This is Winston aka Winston Harvey, our six month old Australian Shepard. Three months ago, on a somewhat spontaneous whim, he became a member of our ohana.
Why am I showing you a picture of my pup? (Why not!) Yes, I like showing off his cute-ness. But Winston became a member of our family for three main reasons: to help in my quest for happiness, to be my running partner, and to be certified as a therapy dog.
Still wondering what my dog has to do with you? Well, after being a self-proclaimed cat-lady my entire life I decided to take the plunge and get a pup thinking all those negative things people say about puppy-raising was a bunch of bologna. I had heard about how the benefits of dog-ownership outweigh the bad, often frustrating aspects of raising a puppy. And while I am still a crazy cat-lady and love my almost-seven-year-old-MaineCoon-named-Oliver, I am a proud-often-tired-but-relearning-the-simple-things dog lady too.
Regardless, in the last three months Winston has taught me A LOT. Some of his insights are quintessentially simple, but easily overlooked in our regular everyday lives. Luckily, I now have him as a constant reminder. So what can you learn from Winston (or any pup)?
- Life is Exciting: Dogs get excited over just about everything. Why? It doesn’t really matter! The point is, you are alive and that in itself is worth boosting your mood.
- Use your Senses: Pups don’t just go through the motions of life. They devour it, they sniff it out, they listen to everything, they touch to understand. Their world, like ours, is sensory-based-except they don’t ignore them!
- Enjoy the Moment: Dogs fully utilize their five senses to be in the moment. They’re not plotting their next move to get ahead at work, or thinking about what’s for dinner. They’re lavishing your affection and happily chewing on the new stick they just found.
- Don’t Over Think It: Remember, a dog’s life is all about each existing minute. He’s not sitting there and making a pro/con list. He’s doing something if he likes it or running away from it if he doesn’t! Sometimes in life we need to just act!
- Get Outside: Dogs thrive off of fresh air and daily walks. And as living creatures, we humans do too! We spend too much of our day cooped up in poorly ventilated, claustrophobic spaces while we turn a pasty shade of pale. Get some (safe, sun-screened) sunlight! Breathe the fresh air!
- Learn From Your Mistakes And Move On: It might take a dog a few times while initially training, but once learned you can bet he won’t keep making the same mistake! Albert Einstein once said the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. Live, learn, and let go!
- Smile: Yes, this kind of falls into all of the above categories but smiling deserves its own section! At the end of my long day, watching Winston trip over his own feet and not being able to stop himself from running into a wall gives me a big enough chuckle to help shake off the day’s stress. As an added bonus, smiling leads to laughing which is a natural, easy way to work out those abs!
- Sleep: Take it from Winston, who manages to arrange himself on his pillow in the weirdest ways and has the capacity to pass out anywhere: it doesn’t matter how you accommodate yourself between your sheets and amongst your pillows. What matters is getting enough rest to energize you for your next day. And when the next morning comes, you remember just that- it is a new day! Yesterday’s drama should stay stuck in yesterday.
Am I advising you to go out and buy a dog? Definitely not! Bringing a dog into your home is a much bigger responsibility than I would have ever believed. And despite their cute faces, getting a puppy will not change you or your habits if you are naturally on the lazy side, having a dog will not necessarily motivate you to take that 30 minute power walk every day and you will be making empty promises to yourself and your dog. (Remember, motivation comes from within!)
But if you have any kind of pet, take a few moments each day and examine how they live their life. Watch their cues. And learn to live off of the “bare necessities”.