How my dog is teaching me to live more in the moment

My youngest Brittany dog Quincy returned home this weekend. He’s been at “bird camp” with his co-owner and co-breeder, learning new bird hunting skills and refining what he already knew.

It was sort of a Brittany dog rite of passage experience.

Quincy was only away from home for about a month, but in that time, he matured a little, became more confident, gained some manners and learned more about the scope of his “job” as a bird hunting dog. I didn’t have to worry about him because his co-owner and co-breeder are dear friends and they love him too, but his absence from our household changed the dynamic at home.

Quincy just returned home from field training. Here he's trying to figure out what Sassy is going to do.

Quincy just returned home from field training. Here he’s trying to figure out what Sassy is going to do.

My oldest dog Sassy doesn’t like it when one of the “pack” is away from home. She finds it distressing — even Quincy who drives her crazy — and kept trying to communicate her concerns by getting into my belongings lots more than usual. Thistle, Quincy’s mother, was bored because she and her son play all of the time. And Bullet, Quincy’s father, seemed to take it all in stride in his typical gentlemanly fashion, but stayed very close to me when I was home.

I would get periodic progress reports and occasional photos throughout the month.

Finally, when it was time to bring Quincy home, I piled my other three Brittanys in their crates in my van, and we headed down the highway Sunday morning. It was a beautiful drive, as Maine’s foliage is getting very pretty about now, and there was a light rain off and on. The weather didn’t really matter.

Quincy was coming home.

I’d missed the chaos only he can bring to the household. I had missed his “help” with the laundry, the way he plays and interacts with the rest of the pack, and most of all, I’d missed his evening snuggles in my recliner.

I think Quincy came into my life for a specific purpose, and I believe it has to do with teaching me to accept change, to slow down and to broaden my horizons.

Quincy keeps giving me new revelations about my life. As a puppy, he taught me to be in less of a hurry about things. I coined “Quincy Time” in my house because Quincy had his very own schedule for development and learning what he needed to learn. In people terms, you might call him a late bloomer.

Quincy truly lives in the moment, and that approach can be very freeing. Although as a human, I also have to plan and be prepared, living in the moment means I should not miss what is happening right now in front of me. Enjoy my friends, family, co-workers, job, home, activities — life. Not just get through it to get to the next day.

But the subtle changes I found in Quincy when he returned home reminded me that we should always be looking for those things that expand our knowledge and abilities. Quincy had been kenneled once or twice with the rest of my dogs when I was away for a couple of days here and there, but had never been away from home and the rest of his pack for any long stretch since he arrived home with me at 8 weeks old.

I wasn’t sure how he would do. But if Quincy is anything, he is adaptable, and he not only was fine, he also thrived. Another of his lessons for me.

John Short Sr., Quincy's co-owner, working with Quincy in the training field. Photo courtesy of Paige Davis

John Short Sr., Quincy’s co-owner, working with Quincy in the training field. Photo courtesy of Paige Davis

Quincy’s ability to integrate into his new situation with dogs who mostly are related by blood but he has not lived with in a long time; and to having a man giving him direction when he lives with a woman and is not accustomed to man voices giving him orders; and to adapt to a “working” schedule without a hitch when he is a creature of habit, gave me pause.

If Quincy can do it, so can I. This lesson is about pushing myself beyond my comfort zone. It’s about expanding my scope, embracing new experiences, attending events that I think I’m marginally interested in, meeting new people.

It’s taking up where my late husband Jim left off in my social education. Jim was the social one of the two of us. Because of my work schedule and journalism career, I did not participate in my community happenings and barely knew any neighbors before Jim. When Jim moved in, that all changed.

Suddenly, I had a social circle outside of work. That expanded again when I got into dog sports with my Brittanys, and now Quincy is showing me it’s OK to think about pushing beyond those circles too.

As we reintegrate the more mature Quincy into the Harris pack, I will be trying to figure out how to integrate the new lesson he has taught me into my life.

Jim would be happy.



Julie Harris

About Julie Harris

As a longtime employee of Bangor Daily News, I have served many roles over the years, but I now have a dream job as Community Editor. I live in Hermon with my four Brittany dogs: Sassy, Bullet, Thistle and Quincy, who keep me busy in various dog sports. I was widowed at age 51 when my husband, Jim, died of pancreatic cancer.