Thirteen years ago, we lived in a little slice of Americana, a picture perfect community of colorful houses with front porches and meandering sidewalks. Kids roamed in thundering herds. The fish bit. The prairie waved. Doors were unlocked.
It was the kind of place that made you wonder if you had stumbled upon a movie set.
We had a dog, Barley, a Goldendoodle, who was as sweet as they come, but not blessed with brains, bless her heart. She was profoundly thick. All who knew her loved her, you couldn’t help but love her. She was, however, without a doubt, the dumbest dog. Her lack of brains was legendary.
As was my routine, I would send my older kids off to school in the mornings, tuck my son into his stroller and take Barley for a walk. We had miles of trails to walk, through prairies, farmlands and along hedgerows.
This morning, I headed down the trail to the farm near my house. I especially loved the hedgerow there, a wild patch of trees and shrubs that bordered the cornfield. It felt like you were deep in a forest, a million miles away, yet only steps off the trail. It smelled of damp leaves. It rustled only with the sounds of nature. Bliss.
Like so many times before, I parked the stroller on the trail, and walked down into the hedgerow with the baby in one arm, dog on leash in the other.
This particular morning, the dog resisted. She didn’t want to go into the woods. She loved the woods as much as I did; it was highly unusual. It was like her feet had been planted in the ground. She pulled on her leash. I tugged back and scolded her for being difficult. We walked in deeper and she started to whimper, pleading at me with her eyes.
I froze. Chills washed over me. My palms prickled. My stomach flipped. I dropped the leash and ran. I ran most of the way home before I even stopped to put my son back in his stroller. My hands were still shaking.
The next day, a woman was raped, beaten and left for dead in the same area I had been standing the day before. I am certain the rapist was there that morning. I am certain my dog sensed something was ‘off’. I believe my dog saved our lives that day.
I have relived that moment a thousand times in my mind. It still haunts me. What if I disregarded my dog’s warnings? What if I continued to correct her for her obstinance? What if I had reasoned my way out of feeling panicked, I mean nothing bad had ever happened there? What if I had ignored my gut? What if…
We hear dramatic stories of people exiting planes before take-off only to have the plane go down in flames mid-flight.
Not all intuition stories are that powerful.. Sometimes our gut speaks quietly about seemingly meaningless matters. We probably all have heard that when taking a test, you should go with your first instinct, go with your gut.
Maybe you stay away from creepy people in car parks or elevators but you ignore your gut when it comes to trusting a co-worker or date. Why do we insist on being polite when our gut tells us to run? Why do we avoid seeing a doctor when our gut tells us something is wrong? Why do we overrule our gut when it begs us not to trust (or to trust) someone? Why do people marry partners with red flags flying? Why do we hold back words that we know need to be said? Why don’t we take chances? Believe in ourselves?
How well do you honor your intuition? Are you willing to listen to your gut? What has ignoring your intuition cost you? Have there been consequences for rationalizing away a gut feeling?
From health to relationships to jobs to safety, we owe it to ourselves to hone our intuition skills. We all have a voice that doesn’t use words. We need to give ourselves permission to listen.