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September 26, 2023

The Exuberance of Youth

“This time we get it right.”

A friend recently asked, “How are you, Mike?” That’s a fair enough question, although somewhat boilerplate in nature. “I’m great,” I responded without really thinking. “I could be younger, but then I would have to make all those same mistakes again that I regret.”

As soon as I said that, I realized on several fronts what a disingenuous statement it was. We are the sum of our decisions for better or worse, and the sooner we own it the more enlightened we become.

There are many aspects to advancing in age. Wisdom we certainly hope and aspire to. The unavoidable aches and pains have gained their own zip codes, and if we have athletically and enthusiastically used the body our Good Lord gifted us, they might even have set up their own cities.

Which brings me to one of my favorite topics, puppies. The phrase “Hope Springs Eternal” is generally attributed to Alexander Pope’s “An Essay On Man” (1732), but I find it perfectly applicable to the acquisition of a new puppy.

A dog’s life in comparison to a human’s life is a fraction, all else being equal. The good and bad of that is we repeatedly suffer the loss of a treasured companion, but we also have multiple opportunities to “get it right” with the next one.

But will we get it right? Or will we make the same mistakes over again?

Of my generation, I think Charles Schultz, the creator of the “Peanuts” comics, was profoundly accurate in the scene where Charlie Brown is setting up to kick the football being held by Lucy, and, predictably, at the last second, she pulls it away, leaving Charlie on his back once again.

I think Schultz both understood the random nature of life but also had undoubtably suffered the disappointment of people he thought might have developed better character and intentions, but in truth they had not. There’s an old adage, “No matter how much the Leopard would like Tiger’s stripes, he wakes each morning with spots.” Some folks just can’t change their ways.

But with puppies the chance to start with a fresh slate is both compelling as well as analogous to many other aspects of life.

The last acquisition of my now youngest Gordon Setter included meeting at the home of our breeder in Statesville, North Carolina, and was with the lady that introduced me to this breed. I could tell you of the stellar accomplishments she had achieved in her life both professionally and in her retirement, but you likely wouldn’t believe it.

I recall vividly a statement she made after we chose a seven-week-old puppy full of promise, nuzzling against my neck. She turned to me and said, “This time we get it right.”

These words came from a woman who will be remembered in history for both her professional accomplishments as well as her contributions to the sporting dog world, including numerous champions she and her husband had raised and trained over the years.

“This time we will get it right.”

Whether it pertains to children, grandchildren, puppies, or maybe even starting over in life at an advanced age, the concept of exuberance of youth and “This time we will get it right” is the very definition of “Hope Springs Eternal.” It is a mindset that would serve us all well to embrace, despite our failures, aches and pains, and dashed hopes and promises.

And if Lucy pulls that football again, well, “Fool Me Once” and move on with knowledge gained, and then, “Get it right!”

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