Nine Life Lessons Learned from My Dog
I was going through old posts and found this one. I thought you might enjoy seeing it again. Smarty is almost six years old now and is still teaching me. If you have a dog, you understand. If you don’t have a dog, maybe you should consider getting one. A rescue dog is ideal as a teacher. Life lessons learned from my dog have been some of the most profound teachings I have experienced. Here’s what I said when he was a puppy and, so, I reiterate:
When Smarty was a pup
My puppy is now just over a year old, and he is almost as big as our other dog, Shadow. I thought he was fully grown until he had another growth spurt. Now I have no idea how big he’ll get. It didn’t think he had big feet until lately when it seems like they’ve doubled in size. If it’s true that you can predict the size of a dog by the size of his feet, I’m in trouble. Yikes!
It has been interesting to watch him grow and develop and, I must admit, I have learned a lot about myself in his metamorphosis from a puppy to a dog.
A quirky pup
He is a quirky pup. He loves his egg for breakfast, for example, and when I say, “It’s egg time” his ears perk up so fast it looks like they will fly right off his head. No matter how asleep he is, the word “egg” is an immediate wake-up call, and he jumps off the loveseat where he sleeps and follows me to the kitchen. He knows that if he comes in the kitchen, he might get put outside. Fear of missing out on his egg keeps hi
m sitting in the living room at the door to the kitchen, never crossing the line to come in.
He watches every move I make until the eggs are made. As soon as I pick up the plate, he makes a mad dash for his dish, and his egg is gone before I get started on mine. He always begs for more.”Sorry, Smarty, they’re all gone” sends him back to the loveseat in the office, and he’s asleep again before I finish—probably dreaming about getting another egg.
He plays hard, chasing balls or his rubber chicken. I throw them but he won’t bring them back and will look at me as if to say, “If you want it, you go get it.” The frisbee is more of a challenge, but he’s working on it. His energy is endless up to a point. When he’s tired, that’s it! He plops down right in the middle of a glorious game of fetch and goes to sleep. After a bit of a nap, he will drag himself to the loveseat and get a proper snooze in a more comfortable place.
He has an endless amount of love to offer and likes equally to receive praise, pats, ear scratching, and belly rubs. He is an “equal opportunity” love receiver, not particular about who the love comes from, just as long as it’s directed his way—frequently.
The only really disagreeable thing he does is bark at any sound he hears outside. My office is on the street side of the house and is generally quiet. He doesn’t bark at cars unless they stop nearby, but the sounds of the neighborhood children send him into a spasm of ear-splitting barking. Other sounds he doesn’t recognize does the same. I think he is going to be a great watch dog when he’s a little bigger but right now he needs to learn when it’s o.k. to bark and when it’s not. “Lotsa luck on that one,” I say to myself.
So what does this have to do with self-improvement?
So what does any of this have to do with self-improvement and with what I’ve learned? Actually, a lot.
He is a creature of habit as most of us are. Some of his habits are fun, funny and acceptable and some, like the barking, are not. Like most of us, he needs some habit-modification, and that comes with maturity, learning new acceptable habits, and lots of practice and reinforcement as the new habits are being formed. He loves praise and responds to it well.
What about you?
What about you? I know I need praise and reinforcement now and then when I’m trying to stop an old habit and replace it with something more acceptable. And I know that others need it as well, and I need to be more aware of when someone else needs praise and reinforcement for their efforts and successes.
He knows what he wants
Unlike most puppies, he runs away when he sees the leash. He hates the leash because he wants to run free and unfettered through the neighborhood—such fun—and doesn’t like to be tethered.
Many of us humans aren’t clear about what we want and often think those around us are supposed to know intuitively what we desire. I don’t always let people know what I want and need and am then surprised when I don’t get it. How dumb is that?
Again, what about you?
What about you? Do you know what you want and what you truly need? Are you able to share this with someone else when you need some help? And don’t we all want to “run” free and unfettered?
Loves to be loved
He loves to be loved. Me too. I have always been reticent about letting others know when I need some attention, some kudos, some recognition, some love. It really is o.k. to say to your significant other, “What I really want/need right now is …” Make it safe for them to say that to you in return.
And what about “unconditional love?”
And while we’re at it, let’s talk about “unconditional love.” I don’t think I’ve ever truly seen it in a human, but it definitely comes from this little dog. He doesn’t say, “I’d love you more if you gave me two eggs or I ‘d love you more if you took me off the leash. ” He just loves! No conditions. Total acceptance.
To sum it up
To sum it up what I have learned from Smarty is:
- Take care of my own needs: rest when I’m tired, eat when I’m hungry, have fun and run free when I get a chance.
- Fully enjoy the things I love like he enjoys his morning egg!
- Accept others just the way they are.
- Bark if something scares you but don’t bark unnecessarily.
- Create my own boundaries and be respectful of the boundaries of others (otherwise there will be no egg).
- Know what unconditional love looks like. Give it.
- Have eternal hope that there will always be another ____________ (for Smarty, it’s another egg, another belly rub, another illicit run in the neighborhood).
- Life is supposed to be fun
- Just “to be.”
Six-year-old Smarty is still teaching me, and I’m trying to be an attentive student. Sometimes he looks at me as if to ask, “Aren’t you ever gonna ‘get it'”?
I’m workin’ on it, Smarty. I’m workin’ on it. Thanks for being such a patient teacher.