I love dogs. Over the years I've had five different dogs. Different sizes and different breeds, but all considered a part of the family. I've enjoyed observing their behavior and often thought that we as humans, in certain respects, would benefit if some of our behaviors were more like that of our dogs. So, I've created this list of "life lessons" that I've learned from my canine friends.
1. Love unconditionally.
Dogs love their human families without limitation. They love us without condition of wealth, job status, religion, age, or physical beauty. They don't base their love on test scores or grades, clean or messy rooms, hair color or length. They love us when we are happy and feeling good and they love us when we are feeling down and depressed. You can always count on your dog to love you, even if you've made poor choices. They love us because we are their family and that is enough. You are enough.
2. Be loyal
Loyalty is described as being faithful and devoted. A dog would never be unfaithful or disloyal to a member of its family. They don't try to take advantage of anyone. They will stick with you through both the good and bad times. Loyalty creates a strong bond. It's being supportive of another not because you expect something back, but because you want to see that person happy. Loyalty helps create an enduring relationship.
3. Be happy
Dogs in general are happy with life. They are happy just to be in your presence. They are happy when given a treat, taken for a walk, or played with. The small events of daily life make them happy. We should follow their example and choose to be happy now. Don't wait for the new job or promotion, the new house, or loosing 20 pounds to be happy. Seize the moment and find happiness in the simple things of life.
4. Live in the present
Dogs live in the moment. What ever is happening now is where they focus their attention. How often do we forget to live in the present? We may choose to relive in our mind movie, something from our past. Over and over we replay the event, good or bad. Or, we may be totally focused on what we need to do in the future. Have you ever been on vacation and spent time thinking about all you had to do when you get home? Or have you been with family or friends and let your attention drift to other places instead of living in the moment with those you're sharing time with now? Really, all we have in life is the present time, the past is gone and the future may not come. Live in the moment and enjoy life. Don't always be looking at some future or past event. Remember the journey is the destination, so enjoy the journey now.
5. Greet everyone with a smile and a hello.
My dog greets everyone she sees. It doesn't matter if she knows them or not. It doesn't matter their age, social status, or how they are dressed. She loves people and greets everyone with a bark and a wagging tail. What would our world be like if everyone one we passed on the street just smiled at us, if everyone we sat by on the airplane said hello? What if when we entered an elevator the person already in there said, "good morning"? Change it around. Would we make a difference in the world by smiling at everyone we passed on the street, by saying hello to the person we sit by on the airplane, and by saying good morning as we boarded the elevator? Such simple things could change the outcome of someone's day. That someone might even be you.
6. Always greet your loved ones with joy and enthusiasm.
When family members come to our house, our dog is overjoyed to see them. She jumps, dances and barks to let them know they are welcome and wanted. We should be so welcoming and happy to see those we love, perhaps then they will also want to see us.
7. Be ready to play at a moments notice.
My dog loves to play. It's simple things like tug the rope, fetch the ball, or chase. People would do well to play more. Play is a source of relaxation and it is important to our mental and physical health. It helps relieve stress and makes life more pleasant. Sharing laughter and fun with others strengthens relationships and is a good antidote to loneliness and feelings of depression. Play makes us feel happy and joyful. Remember when your mother used to say, "Turn off the TV and go out and play"? She was very wise. My dog understands this too.
8. Enjoy a walk.
My dog is always ready to go for a walk. She seems happier, more relaxed, and content after a little exercise, fresh air, and a change of scenery. It helps keep her healthy and fit. Imagine that. No more needs to be said here.
9. Go outside and enjoy the being in nature.
Dogs love to be outside enjoying the sites and smells around them. They love an outing to the park, the lake, the mountains, or anywhere else as long as they are outside. Humans also need some sort of connection with nature. For some it may be found in gardening, for others hiking, camping or just sitting by a stream. Research abounds confirming the benefits of spending time in nature. Some of the benefits include stress reduction, improved self-confidence, and a feeling of connectedness. For many, spending time in nature also leads to a sense of spirituality and an appreciation and connection to powers greater than oneself.
10. Take a nap in the sun.
On any given day my dog can be found napping in the warmth of the sun. She will move from one spot to another to enjoy a good warm nap. Napping is good for us too. It's good to relax and rest. After a good nap one feels more energized and alert. Napping helps us resist burnout and improves our ability to concentrate and be creative, not to mention improves our mood. Unfortunately in the workaholic culture in which we live, a mid-day nap is frowned upon. Too bad American culture doesn't embrace the daily siesta enjoyed in other cultures and by my dog.
Thanks to my dog I have learned some valuable life lessons, now to live them.