent areas of peak performance. Her alpha waves would be high. She exhibits no distraction, no preoccupation, no self-consciousness. I love to watch her, and this moment is available to her virtually every morning when we step out the door. Can you imagine being so engaged in your world every single day? So why do I have to interrupt her by calling her to do her business? She never seems to mind, but I always feel like I’m intruding on an artist who is just getting that special insight for her next brush stroke, or writing the next scene in her novel, or which experiment to perform next. But Singer is always forgiving. She sometimes is so into the flow of the moment that she will take a few extra seconds to respond, but I too am forgiving. After all, I’m the one interrupting her!

Dakota, our cat, is more zen-like when it comes to flow. He likes to hop into our bathtub on a regular basis and watch the water drops. Drip, drip, drip. How could anything be more boring? But Dakota is fascinated, every single time. I imagine he notices how the light reflects onto each drop, how fast the drop falls, the sound of the faucet as it strains halfway between on and off (I oblige Dakota in this particular activity by adjusting the faucet to just the right turn.) I love to see him totally absorbed, and have come back at times to see him still engaged, still absorbed, still in the flow.

Dog-cat relations update:  I think Singer and Dakota are starting to bond more closely. Singer continues to give Dakota a quick swipe of her tongue when he passes by, and Dakota now doesn’t even flinch. It makes my heart swell whenever I see it. And, Singer is staying away from Dakota’s toys!!! I think that’s just major. Saylor never could resist.

We have a lot to learn from the animal kingdom, don’t you think?

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