It’s been said you can’t trust somebody who doesn’t like dogs. Regardless of your stance on this quote, there’s a lot we can learn from the relationships we have with our canine friends. Since I’m having a ‘field trip’ with my girlfriends dogs today, I picked up a few things I thought worth sharing.
Dogs love unconditionally – When you’ve had a rough day, dogs tend to have a sense of knowing you need a quiet head to scratch or an affectionate lick on the arm. I think it’s very interesting that they seem to know – and understand how to relate – to what you’re feeling at any given time.
Patience is a virtue – Anybody who is considering having a child should first have a dog. Period. One of the most important things I’ve seen in successful parenting is being patient, loving, compassionate and firm at the same time. You’ve got to be concerned with the ‘big picture’, rather than the fact that your once-alone life has been radically reshaped by the priorities of your children. The day-to-day duties behind caring for a dog, such as regular walks, feeding, bathing, love, care and (they’re currently barking like crazy at a passing dog) the disturbance they bring to your normally-quiet lifestyle are a must-have discipline.
Empathy – Whereas a human will tell you what they’re feeling or what they need, a dog tends to require more observation and care when they’re hurting, hungry, or desperately need to relieve themselves. You start to notice the little signs and warnings that pop up that often go unnoticed by others. A tap dance by the door, licking an empty bowl, or sad eyes give notice to your duty to provide them with attention.
Human interaction – They say alcohol is the ‘social lubricant’ that can bring people together and become more open with each other. Dogs trump this by a landslide. I ran into 8-10 people during our morning walk through the park and every single one of them stopped to say hello, compliment the dogs, or smile. A couple taking engagement pictures stopped their shoot long enough to say hello at the dogs. “If you want your pictures taken with them, they charge $50 per photo.”
Living in places like New York City or Los Angeles can give you the feeling that many people are only interested in themselves and their own interests. However, we were stopped this morning by a walking couple who wanted to tell me there was broken glass just ahead on the sidewalk. Had it just been me walking, I doubt the gentleman would have stopped me.
They’re a natural conversation starter. An elderly couple stopped to ask me where one of the dogs was bred, as she looked very similar to one of their breeder friends’ dogs. The woman affectionately stooped down to pet the dogs and tell them how beautiful and good looking they are, while the husband and I chatted.
A man walking from a run, another waiting for a bus, and another couple chatting by a parked car all stopped and gave a “Good morning”, while the gentleman in the couple stopped to ask what kind of breeds the dogs were and how beautiful the coat was on the brindle dog. 15-20 people working on an outdoor construction project stopped to stare at the dogs, with a few children waving hello. Community service project.
Outdoors – We often fail to notice the natural beauty of our world. Millions of vein-covered leaves cover the trees outside. Each one beautiful enough to observe under the detail of a microscope, or hang between the glass on a picture frame. Frogs jumping through the grass, ducks in the water, and squirrels chasing through trees also tend to go unnoticed. Not by dogs. They force you to stop your walk and pay attention to these small details that offer us a reminder of how beautiful the outside world is, and how freely accessible it is to us to enjoy, love, and share with those we care about. (one dog is licking my knee)
Quiet time – I remember a few weeks ago, I was laying in bed, watching TV, and had (still licking) both dogs on either side of me. When you share this experience with somebody you deeply care about, it’s hard not to feel as if you’re in the midst of a happy family. Like the beauty of the outdoors, even the quiet moments watching Real Housewives can transform into a beautiful moment that feels infinite and free.
Sharing – When I first met these dogs, I remember eating a meal and avoiding eye contact with them as I ate. “If I don’t look at them, or feed them, they won’t get used to eating my food.” Looking back, I have no idea what I was thinking! I now plan on feeding them 10-20% of whatever food I’ve set out, and enjoy sharing it with them. It’s almost like you get the benefit of eating good food with the added appreciation you’ve shared it with somebody else. They love pizza. Watching the barely-breathing face of one of the dogs, waiting for pizza, always make me smile and wonder what she’s thinking; “If I don’t move a muscle, I’ll get pizza. OK, I’ll do it. Look how good I’m being!”
Patience (again) – Unless you’re on the depraved side, there’s almost nothing enjoyable about cleaning up feces, urine, or vomit. However, when you know that you love and care for a dog, and realize they probably didn’t do the dirty deed to upset you or ruin your carpet, you’re able to take this once-disgusting task and add it to the list of the required joys of caring for a dog. I prefer to pick up dog poop than urine, as the urine tends to soak through the paper towels and get onto my hands. Dog vomit is my least favorite of all. Yet these little labors of love prepped me for other acts of love that I was able to laugh about while they happened. How does vomit get in the sink?!
There is nothing enjoyable about a dog facing its butt at you, inches away from your face, and releasing a putrid stream of gas as you’re mid-inhale. Nothing.
All in all, getting to know more about dogs through the experience of caring for them has taught me a lot about life, others, and myself. I would have never thought myself to be a ‘dog person’ but now can’t imagine my life without canine companionship. They’re an added joy that’s been a big part of the many life changes I’ve been blessed with this year.
They’re finally calm and quiet. A good time to finish this blog.