I took a trip to North Carolina. Pisgah National Forest. If you have ever been you know very well that once you get into the heart of the Forest, there is virtually no cell phone reception. I lived out of the back of my Toyota 4 Runner for 6 days. That is 5 nights with no Instagram, Google, email, text messages, and Pandora (yes I still use Pandora… yes, I still refuse to pay for a subscription. Yes, I hear Trojan commercials about every 10 minutes).
Sometimes it’s just so nice to go back to the basics. Your senses heighten outside of the four brick walls. It re centers you. This was a solo trip without Walter. So this time to myself without technology allowed for some serious reflection.
Come home and I am reunited with Walter. And I realized that I had to travel 700 miles to discover what he gets to experience on the daily. Dogs have the beautiful ability to live in the now without constant comparison.
They aren’t concerned with Karen's new, full suspension, nuclear powered, $10,000 kid stroller that she just posted on Facebook (that is what normal women worry about, correct?). They do not give a shit about Stephanie's underwear mirror selfie. They are not so consumed with the next YouTube video that is going viral. Finally, they aren’t scrolling the feed looking for the next popular political bandwagon to jump on. (Whatever happened to free thinking and forming your own opinion?)
Okay I am off my soap box. But seriously. Our dogs got something on us. In their minds there is no comparison game and they do not stew over the things that do not matter. It is a beautiful thing that is so hard for us as humans to accomplish. They are focused on the now. Not the why, the who, the what, the when.
So, here we have 6 life lessons we can all learn from our dogs:
- They ask for what they want. If you want something… ASK. Do not be ashamed, do not feel guilty, do not feel selfish. Does Walter think twice about asking when he needs to go out? When he wants fed? When he wants a frosty paw? Hell. no. He just asks. Does he ask to go with me every time I leave the house and in turn make me feel like a dick? He sure as hell does. Do you need more money to pay your bills? Ask for the damn raise. Ask for the time you need from loved ones. Ask for a clean fork at the restaurant if the one they give you is dirty. If you have wronged someone and genuinely feel remorse- ask for forgiveness. Our human counter parts do not know what we need if we do not ask. No one in this world is a mind reader. And effective and open communication can solve 95 percent of our problems. It can be hard. But in the end its worth it. Worst thing that can happen? They say no. But you at the very least learned something from the situation. You move on. And guess what. The world keeps spinning. Get over it and don’t feel bad for yourself. Pivot and make something else work. (Just like our dogs would do)
- They live in the moment. I am mounting yet another soap box... so brace yourself. I hate the memes on the interwebs that bash Monday. Seriously. And because we all hate Monday now there are memes that bash Sunday- simply because it falls before Monday on the calendar. Yet, Friday is constantly celebrated. Some jerkoff off in cyber space invented the word “Friyay.” ....Seriously? No further comment on that one. Why do people live their lives in this constant “I just gotta get to Friday” state? They are missing so much in between. These are the same people that drive an SUV, have a Starbucks beverage in their one hand, and an iPhone in the other. I have a hunch you got it pretty good buddy. You have total first world problems in that you have to go to work on Monday to pay for all your luxury items. Believe me I am far from perfect… I have days that I dread. But I do try to recognize that and shift my focus to something positive. I have a hunch our dogs don’t really give damn whether it is Friday or Tuesday. They are just so happy to be here with us. They are so happy when we pick up that leash whether it be on a Monday or on a Friday. It is all a matter of perspective. Shift your perspective and you can shift your mood, your outlook, and your life.
- They love unapologetically. If you love someone or something do not feel you owe anyone an explanation. People are going to question your emotions towards certain things and certain people. It is in their nature. They will sometimes disagree with your feelings. Recognize that even a logical, viable explanation of these feelings will sometimes result in wasted energy and breath. And it doesn't really matter. Because what these people think of you is none of your business. You are not responsible for the way they view you. You are not responsible for the way they view your emotions and feelings towards certain things and people. In order for them to truly understand they would need to take every step of every mile you have ever walked in this life. Perspectives and opinions are like assholes. So love without restraint and do not apologize for it. Just do you and don't be a dick about it. Just like your dog would.
For the record: you might be a complete dick and your dog will still love you.
- They trust their senses. If your dog thinks he smells a rat… guess what. It's probably a rat. We have so many distractions in our everyday life that we sometimes ignore that gut instinct. I read a quote one time that said something like: “people will tell you exactly who they are if you just listen.” Look for the red flags, or lack thereof. Hindsight is 20/20... But sometimes foresight can be as well. It's life and sometimes we miss the warning sign. If we reduce the everyday modern world distractions, we have a better chance of tapping into our primal senses. Our senses without distraction can save us so many head and heart aches.
- They are genuine.As a veterinarian I often do things to dogs and cats that they do not appreciate. I know it is for their own good- but they do not know that. So, let's say a dog is pissed or scared that he has to come to the vet to get vaccinated. He isn’t going to fake wiggle his butt, wag his tail, and pretend he’s happy to see me just to stroke my ego. So why do we? Why are some people so fake towards one another? Why do we pretend to be someone we are not in front of certain people? Who really benefits from that? No one does. And it’s exhausting. I'm not saying be an asshole if you aren't happy to see someone. We can be cordial. But it is so much easier just being yourself. Being yourself takes no forethought or planning ahead. It just flows. It is seamless. And everyone benefits more when we are in our most authentic and true from.
- They stay curious.Walter is deaf, so he is highly reliant on his sense of smell and eyesight. All dogs sniff, yes- but Walter is obsessive about it. When he finds something interesting on the trail it's pretty much a guarantee he will be glued to that spot for an obnoxious amount of time. At first, I found it frustrating… but then I realized, why be frustrated with him when he is practicing curiosity? Children are curious, and it is a beautiful thing. Like when a boyfriend came to a big family function for the first time. My seven year old niece without a prompt or an introduction approached him and asked very bluntly, “what are you doing here?” He did not miss a beat and said, “I am here for the cheesecake” (we have homemade cheesecake at every holiday- he was pretty stoked to partake in that tradition). She said “oh, okay!”, and ran off. As adults I feel we lose that curiosity. I have made friends in random bars all over the country because I am genuinely curious. Just like my seven year old niece I ask: “what are you doing here?”- (with hopefully a little more couth). It's amazing the stories you will hear and the people you will meet. A friend and I met Danny Rooney in a bar in Denver just by striking up a conversation! He's a very nice guy by the way. But this doesn't just apply to meeting people. It's amazing how new perspectives and information can be gained by reading books or listening to a podcast. I do not own a TV, and while television can be educational, I believe you can gain so much more from reading text or listening to a podcast.
So there ya have it. Things that come to mind when I purposefully seclude myself from the rest of the world. Maybe all those shots of Pepe Lopez in college didn’t kill so many brain cells after all? I hear cheap tequila kills off the weak brain cells and the strong ones survive. So, you in turn get smarter. The verdict is still out on that one.
Who needs a life coach when we have our dogs? Sometimes all we need is a simple shift in perspective. Our dogs can help us with this if we minimize the distractions and periodically remember to live a simpler life.
What has your dog taught you?
Happy tails and safe trails,
Libbie Fort, DVM