It doesn't take much. The problem is that he gets so excited that he jumps and twirls and leaps. He snaps and licks and chomps - mostly accidentally. He weighs almost sixty pounds. Sixty pounds of unrestrained Golden Retriever puppy can be painful and scary and more than a little off-putting to his new friends.
So I find myself using the command "Settle!" with him on a regular basis. Sometimes it involves helping him sit and holding him firmly until he can get control of himself. Sometimes it involves turning him loose and letting him run the steam off and then talking to him. It always involves a calm voice and a deliberate effort on my part to be calm and soothing. Somehow yelling "Settle!" doesn't seem to work.
This time of year, I also use this command regularly with my students. Not quite as commanding as with Toby, but still firm. "Alright you guys, settle." or "Settle down now so we can get to lunch." or "Come on, settle yourselves."
It's interesting that I find myself using the word so much right now, because I have history with it. This is a word with multiple meanings, but to me it's always meant to accept less than I really want or need. As in - To settle for second best. To settle for a boring life because I'm too old and tired to find anything else. To settle for what I have because I don't really deserve better.
Lately, however, as I'm working with Toby I'm aware that I'm asking him to settle so he can have more of what he wants - love, fun, attention - not so I can deprive him of anything. It's the same with my kids. I ask them to settle so we can get work done, so they can learn, so we can enjoy each other's company. I'm not trying to take anything away from them. I want them to be able to have everything they need and as much of what they want as they can absorb.
I'm using Stephen Mitchell's tao te ching for a morning meditation right now. This is what I opened to on Saturday:
Close your mouth,
block off your senses,
untie your knots,
soften your glare,
settle your dust.
This is the primal identity.
I am being asked to be still in my life right now. To accept things as they are. I have been a roaring spring-swollen river, always in a hurry to somewhere else, muddy full of everything I sweep up mindlessly in my path. Now I find myself eddying gently - a pool born in the protection of a sacred cove. My surface is calm, the sediment settles to the bottom, and there is clarity. Sunlight shines through me revealing transparency all the way to the stones and mud of my bedrock.
I can feel the call and pull of the river. I may be her again one day. Or I may find all I need in this calm, clear pool of light and refreshing water. Settled.