Life Lessons from A Dog

Lessons and learnings are sometimes given through the most unlikely of teachers. Oftentimes, those teachers aren’t human. The animals that are in our lives have pearls of wisdom to impart if only we stop to see and listen. Maggie, my quirky, joyful, and ever constant hiking, and couch companion has shown me what it is to be open to understanding what is important in life. 

Life Lessons According to Maggie.

Love. 

Unconditionally. 

Even when you’ve been hurt by someone. Even when you think that each person who shows you kindness may hurt you again. 

It may take time and effort to overcome that past hurt, but you can love again – and you will. Even a rescue dog that starts out cowering in a corner, terrified of human touch and wary of kindness has the capacity to let themselves be loved – and to return that love.

Do what makes you happy. Don’t care what other people think of you.

Don’t be afraid to look ridiculous in front of other people. Their opinion of your actions and how you live your life doesn’t matter. Maggie couldn’t care less what people think when she drops to roll on the sidewalk just because that’s what makes her happy in that moment. Roll on that sidewalk, tear across the office with your toy in your mouth – shaking it like you want to rip it to shreds, somersault across the field – do what brings a smile to your face and makes your heart sing. 

Ask for what you need.

Feeling like you need some attention or physical contact? Ask for it. Feeling like you need some space. Make that known. Need to play and frolic and burn off some steam with someone you adore? Put it out there. Your choice of how to ask may differ from a dog’s pawing or toy bringing behaviour but find your mode of communication and use it. Without shame or guilt for having needs. 

If you see something that you want, go after it.

Don’t ever give up on something that you really want. Be beautifully stubborn and determined in your pursuit of a dream. If that squirrel that you are forever convinced would be yours runs up a tree, don’t let anything persuade you from trying to climb to get it. My dog has never achieved her holy grail quest for a squirrel but that doesn’t stop her from believing that one day she will. Lots of time to ponder that determination as we stand at the tree trunk while she comes to the realization that she can’t, in fact, climb trees.  

Stop to sniff the flowers.

Don’t just keep walking past everything, hardly noticing the beauty and quirkiness of your surroundings in your haste to get where you’re going. Let the amazing little things along your journey distract you, grab your attention and draw you in to stop and enjoy them. Be in the moment that is right in front of you. I have noticed things all around me since Maggie has come into my life that I passed by every day and never saw before she forced me to stop and take notice. 

Express your emotions.

Emotions are natural, let them be what they are. Whether it be joy or sadness or any of the myriad of emotions in between, let that mood swing fly high. 

Be spontaneous. 

If an opportunity for joy presents itself – take it. With complete abandon. Life needs to be not just lived but enjoyed. You never know when you’ll be given a chance for joy so when it shows up, immerse yourself in it. Say “yes” to a chance to experience happiness. The universe placed that tidal pool full of kelp there for you to discover. Enjoy it. 

Stop and rest when you need to.

Stop on that big hill and take a moment to catch your breath. Been running like crazy all day and need to recharge. Do it. Nap if you’re tired. Listen to what your body is telling you that it needs.

Trust your gut when it comes to other people’s nature. 

Your instinct knows when a person is not to be trusted or if they pose a threat. Listen to that. Don’t overthink and analyze. Don’t be afraid to growl if it’s warranted. A good growl will do what it’s supposed to – send a message to back off and that you will protect your space if that message is ignored.

Use your body.

Stretch. It feels good and helps your body wake up. Feel free to take over your life partner’s yoga mat for your morning up dog and down dog routines. I know my life is better for having a smattering of dog hair on my yoga mat.

Run, walk, do what you can to move your body. You have a body – use it to enjoy life. Run across that beach. Stroll instead if the day has a slower feel to it. Just get in some movement everyday. Trust me, a body that has had some exercise feels better, even if it’s a slow walk when you feel like never leaving the couch. 

Sleep often and with abandon. Sprawl out in any position that feels comfortable at that moment. Don’t worry about anyone else in the bed. How they sleep is their concern, not yours. Even though Maggie is a mere 25 pounds, her little body can easily consume more than half of a queen size bed in her enjoyment of sleep. 

Love your food

Sure, we need to eat consciously and with our health in mind, but don’t forget that food is also about enjoyment. A meal should be looked forward to, savoured, relished, and leave you sated. Take time to create food for yourself that brings you happiness, comfort, and nourishment. Also, don’t be afraid to love other people’s food, with their consent of course. Maggie has not quite grasped that aspect of loving other people’s food but we’re working on it. I now know better than to leave a bag of chips on the coffee table while I go to the other room for less than a minute. Follow up note – take your time eating. You do not need to eat an entire bag of chips in 30 seconds.   

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