I kind of thought I had life figured out; and then I adopted a dog. They're some of the smartest animals on the planet, but they're still animals — which had me believe that they had to be kind of stupid too. The joke was on me, though, because I was soon to discover things our dogs teach us that I'm pretty sure we can learn only from these fuzzy, four-legged friends.
As I sit here writing this, my toy terrier Neo is busy smelling his foot, which he has been doing for the last minute and a half, at least. My dachshund Dood is licking the air, occasionally taking a break only to sniff his own behind. These, ladies and gentlemen, are my pets. I had dogs growing up, but they were never my dogs. I was just a kid, never fully responsible for the ups and downs that come with owning a pet.
Upon welcoming one and then a second canine into our home, it dawned on me: I don't know squat about life. I thought I didn't stand to learn much from creatures who startle themselves with their own farts, but I was horribly mistaken. Here are seven valuable lessons I learned from my pups.
1What Loving Unconditionally Really Means
Right after I vacuum our entire couch — and all the pillows — Neo likes to do this thing where he jumps on it and rubs his body over every square inch of fabric. This upsets me greatly, and I usually yell a string of expletives. I'm pissed and he's clueless, which upsets me even more. "I can't even look at you right now," I tell him. And then he gets it. He knows he's upset me. His ears droop and he just watches me quietly from the other room. Of course, I then feel guilty for losing my temper on him.
About four minutes later, he jumps up on my lap and starts licking my eyelids. It's probably because he's already forgotten what's happened and he's full of so much love that he can't help but burst with it. He's already forgiven me for yelling, and just wants to cuddle. Neo loves me no matter what I say or do, because that's what loving unconditionally means; and I believe our dogs are better at it than we are. They don't care what you look like or if you flunked a test at school or got an awful haircut. They're just happy to see you.
2How To Enjoy The Little Things In Life
When we get something delivered to our house, it's like Christmas morning for Neo every single time. Nothing gives him greater pleasure than sniffing whatever package was dropped off for a few minutes at least. He thoroughly inspects every inch of it until he's satisfied. He also likes to watch me do laundry. I don't know why.
Dood likes to dance. He stands up on his hind legs and wiggles. He's got better moves than I do, for certain.
These dogs don't need Wifi to be happy. They don't need fancy phones or Netflix or constant entertainment. They're a reminder to us to enjoy the smaller things in life, to find joy even in the mundane. Next time UPS delivers a package, try sniffing it.
3Showing Genuine Affection
No affection is more genuine than when a dog tries to lick the inside of your nose. Can you imagine how much he must love you if he wants to do that? My dogs remind me every day that when you love someone, you shouldn't be afraid to show it; because really — why hold those feelings in? Most of us only have a handful of people we feel genuinely close to; there's nothing wrong with trying to lick the inside of their nose. Or just tell them how much they mean to you. Either way. You get the idea.
4Patience Is A Virtue
Here's something we can learn from our dogs not because they're so good at it, but because they test ours every single day: patience. My dogs test my patience when I take them out to go potty, because they don't just go to the bathroom. First, they have to sniff the bug they found. Then that weed. Then that rock. Then they bark at the wind. Then the neighbor dog barks, so they bark back. Then they have to stake out a good area, sniff all the rocks — no wait, this spot is no good. Let's try that spot over there.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, JUST URINATE.
But I can't force them to do it, no matter how bad I want to. So I sit there cursing under my breath and wait until they find just the right rock to pee on. See? Patience.
5Never Hold Grudges
I'm lucky dogs are so forgiving, because I've yelled at mine a lot; and there's something we can learn here. When someone does something to hurt our feelings, it stings, and we have a hard time truly forgiving them. Even when we think we've forgiven, a lot of the time, the hurt is still lingering there somewhere beneath the surface.
When Dood goes pee-pee on the kitchen floor right after I've washed it, and I yell at him, he'll be sad for a few minutes. But not long after, he's two inches from my face, sniffing me all over and sneaking in a few kisses here and there. He's forgiven me for yelling at him, and now I need to forgive him for ruining the entire kitchen — I mean, uh, having an accident. The world keeps turning; and no matter what happens, you have to find a way to move on.
6Stop And Smell The Roses
Literally. Dogs stop to smell the roses, the grass, the dirt, the pebbles, your shoe. Nothing is ever so important that they can't stop and appreciate the tiny things in life. This is something we lose as we get older and our responsibilities consume us: the ability to hit the pause button and notice something beautiful.
7Live In The Moment
Humans are so caught up in the past — something someone said yesterday, how strict our parents were growing up, the stern talking to you got from your boss when you showed up late to work this morning because you stopped at Starbucks first and the line was longer than normal.
We're also so heavily consumed by the future: how we're going to pay off our debt, the next plane trip we're anxious about, what to get your SO for their birthday. Sometimes, we think about the future so much that we ignore what's right in front of us.
You pooch probably doesn't remember that something awful happened this morning. He's not worried about tomorrow. If you take him to the park or give him a t-r-e-a-t or throw his favorite squeaky ball, there's only one thing he's thinking: "This is freaking awesome!" No one knows how to live in the moment like dogs do.