The age-old question is, “Can you teach an old dog new tricks?” The obvious answer is “Yes,” because if a dog, or any animal for that matter, can’t learn new tricks, they don’t survive. Evolution isn’t about the survival of the strongest, but the most adaptable. Dogs have been learning new tricks for thousands of years. Scientists tell us dogs began hanging around humans because the dogs found out the humans would feed them. Since then, the dogs have learned that if they’re nice to humans, they’ll not only feed you but take you inside their house, feed you, and give you your own bed and free medical care.
Dogs also learned how to survive and if something isn’t necessary for the dog’s survival, the dog probably won’t do it. That’s why your dog won’t chase the ball anymore. They’ve learned that if they just sit there, you’ll go get the ball on your own and the dog won’t have to do anything.
Because the dog won’t chase the ball, most of us assume the dog is either dumb or lazy. Most dogs are neither. They’ve just learned some things matter and some things don’t.
What we call laziness, the dog might see as wisdom. After all, sometimes the smartest thing to do is nothing at all.
You can learn a lot from old dogs.
For that matter, you can learn a lot from old people as well. Okay, before you get offended about me calling people old, remember I’m 65. I’m old. When you can remember being excited about your new 8-track tape deck in your car, you’re old. I’m old and I’m okay with that. Most of my old friends are okay with it as well. None of us would trade where we are right now to go back to high school or college. Nope. No way. No how.
Sadly, we live in a disposable world. We think once something has reached a certain age, it’s obsolete and no longer useful. Even sadder is that we think the same thing about people. Once someone gets to a certain age, we think they can’t understand the stresses and challenges of our digital world.
What’s even more sad is that because we think this way, we don’t bother to sit down with people older than us, and even worse, we end up missing out on wisdom that only time can bring you. I’ve been fortunate to have had a lot of old friends and from them, I’ve learned what matters in life and what doesn’t. I’m infinitely richer because of their friendship.
Some things never change and people are one of those things that never really change. You think our young people are resisting the status quo? Some of my friends protested the Viet Nam war in the sixties. Some of them were thrown out of college for protesting.
Some of my friends marched with MLK in Birmingham and were beaten up for doing it.
Some of my friends built enormous companies and hold patents on things you and I use every day. The stories they can tell can’t be found on Google or YouTube.
You can, however, find them on the pew next to you in church. You probably know some in your neighborhood. Go see them. Have some coffee with them. You might be surprised.
For one thing, they’ll usually appreciate the company. Second, they’ll usually reward you with stories and insights you only get by living through them.
They know about long marriages. They know about raising children. They know about loneliness and grief, and disappointments and joys that can’t be captured in the movies. They know about life and they’ll share with you all they know if you’ll just take the time to listen.
They may never figure out Instagram, but who knows, maybe it’s not important to teach an old dog new tricks as much as it is to let the old dog teach you.
Old dogs know things. They know things so old they’ve become new again. And when you talk to them, you’ll be the one who learns new tricks.