Carl Mays: I witnessed hope in action this morning

Mar. 13, 2014 @ 11:15 PM

During an early morning walk in a city park today I saw a man and his chocolate Lab strolling my way. The dog suddenly sprinted from the man’s side and from the paved walkway, dashed across an open grassy area and sprinted toward a large tree. About the time the Lab reached the tree, the man and I met.

With a laugh he said, “She thinks she can catch a squirrel.” I replied, “Yes, I had a yellow Lab.”

One of the characteristics our dogs shared is the never-ending hope they would catch one of those pesky squirrels. Our yellow Lab Ginger lived for 1012 years. She never caught one. But, believe you me, she had hundreds of chances. Literally.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the verb “hope” as“to want something to happen or be true and think that it could happen or be true.” It defines the noun “hope” as “the feeling of wanting something to happen and thinking that it could happen.” Ginger and the chocolate Lab could relate to both the “hope” verb and noun.

As I continued my walk, I began to wonder if a dog had actually ever caught a squirrel. So when I returned home, I went on the Internet and keyed in: “Has a dog caught a squirrel?” I was surprised at the many online items and articles regarding the question. I was also surprised at the poles-apart experiences recorded.

One woman asked a forum the question: “How do you stop a dog from chasing squirrels?” She went on to say, “All our dogs have tried to catch squirrels despite our efforts to dissuade them. No squirrels have ever been caught in 33 years.” However, another woman wrote, “We feel badly because our whippet is 18 months old and has already caught and killed 10 grey squirrels...” Still another writer said his fox terrier has caught several squirrels.

In all, you can see hundreds, if not thousands, of comments about dogs chasing, not catching and catching squirrels. Then, of course, there is article after article and comment after comment regarding the dangers and deaths caused by dogs catching and/or being nipped or scratched by squirrels.

The sum of this information about dogs and squirrels caused me initially to think about a couple of things. First of all, there is real hope for the chocolate lab chasing squirrels this morning. And, yes, even though it is hard to believe, there was hope for Ginger. Secondly, though, some really bad things can happen to dogs that do fulfill their hopes. Serious diseases and deaths can result – not to mention the financial costs at stake.

Some “people lessons” then came to mind as I continued to consider the dog/squirrel thing. First of all, we need to make sure what we hope for is something we really want and need – and something for which we are truly willing to sacrifice and pay a price. Misplaced hopes and acquisitions can lead to things the hopers and achievers never really wanted or needed.

Secondly, after having seriously considered the first lesson, whatever your personal hope is today, don’t lose it. Even though doubt may creep in, discouragement may come, or others may laugh at it. Hope is hope. If you are sure it is what you want and what you need, then keep on planning and working toward it. Mark Twain was right on target when he said, “Lord save us all from a hope tree that has lost the faculty of putting out blossoms.”

Preceding Twain’s thought were the words of Joseph Addison: “Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.”

© 2014 by Carl Mays, National Speakers Association Hall of Fame member and author of over a dozen books. Email or visit