The Pissing Match

Updated: May 14

Should competition go to the dogs? The answer seems to be as complicated as getting the pee smell out of my carpet.

There’s been a lot of pee in my house lately. The puppy has just turned six months, and for the past few weeks, my dogs have been at it.


One dog will mark his area, and then before I even get a chance to clean it up, the other one has left another spot for me.


The two dogs have been going back and forth like this for the past few weeks—destroying carpet, urine and enzyme cleaner smell lingering, so much time and energy wasted. I read that it might help if my husband “marks the territory,” but so far I haven’t been able to talk him into scattering his pee around the living room. It’s probably for the best.


In the pandemic world, it’s a bit tricky to accept new realities, but this one might be pushing it. Fortunately, the pandemic has also put on hold on any indoor entertaining plans, a small consolation, indeed. It's hard to make sense of it though. Their competition seems so pointless. Both have all they need. They are safe. They are cared for. They are loved. Why does this survival instinct of competition remain, causing so much frustration and damage, and yield little gain? Booking a vet appointment for the puppy brings a sense of hope, but the daily pissing match remains a struggle.

Then again, it's not just the dogs.


Maybe you can relate? Part of the challenge is of course social media. I’ve rejected social media out of protection for years. Perfectionism and fear of judgment and criticism seemed like barriers not worth the trouble to tear down. The what if's start to attack; fears form, what if words become weaponized, spinning out of control taking on a life of their own? Out of the context of a face-to-face ongoing relationship or daily events of the day, it seems so easy to be misunderstood or misinterpreted.


Yet, social media also serves as a tool for connection and community, bringing together like-minded people who might not be able to connect otherwise or exposing people to different viewpoints, if you are open to it, within your friend networks.


It’s easy though to discount what you do and your contribution because someone out there is doing something similar or bigger or better.


We tend to forget how we were inspired in the first place. The actions of the people around us are influential. Website, blogging, and podcasting technology existed for years, but the idea and impulse for me to create through these platforms didn’t hit until my own students allowed me to see these things in a different way. For me that is the power of everyday leadership. Your neighbor who starts her home-based side hustle baking cakes inspires another one to pick up photography again.


Galatians 6:4 instructs, “But each one must carefully scrutinize his own work [examining his actions, attitude, and behaviors], and then he can have the personal satisfaction and inner joy of doing something commendable without comparing himself to another.”

“But each one must carefully scrutinize his own work [examining his actions, attitude, and behaviors], and then he can have the personal satisfaction and inner joy of doing something commendable without comparing himself to another.” Galatians 6:4

Nevertheless, our need to compare runs deep.


I distinctly remember in the second grade, our class talked too much for the last time. My teacher, Mrs. Browne drew the final S on RECESS, and we all knew what that meant. We lost our morning recess for the day.


“You will spend the next 10 minutes, writing out of the dictionary. Just write as much as you can for the ten minutes, and then I will collect your papers,” she announced to the class.


In retrospect, I see now that my teacher was explaining we simply needed to keep writing for the ten minutes, but that is not how seven year-old me took this direction. Instead, I took this as a personal challenge. How much could I write in ten minutes? I thought I could probably write a lot. As I took out my piece of paper from my unicorn trapper keeper and looked over at my friend Jenny, I decided I was surely going to try to write as much as she did and maybe even more.


“And begin,” Mrs. Browne called to us. “Just keep writing.”


I opened to the first word I saw: “aardvark, noun, a nocturnal burrowing mammal with long ears, a tubular snout, and a long extensible tongue, feeding on ants and termites. Aardvarks are native to Africa and have no close relatives.” I was already through the first one.


Glancing over at Jenny, I saw that her eyes were focused intently, and her hand was moving faster than mine. No time to waste I thought.


“Abbreviated. Adjective. Constituting a shorter or smaller version of.”


As my eye turned to the clock and then back to Jenny and then back to the page, I knew what I needed to do. So I took a deep breath and pushed myself even more, eyes darting from the dictionary to the page, and then I got so I didn’t even have to look back at my paper. I could sense where the line was, my hand gripping the pencil, my eyes staying fixed on the next word.


“Aspire, verb,” I was almost to the bottom of the first page. "Direct one’s hopes or ambitions toward something."


Yes, keep moving. Wow, I am fast. Look how fast I’m doing this!


Just then I heard the crinkle of paper and saw a motion catch the corner of my eye. Jenny flipped the page. But how? I was moving so fast? How could she possibly be moving faster?


“Athlete, noun.”


Then I saw it. Jenny’s page said B on it. She’s at the B’s already?


I glance down to my next word, “Azobenzene.” What? I never even heard of this one?


“Okay, class, pencils down.”


I remember the feeling. Disappointment.


Looking back, I’m not sure why I manufactured this competition out of a pointless task. As I walked my paper up to the large wooden desk, I noticed that some others turned in half sheets of paper. Weren't they supposed to go as fast as they could? Weren't they supposed to write more? What will happen to them I thought? Will they get in trouble? What will the teacher say to them?


Mrs. Browne never said anything to them, and I did not get rewarded for my multiple page accomplishment. I returned to my seat and closed up my trapper keeper a bit confused.

It didn’t matter. The competition I manufactured in my mind was just in my mind.

While it served a motivating purpose in one way, it also led to feeling disappointment in my own result and a sense of separateness from other people. It caused me to look to someone else for validation and then feel disappointment when that person failed to recognize just how quickly I could copy the dictionary after all.


While it served a motivating purpose in one way, it also led to feeling disappointment in my own result and a sense of separateness from other people.

Then again, we had a chatty class, and soon enough RECESS would appear in its entirety on the green chalkboard. I would have my time.


The puppy curls up to my right hand clutching the cleaning rag, and I sigh a breathy half-laugh. Oh, doggies. I get it. It's hard. You don't need to.


The older dog approaches to my left.


Maybe I should train them to copy the dictionary instead?