By Sheryl Pidgeon
If you are a dog lover (and apparently 68% of American households are), you can relate to the feeling of unconditional love your precious pooch puts forth. They need so little and give so much. True confession? I was not always a “pet person” and would grimace at those who’d go gaga over their pets. But when I began dating my husband 22 years ago, he had an oversized and quite human-like sidekick, Brandi, a golden retriever. David and Brandi were quite a paw-fect pair, and I fell for both of them hook, line and sinker. Brandi soon became a great protector of our three toddlers, even when they’d try to ride her like a pony. She had a great run until kidney disease struck. Then came Patti, an unruly but affectionate rescue golden ‘mix’ who loved with all her might. We were heartbroken when tragedy struck and she was gone. Now we have Aspen, our full-figured and precocious snow-white lab, who is pushing seven years old.
Living with a dog has helped me formulate many life lessons for myself and for my kids. Here are some of my favorites:
Listen more, talk less. Your pet always appears to validate your feelings and be engrossed in your soliloquy. Likewise, sometimes the best advice is no advice. Be a sounding board and allow others to express their thoughts and ideas aloud. Venting is healthy!
Don’t gossip. Emily Dickinson said, “Dogs are better than human beings because they know but do not tell.” True friendship lies in knowing how to hold a confidence.
Show compassion and be empathetic. When you’re having a bad day, there is one go-to who has your back no matter what. Dogs seem to say, “I’m sorry you are dealing with this, but look into my dreamy George Clooney eyes and we will get through it together.”
Patience pays off. In this world of instant gratification, dogs teach us that if you wait just a bit longer, you never know what could happen. (Someone could drop a meatball off their plate!)
Have a positive body image. You think my dog cares that she’s overweight? No! She KNOWS she is strong and beautiful. To prove it, she’ll take all 90 pounds of herself and snuggle right onto your lap.
Be fearless. Sometimes you just have to go for it. (But look both ways and wash your paws.)
Be friendly. Who doesn’t love a nice, cuddly bundle of furry joy? But please, no licking.
Be dependable. When my kids were little, “dog duty” was on our chore chart right along with “kitchen duty” and “mail duty.” It taught them that someone is counting on them.
Be grateful and pay it forward. Mark Twain said, “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.” Dogs remind us to remember from whence we came and to be thankful for the people who helped us along the way.
The best pleasures cannot be purchased. Young children don’t care how much money their parents earn nor about the brands of clothes they wear. As kids become exposed to the media, they infer that money buys happiness. Pets know this is not true. Just some kibble, fresh water, a game of fetch and a kind word will suffice.
Be an optimist. Cheer for the underdog. Dogs show us that nothing is unattainable. Unlikely? Perhaps. Impossible? Never. Aspen sits patiently at your feet while you eat your ice cream cone. You could drop it. YOU. COULD. DROP. IT. DROP IT! (Alright, maybe next time.)
Get your rest. Dogs sleep an average of 50% of the day. Obviously, this would be overkill for humans, but we can still learn something here.
Anytime is a good time for a snack. Needs no explanation. Pass the queso.
Enjoy simple pleasures. Soak in the good stuff. Doggonit. Sometimes nothing can beat a good cheeseburger, a long walk with a friend, or a big warm hug.
LIVE. LEARN. LAUGH. DOUBLE DOG DARE YA! REPEAT.