The more I stumble through middle age, the more I realize how much of who we are flows from how we've been wired.
That goes for canines and human-types alike.
Take Pinot, for example. Yes, we bred and raised her. Yes, we selected who her parents would be and made sure her parents were healthy and strong and had solid pedigrees. We carefully watched over her mom during her gestation. We delivered her and ensured that as a neonate she received the best sensory stimulation and exposure to various situations we could offer. We nurtured her. We provided the best vet care available. We gave her an enriching environment and worked with her. As our vet says, we did everything "right" by her and her littermates. We invested hours and hours and hours in her, and we love her to pieces. She's our girl.
But for all of that, we could not and cannot control her genes (neither can geneticists, so I don't feel bad).
Because of her genetics, she will never be a conformation show dog. By Lab breed standard her tail and nose are too long. She's too lean. Her body length isn't proportional to her leg length. Her skull isn't wide enough. Her chest isn't broad enough.
It's not who Pinot is, and it's not who she was designed to be.
Though she'll never be a ring dog, she's a retriever to the bones. She focuses on her retrieve like no other Lab we've owned. She's athletic (like her dad) and sweet (like her mom), but she seems to have exponentially multiplied the sound retrieving instinct she received from them both.
Just look at her focus (she's retrieving a black, medium-sized Kong in these photos):
Pinot is absolutely wired, no doubt in our minds, to retrieve.
Now, if we were fools, we could protest her wiring. We could shake our fists and say "but we wanted a show dog!" (Not that we did.) We could groom her for the show ring. We could train her for the show ring. We could even cheat and crop her tail a couple inches (NOT allowed) and fatten her up a bit. But we wouldn't get very far, and neither would she.
And, too boot, we'd both be miserable.
Instead, we've chosen to embrace who she is and foster her strengths.
We did the same with our children (who come with their own wirings as different from each other as our Labs are from their packmates).
To do any less would be to deny who they were made to be.
And to do any less with myself would be to deny who I was made to be.
For so many years I fought my wirings: I wish I were artistic like ________. I want to be petite like __________. If I only I had the fiestiness of ___________, or the patience of __________, or the figure of ___________ or the quick-come-backs of _________. I really should be more sweet, and feminine, and lady-like....
But to look at others to see who I should be would be as silly as us looking at Kenya (or conformation Labs) to determine who Pinot should be.
One of the many joys of reaching middle-age (late forties here) is realizing that we are who we are, and we don't need to be any other. We can celebrate our differences and enjoy our designs, just as we're wired to be.
It's taken decades, but what a relief it is to no longer feel defective for being who I am!
And what a relief it is to no longer expect others to be different than how they've been wired to be.
The pressure is off. I'm learning to enjoy the best in us all, just as we treasure the best in Pinot, despite her conformation faults.
We know she was born to retrieve. And she knows it, too.
And that's okay by us. We want her to be who she is.
After 49 years (my 49th birthday is in two days), I think I can finally say that about me, too.
It took long enough! I just wish I'd learned it sooner.
'Til next time,