Lessons From My Dog

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About five years ago I got a dog, Maggie. Now understand: a dog was not part of the plan. However, in the five years that Maggie has been with me she has become part of the plan. When I hike, she goes with me. When I camp, she sleeps in the tent often under my sleeping bag. She is not so much needy as demanding. I understand that people with dogs often get a bit “crazy” (“doggy” as I’ve heard it put), but there is a difference between crazy and caring. Crazy comes from the need to fill a void; care comes from a conscious decision to change. I have found that I truly care for Maggie because I am more than willing to change for her.

The first change I have had to make because of my dog is to understand that anger is not the answer no matter what the occasion. Maggie’s face give me solace and I am reminded that she does not understand anger and because of her naivety my anger must be “redirected”. At first, this angered me… But now the energy wasted and my talent for profanity in two languages must find respite and so I tried silence. However, as any good dog owner will tell you: they know. I continue to be a student, if not a very good one, but Maggie is a good teacher.

The second change I have had to make because of my dog is to understand that Listening is essential for any good relationship. The ability to communicate with another human is difficult enough, but I have since found that communication with your dog (and with most other animals) is not only possible, but indispensable. Maggie reminds me that communication is in fact a two-way street. To communication we must listen. I will repeat Maggie’s lesson: we…must…listen.

The third change that I have made because of my dog is to understand that while sincerity may not be comforting, it is never out of place. Like the anger, Maggie can sense sincerity. It is not enough to feign the truth as it is not enough to feign peace. However, being truthful is always worth it, but only if it is sincere.

The fourth change that I have made because of my dog is to understand that lying doesn’t count. Maggie does not put up with lies, even small ones. She is truly, well, hurt. If I say we are going to “go”, then we must “go”! It is often easy to lie to each other as human beings and sometimes we do it for good reason, but Maggie reminds me that lying does not hurt any less no matter the reasons that we have.

I am aware that these lessons are nothing new, but I was never aware that I could actually become a student of my dog. When we first picked her up at the pound, we took her to dog training classes. However, a few lessons in and we dropped the class because the teacher was teaching the wrong student. Maggie has taught me something that I think we all need to be reminded of, at least once a day: don’t lie and don’t get angry when others do it. Always communicate as clearly and sincerely as possible. Oh, and if you’re going to kiss someone, do it like you mean it!

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