An unexpected life lesson

About 25 years ago I found myself at the local animal shelter in LA with my friend Bob, eager to rescue a dog.

Little did I know that this day would change my life forever, and teach me an incredible life lesson that I still use today.

Bob and I entered the shelter and I found myself instantly drawn to a sad, frightened little dog that was cowering in the corner, obviously not happy and afraid of the big barking dogs in the cage with her. Bob told me that if I chose that dog, she’d love and be devoted to me for the rest of her life. I decided on the spot to take this little lifeless dog home.

I quickly took on the role of “savior.” I was going to save this little puppy and give her the best life possible. This dog needed to be saved and brought back to life and I thought I was the right man to do it! She had a gimp front paw, some stitches on her belly, and an extra eyelid under each eye, but I didn’t care. I was her savior.

I named her Abby and bought her toys and balls to play with. I bought her the most expensive pet food I could find. I took her for walks, gave her belly rubs, and I even gave her the comforter off my bed (it was sort of time for a new one anyway). It was clear I saved her. Poor broken Abby, I thought, I’ll show you the way!

Well, what I got in return for my love and affection, my ball playing and belly rubs, and my dwindling bank account, was a dog that did nothing but pee in my house. Never when I was home; always when I was away. I was sick about it. I tried everything. More walks. Paper training. Crate training. Nothing worked. I found myself running home from work each day, just sure that I’d find more pee in my home. And guess what… I always did.

I knew it was time for a radical change. If Abby wasn’t going to change and stop ruining my home, I was going to give her to someone else, or maybe even worse… send her back to the pound, which I knew in my heart, was not an option. You see, in the six months since I had saved Abby, I had fallen head over heels in love with her. If only I could fix her and make her stop peeing in the house.

I went to bed that night just beside myself. I tossed and turned all night, anxiously trying to find a way to fix Abby. I wanted her to change. “If she would just stop peeing in the house, we could get on with it,” I said to myself.

And then it hit me like a ton of bricks.

I realized it wasn’t up to Abby to change. Iwas the one who had to change. I realized I needed to change the way I was interacting with Abby! I viewed her as a broken dog that needed to be saved and fixed. I saw her as needing so much. “I’m here to save you, I’ll make you better. You’re a big ole mess, but I’ll fix you!”

Abby was simply responding to my viewpoint of her. She showed up in the world the way I interacted with her. I believed she was helpless and a mess, so that’s what I got, a helpless mess – and in this case, literally a peeing mess.

So in that moment in the middle of the night, I decided to do things differently.

I awoke the next morning and declared to myself that Abby was a perfect dog. She was happy and healthy, had food and water, and lots of love and toys. She was saved! She was here to be her great dog-ness in the world, and she had chosen my home to do it in.

Now here’s my favorite part of this story, and I still laugh about it to this day… I sat Abby in front of me and we had a heart to heart – man to dog – talk.  “Abby,” I said, “You are one terrific dog! You have everything you need! You’ve got food, water, toys, walks in the park, and lots of love from me. You get belly rubs when you want ‘em and a bath to keep the fleas away.”

I said to her, “It’s time for you to be the great dog that you already are! I’m done saving you. You are perfect just the way you are.”

I know this may sound strange, but she listened to every word I said. She just sat there, and cocked her little head back and forth as I spoke to her. It was as if she knew exactly what I was saying.

Now here’s the fascinating part of this story: That very same day – that very same day– Abby stopped peeing in the house. I couldn’t believe it! Looking back on this, what I now realize is that she started living up to the way I viewed and interacted with her.

Once I began to see her as a complete and perfect dog that’s exactly what I got in return. Perhaps it was energetic, perhaps it was just a coincidence, but truth be told, Abby held up her end of the bargain.


I was blessed to have Abby for 15 years, and she was the best dog ever. I continue to miss her, and yet she continues to fill me with joy and inspiration!

Now let’s apply this idea to us humans. Imagine this… what could your life be like if you looked for only the best in people? Forget about their faults and shortcomings. Concentrate only on the good things.

Here’s what will happen… If you look for the best, you’ll get the best.

As you look for the best in others, you’ll notice that people in your life start to show up differently. And then the great gift of this is that you start to show up as your best… as your terrific, magnificent self. All of a sudden everyone is interested in the best for each other.

When you desire others to have a full rich life, so, too, will they want that for you. And when people “want for you,” the world is your oyster. There is nothing more powerful than the energy of the human spirit desiring the best!

People live up to how we interact with them, and how we view themStop viewing others in a negative way. Stop viewing others as needing to change. Instead, look for the best. Trust me, you’ll get the best.

I hope you’ll try this, and let me know how it goes.



  • Susan Wallace Reply

    Rick, this is such a great story! I would add that it is important that we see ourselves as whole and terrific human beings. That one change in my mindset changed my life – thank you to my coach, Madison Surdyke for helping me see this important truth. My energy changed from listless and depressed to energetic and hopeful, my issues around weight shame disappeared, my only “job” was to feel good. After 4 sessions I started the plans to launch my own coaching business that has been a dream for 15-20 years. It will launch in September, I lost 25 pounds in 6 months with very little effort because I focused on having exactly what I wanted to eat when I wanted to each it. Trust in myself soared. How you think about yourself is who you will be. Speak love and encouragement to yourself and talk back to the gremlin. All the best, Susan

    • Rick Tamlyn Reply

      Susan, Brilliant…thx for your wisdom…love the phrase…”how you think about yourself is who you will be.” And huge congrats to the major life transitions you are making so successfully. Much continued success as you venture and expand your great coaching practice.
      Best always, Rick Tamlyn

  • Frank Wretzel Reply

    These are true words of wisdom from a very wise person. This axiom holds true in personal relationships as well as work related relationships. A very pain ful lesson I learned many years ago……….

    • Rick Tamlyn Reply

      Right on Frank….sending great vibes your way today and always.
      Best, Rick T.

  • Andrea Willets Reply

    Just love love love this story, Rick! I chuckled out loud because I could actually imagine the scene between you and Abbey…having that heart to heart real talk. And, it’s true…we train the world how to be in relationship with us. Thank you, for this “feel good” most important story. Sending lots of love!

    • Rick Tamlyn Reply

      Andrea…sending much love, light, ease and success your way…..I trust that all is well in your world. Always great to hear from you….u always bring a big smile to me when we connect.
      Best always,
      Ricky T.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.