Lessons from the Pups

“Lots of people talk to animals...Not very many listen though...that's the problem.”
― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao Of Pooh

Pooh is spot on (as he often is): There’s a lot we can learn from our pets. And I’m not only talking about eternal devotion, unconditional love, and all the other amazing universal qualities of man’s best buds. But rather, a host of qualities specific to each, which can help shape us into better human beings. Here are some examples from the dogs that’ve impacted my life.

Look how cute...I mean, the dog, not me.
Mandy was my first dog, a Springer Spaniel, but far more than that. She was one of my first memories – at the age of three I got to pick her out of the litter. I think I picked her because she was the runt, likely moving a bit slower than the other wiggly pups and therefore, easier for my toddler self to latch on to. We were the stereotypical boy/dog pair: hours hiking in the New Mexico forests, swimming in the southwestern lakes, chasing lizards (she always managed to get them, I didn’t), and doing the “bite for me, bite for her” during meals. I learned a lot from Mandy. But the thing that I will always remember – the thing that is making me tear up right now – is when, at the cancer-ridden age of 17, we took her for one last, slow walk at a local picnic area. Despite the pain she must’ve felt moving, that little tailless butt refused to stop wagging. I try, and often fail, to mimic this gusto for life.

You may address her as Your Highness
Belle is one of the brother/sister Australian Shepherd/Border Collie pair that my family rescued from the pound after recovering from the loss of Mandy. Clocking in at under 25 pounds, she rules every dog pack she’s ever been a part of. Don’t be misled: she’s not mean or snappy or peeing over everything. She just knows she’s in charge…and somehow, so do all the other dogs. I admire this confidence and how naturally it pours from her. I’m not saying that I come anywhere close to her level, but I’d like to feel that comfortable in the areas where I excel.

Cheese? I like cheese.
Beau is the other half of the brother/sister pair. As they say, “He’s not the smartest dog at the park.” But, boy, is he a sweetheart. When you’re giving him a command, you can just see how hard he’s trying to figure out what to do. He really, really wants to be a good dog – it’s just not quite connecting. When you see him like that, no matter how insubordinate he’s being, it’s impossible to be angry. So Beau’s lesson to me is that if I attempt something (for example, writing a book or another one or a third) and don’t succeed in getting published, I should understand that most other people won’t judge me for wasting my time, but will commend me for trying to be a good dog – I mean, a good author.

Who farted?
As many of you remember, Bailey is one of my lab/golden retriever mutts (aka The Red Devils). He’s taught me more than just not to eat rocks – no matter how bored I am.  Though if I did, I could get in international notoriety (see last year’s pet post for that gut wrenching story). Another thing he’s taught me is to enjoy the simple surprises in life. Allow me to explain: every so often Bailey will be sprawled on the floor when he lets a loud one rip. Immediately, he’ll stare at his butt, ears perked, and his nose goes a million miles per minute. It’s as if he can’t believe that came out of him. See, the simple surprises are the special whiffs of life that make it worthwhile.

Love me.
Cody is our other Red Devil. This dog is the most loving dog of all time. Seriously, I think he might’ve been a hippy-dog in a previous life. He just wants everyone to get along. Whenever Cody is around dogs who are starting to get into a fight, he’ll dash over, jump into the middle, break them up, and roll onto his back – like he’s saying, “Everyone just sniff me. It’s a win-win-win.” It’s a brave, selfless, and stupid act. With this sort of effort, Cody is teaching me that love is not passive, but active and dangerous.

So what kind of lessons do your pets teach you when you're listening?

Another pic of Cody...just because it's awesome!


What's the background in that shot of you and Mandy. Is that ... a senior portrait?

All those pics just make me grin. It's wonderful we learn from those we love, including pets :-)

I love your dog stories! I had a Baylee, my first puppy. Got him when I was 30. Lab/chow mix. We also had a yello lab at the time. To show us his displeasure at his new friend, he got up on our bed and peed in the middle of it. Yes, they are smart and tragically stupid at the same time.
He also rolled in dog poop quite a bit and we had what we called "The tree of shame" in our front yard where we leashed him up so we could wash it off him and let him dry. He never, never learned. But then I guess we didn't either. We kept letting him off leash.

You have some amazing animals I'd love to meet them!


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