If you could take a child, remove all of the extras, and distill him or her down to a pure, unfiltered spirit, you would have a puppy. I say this with the best of intentions for puppy and child. Qualities include unfiltered joy, growling tempers, leaping, and adorable pouting. No measurable barrier between impulse and action exists.

I found these things out this week when two rescue pups from Merced moved into the house. They proved pure in every way and just by showing up, changed everything. My two dogs don’t live in a world of words. They work through non-verbal means. Eye contact, tone of voice, speed or suddenness of movement, proximity and smell – in a straight line unbent by the second guessing that hampers humans. Dogs can also pick up on energetic signatures humans emit. These signatures are obvious to a dog whether the human intends to be coy or not.

These past four days, I’ve watched whom my dogs are drawn to, whom they ignore, and at whom they growl. They respond to a frequency that is imperceptible to me. Communication experts tell us that most of what humans communicate is non-verbal, in spite of our heavy reliance on the written or spoken word. Our essence expresses itself and that expression gets received. So, since it’s not possible to hide, why bother to pretend?

My observation became more personal when I noticed that much of the time the pups ignored me. They dropped by to give me a sniff, but otherwise, stayed busy sniffing other things. They went to other people while I watched. I guess whatever I transmitted didn’t take up a lot of space and clearly did not bring fear. Had I become invisible?

When I took my first principal’s job, I had a short resume of titles that sounded like leadership – and to be fair to myself, they had some elements of oversight to them. Director, Vice Principal, Coordinator. Preparation for leadership roles as it happened back then was a bit like coloring inside the lines of leadership action figures. We guessed about what the verb “to lead” meant, read about others who had stepped up, and shared stories from our near-miss experiences on the front lines. The conversations were rich and I enjoyed them, but they worked only the head.

I had been directed to go in and turn the school around. No specifics came along with that directive and I know so much more about my own humanity now that I would not have approached that engagement the same way. I remember the sense that, on the inside, I was too small to meet the challenge of such a challenging school that had gotten lost along the way.

Then, I grew. I didn’t become anyone different except in how I stepped away from whatever had held me back before.  The crayon coloring within my ‘lines’ filled in with flesh and blood and I inhabited my own body. That growth hurt, brought joy, and took years.

Astronomer James Wraydescribes how thought has consequence just as words and deeds do. As within, so without. As above, so below. I believe that, the truer the line between thought and action, the more apt I am to be of service. And even if I’m not leading, at least I know I’m alive. At day five in my life among the dogs, my heart tells me to find peace in this truth.


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