The Art of Failure


For years I tried to get my lovely girl Vision to stop jumping. When she greeted me at home she jumped. If she met someone new, she bounced right up there in their face. (Vision was a big girl-29 inches at the shoulder and 130 pounds. There was some substantial lift there.) She bounced here and she bounced there. No matter what I tried and how many discussions we had she never wanted to stop. Vision was a ‘Tigger’ in a Leonberger suit. I had giant breeds for over forty years and none of them jumped up on me or anyone else so experience of the teacher was not an issue. I’m reasonably comfortable in that statement. So what to do with my failure?


A friend of mine had a nice little golden retriever she was training for field trial work. My friend ‘Jo’ would work endless hours with the puppy and the puppy Boo LOVED the sport, so much so that Jo would have to end the sessions just to get a break in. Boo was very impressive for his age, for any age actually and he would go out on sign direction, never miss the small properness on all the requirements. The sit. The return. The down. He was a wizard. Then came the big day of a very well-known trial and Jo and Boo were ready at the start. The gun sounded, the bird dropped and Boo made his way across the creek, hit the sandbar island and dove into the next waterway with enthusiasm as he searched for the duck. Jo guided him with hand signals, he found the duck, and then made his way back to the sandbar…where he sat down and ATE THE DUCK while Jo gesticulated hand signals, whistles and screams to no avail. Boo and Jo failed.


It happens to all of us. But what to do with that ‘failure’?


Is it even a failure? Or is it an attempt that went sideways? Best laid plans and all that. Or maybe we need to embrace that which we cannot control and stop using our own ego as the barometer of success or ‘attempts that go sideways’. I admit I was , for a while, embarrassed to have Vision jump around like some kind of a gazelle out on the Serengeti but at length I came to realize it was just her, her abundance of spirit could not be contained in that small of a body. Jo also came to realize that dogs will do dog things sometimes and that is not a crime, once she understood that it had nothing to do with her. Boo did go on to be quite stunning in field work and was one of the youngest dogs to get his field championship. And he never did wreak havoc on the duck world again.


Failure is not a thing to be abolished or ashamed of, the glory is in the attempt.  The shame or failure is in not embracing someone for who they are.