I believe living with an animal is one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves and our children. Watching how our pets navigate the world based on pure instinct, able to communicate so much without words, fascinates me. Recently I put together a list of lessons I have learned from our 5-year-old dog Tula and our new 2-year-old rescue, Spencer. Here are some of my favorites:
Ask for what you want, and be clear about your request
If I am petting Tula and I stop, whether to scratch an itch or to turn the page of my book, she let’s me know she wants more. Immediately. Same thing if she is hungry or has to go out. She does not spend time making up scenarios in her
head or worrying about what I will think of her—she simply makes her request known and does not give up until it’s met.
Share with others
Watching Tula welcome a handful of fosters into her life and onto our bed was a beautiful thing. She was a perfect demonstration that we always have the ability to make a difference for others, no matter how big or small the offering. (She’s also a big fan of sharing when it comes to my food!)
There is no such thing as too much attention or physical touch
Whether I am gone for a week or two minutes, the fanfare I receive from my dogs upon my return would make anyone feel special. In their world, it is always the perfect time for belly rubs, head scratches, gentle licks, and snuggling. And on the flipside, if I’m feeling like some extra cuddles, they allow me to pick them up/move them/ lay down next to them, staying with me as long as I need.
It feels good to move your body everyday
Waking up and watching the dogs stretch and make that adorable sound—the combo moan/yawn—is the best.
Seeing how much happier they are after a walk or some play time in the yard, it’s clear there is a strong mind/body
connection, and that moving, even if it’s just for a few minutes, makes everyone feel better.
It also feels good to rest
The second Tula walks in the door, she beelines it to our bed, hopping right into her spot in the corner. The joy she feels is evident, settling in with a big smile and a sigh of gratitude—a mix of being happy she’s home and preparing for yet another relaxing nap.
Playing is not a waste of time
Various times throughout the day I witness Spencer with his face in the toy basket, furiously digging for his squirrel. He’ll pick it up, throw it around, and toss it a few feet away so he can chase it. It doesn’t matter that it is a purely one-sided game—he is happy just to engage with his “friend.” This has encouraged me to take more time to be silly, with my kids, friends, and colleagues, not worrying what anyone thinks!
It’s okay to ask for help
Seeing how my big strong Tula responds to a few rumbles of thunder, or watching as Spencer runs in circles while uttering his unique “please pick me up and put me on the bed” bark, I am reminded there is no shame in receiving help. In fact we need each other to be our best selves and get where we want to go.
Sleep is good for your health
The general dog rule in our house is to go to bed early and often— sleeping as late as your humans will let you. Also, it is important to learn how to sleep anywhere, anytime, since you never know when your next nap may be!
You cannot give or receive too much unconditional love
This one can be tricky for humans… especially the unconditional part. Tula never withholds cuddles from me, even if I forget to feed her right on time. Nor does Spencer punish me with the silent treatment or dirty looks for giving him a bath or making him pee in the pouring rain. They are always right there with loving eyes and wagging tails, gazing at me like I’m their favorite person on earth.
It all comes down to trust
After years of attempting to control my environment, I have finally surrendered to my dogs’ intuitive understanding that trust is the key to most everything. Watching Spencer’s personality blossom over the past few months has been amazing. He went from the streets to foster care to us, having to trust everyone he met along his journey. As he and Tula slowly move from roommates to friends, each of them trusts the other more and more, and the love beneath the surface rises to the top.
I feel blessed to receive so many gifts and insights through my daily interactions with my four-legged companions. No mental games, no guilt, no shame, no strings attached—just absolute love.
If you live with an animal, take some time to reflect on what he or she is teaching you. You may be amazed by how much they know—