Why I Should Be More Like My Dog (and You Should, Too)

So you had a bad day at work. A plan fell through, your boss was mad at you, the deal didn’t work out, you missed your deadline, etc. You finally get into your car after the stressful day and make your way home. You open the door, and there is your dog, wagging his tail, slobbering as he bounds toward you without any hesitation. He’s unabashedly glad to see you, and tells you so by planting a huge, wet kiss on your face.

It’s no secret that dogs truly are man’s (and woman’s) best friend. From the earliest days of man, when wolves gobbled up the scraps we tossed them from our hunting ventures and domesticated themselves, dogs have been our companions. Throughout time, we have bred them, narrowed down desirable traits (physical and/or behavioral) and invited them into our families.

I, for one, was never a dog person until we adopted Posy 2 and a half years ago. Growing up, we always had cats. It wasn’t until I was in 7th grade that we adopted Mocha, a brown deer head chihuahua, and later, Bella, another of the same. Sweet as they were, they acted more like babies than actual dogs. So when I browsed the Humane Society of Northwest Georgia’s website and saw this:

posy-humane-society

I fell in love. What a sweet face!! That’s what a “real dog” looks like! I had to meet her!

Billy and I were moving into an apartment that allowed pets, and so I may or may not have convinced him to go to Adoption Day with me “just to see her.” Once we arrived at Tractor Supply, where the Humane Society had a tent set up out front, found her, and she flopped over on her back begging for tummy rubs, Billy and I knew she was ours. What I did NOT account for was how incredibly difficult it is to have a dog. Let alone one that is as stubborn as a mule (she’s half Basset Hound, half Boxer, 100% obstinate). A couple of months of trials and tribulations, tears, many ruined household items, and getting stuck on top of the cat tree (see below), and we settled into our groove with Posy. What we got in return was a friendly, affectionate, energetic housemate with whom to share the apartment.

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Fast forward two years, and we’re living in a house. We have since adopted another pooch, Pepper! We’re not sure what breeds she is (we lovingly call her a Heinz 57), but she has also found her place in our family. We adopted her from a friend of mine who rescued her from the side of the road, and though she is loving and comfortable with us, she is shy and nervous around every other person she encounters.

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Since I’ve become a dog owner two times over, I’ve learned a great deal about patience, forgiveness, and when to walk away from a fight (not literal ones, but you get the picture). Truth be told, I still don’t consider myself a “dog person,” per se; I think dogs are among the cutest and best creatures, but personality-wise, I am a “cat person” through and through. Cue picture of our first-born, yet not forgotten, Khaleesi, who fits her name very well:

khaleesi

But I think the most important lessons I’ve learned from pet ownership are more positive ones. Each day, I am delighted by my dogs’ unfailing good mood, their uninhibited displays of affection, their fierce loyalty, and their playful sensibility.

So…as an expansion of a previous post, here are four aspirations of mine, as inspired by my dogs.

1. Be unabashedly enthusiastic about the things that make you happy.

Life is hard enough without worrying about whether or not people will judge your every move. Everyone is different and has different things that make them happy. I, for one, enjoy bad 80’s music, classic literature, British television, vintage fashion, and collecting trinket boxes. I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve been looked at funny for having certain preferences in what I wear, what I listen to, how I speak, or what makes me laugh.

And you know what? Enough. Enough feeling bad for enjoying what I enjoy and judging others for things that make them happy. As long as people are not harming others, what does it matter? I aspire to be unapologetic in my flights of fancy, and to approach each of my hobbies and interests with relish and boundless enthusiasm, much like Posy and Pepper when they chase after a thrown tennis ball.

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2. Play hard, nap hard.

If there’s one thing that can be said about dogs, it’s that they do everything in extremes. My dogs, for example, are relatively young (Posy is almost 4, and Pepper is a little over a year old), so they are full of energy and put every fiber of their being into playtime. Conversely, when it’s quitting time, they are immovable lumps on the couches or their doggie beds.

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Waking up to their bursts of energy each morning makes for a very refreshing way to start the day. They are appreciative and loving when I come home at lunch to see them and let them outside for awhile. And the pups get so stirred up with joy when we get home from work for the day that they just don’t know what to do…they just do that adorable little prance/half-wiggle thing until I bend down to give them hugs (yes, both of my dogs hug.)

While those are very literal examples of the “play hard, nap hard” sensibility, a more figurative approach is appropriate for human behavior. Simply put, the gusto and dedication Posy and Pepper put into play time, meal time, and nap time can be translated as: give life everything you’ve got. We’re not guaranteed time, and so it is important that the moments we have are spent wisely. Every action (or inaction, like spending a lazy Sunday working on a blog post) should be met with full intention of purpose; every meal should be savored and appreciated for the fuel it provides, every book should be devoured for the beauty of the language it contains, and every day at work should be a celebration of your talent, your purpose within your organization, and the satisfaction of doing something productive.

3. Welcome new friends with open arms.

As anyone would say about me, I could talk to a brick wall. From the time I  was very young, I enjoyed making new friends. And as I got into college and took classes in communication, sociology, anthropology, and psychology, I learned more and more about human behavior, and why we make the choices, form the relationships, and fit into our respective cultures the way that we do. So I love nothing more than to sit down with someone and ask the simple question: What does a day at work look like for you?

If it is someone who is passionate about their line of work, they will immediately start talking excitedly about the tasks they are responsible for, the procedures they take to accomplish them, and what their particular job means to their organization. If it is not someone who is passionate about their line of work, the question does not yield a lengthy answer; instead, the person typically will start talking about their hobbies, or what they would prefer to be doing instead of their present job. Either way, a spark appears behind their eyes, the pace at which they speak quickens, and the sheer delight of talking to someone about what they love to do, whether it be for work or play, shines through.

That is what I love. And that is what I strive to continue to do; I strive to continuously make these connections, talk to people about what makes them happy, and welcome them into my life with open arms.

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“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”
Josh Billings (a.k.a. Henry Wheeler Shaw; humorist and lecturer)

4. Love unconditionally.

This is a hard concept for a lot of people, but very few dogs. Your dog does not mind if you’re having a bad hair day. He doesn’t care if you’re black, white, purple, or polka-dotted. He doesn’t have a concept of religion, so it doesn’t matter if you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Pastafarian.

All your dog knows it that you are the most important person in his life. You’re his human. You’re the first person he sees in the morning, and the last one he sees before bedtime. And he loves you without question.

Shouldn’t we be inspired by this? Shouldn’t we strive to be more accepting, more tolerant, and more loving? It’s so easy to get caught up in our differences that I think we sometimes fail to remember that we are all humans. We have that in common. Maybe we should take a page from Posy’s book and welcome each interaction and seek connection.

 

So that’s the end of my (somewhat weird) blog post. At the end of the day, wanting to be like a dog is a silly suggestion; but at its core, the principal stands. We should all look at life like these innocent, adoring creatures, and cherish the good over the bad.

After all…life is short, but every dog has its day.

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For information about how to adopt a cat or dog (adopt, don’t shop!), contact your local Humane Society. For my local friends, visit the Humane Society of Northwest Georgia’s website, hsnwga.org. If you’re not in a position to adopt, they are always looking for volunteers! If you are not from the NW Georgia area, you can find info on your local Humane Society branch and other organizations from which to adopt pets here.