Five life (and work) lessons I learned from my dog

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by Red Slice on July 12, 2012

Yes, I’ve become that person: a dog owner. I live for little Eddie, who we adopted from the shelter on a rainy January day in 2008. We had wanted a dog for so long and really wanted a Lab, but but wished those dogs could be a bit smaller. And, lo and behold, that day at the shelter we were shown a shy, skittish Black lab mix, about a year old and only 35 lbs., fully grown. I think we conjured him into being.

Havign a dog has really impacted the way I approach my work. Since I work from home, I walk him every morning after breakfast. I love having this little luxury in my life. And now I can actually relate to women who struggle with going back to work and leaving their baby at home. Yes, I know – he’s a dog. But he’s our baby. Of course, we don’t overspoil him, as we’re huge disciples of The Dog Whisperer so we practice “exercise, discipline, then affection” in that all-important order. Except for one guilty excess: letting him curl up on the couch with the rest of “the pack.” He’s just so damn cute, I can’t resist.

My walks with him have taken on new meaning after my health crisis in 2008. When I first got home after my brain aneurysm, I was weak, frail and had major vision issues. So for me, the goal was “to be able to walk Eddie again on my own.” And I reached that goal. No “I want to visit the Pyramids” or “I have to see the world” near-death comeback goals for me. The whole ordeal actually made me want to get back to the simple pleasures of life…and walking the dog by the lovely little canal near our house was one of them.

As I walk Eddie, I realize how much he has taught me on these little 30 minute soul-satisfying getaways. Lessons I apparently needed to learn after my high-stress, high blood pressure, non-stop, overcommitted, active lifestyle put me in the hospital in the first place:

  1. Live in the moment: Dogs are all about this. They can’t remember one minute from the next. When I’m walking and a thousand to-do items are swirling through my head as I charge onward, Eddie will stop short and pull me back to the present to stop and sniff a flower or a shrub. Doesn’t matter if we’ve passed it a million times; he finds something new in it. It’s a good reminder to just be in the moment and enjoy the precious 30 minutes outside with him, look around, get out of my head, breathe, and relax.
  2. There can be beauty in crap – just depends on your perspective: As we trot through the college campus right by my house, cherry blossoms blooming, the spring air thawing winter’s chill, I’m assaulted with the smells of newly laid manure in the plantbeds and lawns. It’s nasty. Eddie, however, acts like a tween girl at a Miley Cyrus concert. He leaps up and down, tries to romp through the grass as far as his leash will go and pretty much goes nuts. To him, it’s like catnip (dognip?). So I realize one man’s trash is another dog’s treasure, so to speak. And it reminds me that from this foul stench, bright green grass, gorgeous tulips, azaleas, and daffodils are blooming nicely for us to enjoy.
  3. Forgive and forget: When we come home and Eddie does not come bounding down the stairs to greet us, we know he’s been up to something. So we trudge upstairs to see what horror awaits. Usually it’s that he’s dug something from the recycling bag and torn it to shreds. He cowers before we’ve even said anything (which my husband recently said kind of made him respect the little guy). So we do the “Bad Dog!” routine and Time Out. And after 15 minutes, he’s back licking our hands or sitting in front of us expectantly, tail wagging. All is forgotten. So we must forget as well. I’ve never been good at quickly overcoming things when someone hurts or disappoints me, but he makes me realize that you have to move on if you love each other.
  4. Find joy in the simple things: Taking Eddie to the dog park and letting him run free, chasing the ball, as he greets other dogs gives me more pleasure than I ever would have thought possible. I love that he can run around, off leash, and get his exercise. He’s so joyful, it’s unreal. Doesn’t matter how many times we throw that ball: his ears perk up, his tail wags excessively, you hear the “pant, pant” of his tongue, and he eagerly awaits the ball throw. I can’t remember the last time I felt as much joy about something so simple. And then I think: in this moment, my joy comes from watching his joy. Even when he is just laying on the coach, you can look at him. He’ll stare back in complete stillness – but his tail will start wagging like crazy. All because he is basking in your attention. Or while on the coach, he flips over on his back, splaying his legs and nether regions to the world and just lays there, paws in mid-air. And he’ll just look at you, upside down, with an expression of, “What?” on his face. This makes me laugh each and every time. Never gets old. Talk about a recession-proof pleasure.
  5. Put someone else first: I’ve never really had to take care of anyone else in my life. I’m the youngest in my family. Yes, I babysat as a kid and have nieces and nephews, but it’s not the same. We don’t know if we will have kids someday, so for us, Eddie is new territory. Now, we’re forced to plan ahead. That word was never really in our vocab before. We have to make sure he gets walked and fed, and we have to make arrangements when we go out of town. Sometimes, we’ll be out in the evening, and we actually feel bad about leaving him alone . I may even sacrifice some little pleasures for myself to make sure Eddie’s still gets his high quality food, treats or a new toy. Where I used to spend that pointless money on myself, now I spend it on him – all because I see how much joy he gets from things (see #4). Maybe it’s all in my head, but I don’t care. It feels good to do something that makes your dog happy – even if he won’t remember it in 5 minutes.

Having a dog is wonderful. Not only did he help during my health recovery but having him teaches me so much about appreciating the present – and even about healthier ways to approach my work and my business. I don’t really much mind becoming “that” person, after all.

What has inspired you to approach your life or your business differently? Do you have a pet who adds to your life? Please share in the Comments.

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