“Dogs are better than human beings because they know but do not tell.”
I was at a meeting today of volunteers at my local hospital and catching up with my friend, Norma. Imagine Norma’s reaction when my first words were, “I’m a new mom!” Following her stammered response, “Whaaat…how…..?”, I laughed and said, “No, a miracle has not occurred. We got a new puppy this weekend.”
Are you a dog lover? I know I am. I’ve had dogs my entire life, usually in pairs. So, when Titan crossed the rainbow bridge a few months ago, it was only a matter of time before we would find Chuck a new brother or sister.
I’ve never bought a dog in my life. They’ve all been adopted and philosophically, I believe in and support pet adoption/rescue. We have far too many unwanted dogs in this country and around the world. I wish the dog-breeding business would go out of business. Having said that, I just bought a high-priced, purebred, Welsh Terrier puppy. So, why the hypocrisy on my part? When I started registering with pet adoption organizations, I quickly discovered how few terrier mixes are available in my region of the U.S. What few are available are typically either senior or have health issues. Every time I found one that seemed like a good fit, some other adoptive parent beat me to the punch. It was very frustrating. Jim, on the other hand, wanted another purebred Welshie like Chuck. Essentially, I gave in!
Now, a week after we went to western Virginia to pick up Hunter, our new puppy, from the breeder, I don’t care whether he is purebred or a mutt. He is adorable and he is my baby! As I watch Hunter careening across the floor, stopping only long enough to chew on a chair leg, I find myself thinking about the how much we love our dogs and how much happiness they bring to our lives. According to Cathy Hull, our furry friends can teach us a lot about living a mindful life. (https://tinybuddha.com/blog/what-dogs-teach-us-about-peace-joy-and-living-in-the-now/). Here are some mindful life lessons we can learn from our dogs:
- Connect with others. It was love at first sight when I first met Hunter on the breeder’s farm in the Allegheny Mountains. He jumped into my arms with total abandon, licking my face, ears, neck and anything else he could find! Upon returning home eight hours later, he greeted Chuck with the same boundless joy! Admittedly, Chuck was a bit more reserved but he is getting used to sharing his “territory” now. Our human connections with others can benefit by less “manners” and more joy. What might that look like for us since licking faces probably wouldn’t work?
- Live for today. How does it happen that we forget how to enjoy the present moment and spend so more time thinking about things we cannot change? As I write this, Hunter is chewing on his new teether bone and Chuck is barking at the squirrels outside the picture window. With apologies to my loving husband, Jim, he is watching a TV news show and railing at the latest White House scandal. Probably not a mindful activity. Mindfulness means appreciating every moment as it comes and being grateful for what we have. Hull says, “Like all animals, when we live in the present, we can have more enthusiasm, joy for life, and less worry.”
- Dogs don’t hold grudges. In their packs, dogs rarely have a conflict. They solve their problems, move one, and don’t worry about what happened yesterday. For us, forgiveness is very difficult but can bring peace and the ability to move on with our lives.
- Set clear boundaries. We teach our dogs what acceptable behavior is and is not. When rules are clear, and enforced consistently, dogs do well. However, in our human relationships, we often have a hard time setting boundaries. Being clear about relationship expectations and being willing to enforce consequences for unacceptable behavior is confusing – when do we forgive and when do we walk away? Can we forgive AND walk away? I want to explore this topic more in the future.
- Make every day special. Dogs find everyday life exciting! Every meal is thrilling; every walk is an adventure; every visitor is cause for jubilation! Our work, our jobs, and our chores can be opportunities for mindfulness too, instead of the usual drudgery. I love the following from Lori Deschene:
“I’ve decided to get more deliberate with my household tasks; to actually schedule them, instead of squeezing them between things I want or need to do. Mindfully completing a simple household task can be like skipping a pebble on a pond, sending ripples of Zen into the day.” ((https://tinybuddha.com/blog/mindfulness-in-everyday-tasks-5-ways-chores-can-make-you-happier/)
From “A Lamp in the Darkness: Illuminating the Path Through Difficult Times.”
By Jack Kornfield
Thank you to Tim Brownson for sharing this, in a paraphrased form, on his blog.
“If you can start the day without caffeine,
If you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,
If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,
If you can eat whatever food is put on your plate and be grateful for it,
If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time,
If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,
If you can watch friends go away on exotic vacations when you have to stay at home, without even a twinge of jealousy.
If you can face the world without lies and deceit,
If you can relax without beer, wine, or liquor,
And if you can sleep without the aid of drugs,without the aid of drugs,
Then you are probably a dog.”