It’s Sunday afternoon, and my dogs lie beside me on the couch, chewing on fresh bones, while my husband watches the 49’ers game. Because the weather is somewhat rainy (cause for celebration here in California) and because the 49’ers are winning (another miracle at which to marvel), I am happy just to hang out, even as I begin to plan for the holiday to come.
The dogs and Brad and I came home two Sundays ago from a much anticipated long weekend away, at the Dalmatian Club of Northern California’s annual Specialty dog show, where there were eighty-six Dalmatian entries. It’s a three day show circuit that our entire family of five attends, and everyone has a role: the dogs strut their stuff and try not to be too rambunctious when back in the hotel; I attempt to remain calm and positive, and to smile when in the ring; and Brad feeds, waters and walks the kids, as well as, (being a compassionate man), supporting me and holding my hand when I get nervous.
The dogs–and their shows–often bring new lessons into my life, and this weekend two weeks ago was no exception. I had been optimistic about everyone’s performances, but very few of my dreams were to be realized in the ways I had imagined. I had hoped that Mac might win points toward his Grand Championship; I had hoped that Cody would put the final leg on his Graduate Novice Obedience title, and make some progress toward Companion Dog Excellent; and I had hoped that Breeze would win her Veteran’s class and go on to compete in Best of Breed, alongside her sons, Mac and George. Unfortunately, none of this was to be realized.
However, as I threw my suitcase and the dog paraphernalia into the car and faced the long highway to home on that Sunday night, I realized I was not nearly as disappointed as I would have predicted. After all, Mac had won an Award of Merit, which is a high honor at a Specialty–if not the Grand Championship points I had coveted. And George, whom I co-own but do not show, did indeed walk away with his first Grand Championship major.
Cody had had a good time goofing around in the obedience ring, like the sweet wild child he is, rather than giving the performance he should have. Nevertheless, I had hugged him when we left the ring, even though I was frustrated, as we had been practicing every day of the week except Saturdays for over a year, and even though he had just won his second leg, with a very high score and a blue ribbon, the weekend before. After all, dogs will be dogs!
And though Breeze had not won her Veteran’s class, she did take Brood Bitch for the third year in a row, and so retired a prestigious Challenge Trophy. She hadn’t been in the ring for over a year, and had looked so delighted to be there that it had delighted all of us, too. An ever-patient dog, she had earned her day in the sun.
The only real downside to the entire weekend was my mistake of stepping into a hole in the ring after Mac and I jumped high in celebration when he won his Award of Merit, thus spraining my left ankle.
Despite the pain from the fall, I realized I was whistling as I drove along home, with Breeze curled up on the seat beside me, snoozing. It hadn’t turned out to be the weekend for which I’d been psyched up, nevertheless I felt pleased to be so unpredictably happy. Maybe if I could stay more neutral–less invested in my highs and less overwhelmed by my lows–I might be able to pass more of my days with equanimity.
And what was it that I was whistling as I drove? One of my favorite songs, the famous “Accentuate the Positive” by Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen. The lyrics run like this: “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, Eliminate the negative, And latch on to the affirmative, Don’t mess with Mister In-Between.”
This song has been recorded over and over since its release in 1944, first by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters, and then by many others–from Artie Shaw to Arethra Franklin to Al Jarreau and, most recently, by Paul McCartney (for whom Mac is named). It’s been going around for over seven decades and that’s pretty amazing.
So, as I approach a holiday I really enjoy, however hectic, and prepare for the writer’s retreat that will enable me to focus solely on my novel, I sing the second verse: “Spread joy up to the maximum, Bring gloom down to the minimum, Don’t mess with Mister In-Between.” Well said!