Dog Wisdom: Life Lessons From a Petite Pooch

July 23, 2010 at 5:30 pm Leave a comment

Muneca and Friend

When I was growing up we had a Cocker Spaniel named Richie who had to be as patient and loving a creature as God ever created. When there was a litter of kittens under the same roof, Richie tolerantly allowed them to ride him, rodeo style, around the living room. He even sat by uncomplainingly as they helped themselves to his food dish, moving in only after they had finished nibbling away at this dinner. And he was the best comfort a child could hope for, head on my knee through a scary T.V. program or warming my feet through a cold winter night. 

Unfortunately, dear Richie was succeeded by several generations of overbred, neurotic Cockapoos, who terrorized the now-grown cats and attacked their own doggie reflections in the full-length mirror three or four times a day for years. So I’m certainly not claiming here that exposure to all canines is equally edifying. But my tender memories of dear Richie will never cease to bring a serene smile to my face. 

Jumping decades ahead, my husband and I had shared our home with several pairs of felines for the first 21 years of our marriage when our neighbors relocated, and our sympathies were stirred by the soulful expression of their displaced and confused pup, a two-year-old Chihuahua-Papillon mix weighing in at 6.5 pounds. Over a year later, tiny Muñeca – Spanish for Little Doll – has found a permanent place in our home and our hearts. And observing her closely for the past 18 months has taught me a few things about… 

Relating to others: Make sure you have sniffed them out a bit first, but then throw yourself wholeheartedly into a friendly relationship, expecting the best and appreciating each for their own unique offerings. And never forget the way to a friend’s house.

Double-checking your work: I used to narrate Muñeca’s actions when she would sniff at the spot she just tinkled on, saying, in my best yokel voice, “Yup, sure enough; that’s mine alright,” – as if it could be anybody else’s! But now I realize that she is just being thorough, and making sure she has left exactly the message she intended to leave. 

Approaching life with a soupçon of chutzpah: People will overlook many of your shortcomings (physical and otherwise) if you address them assertively, with the right combination of self-confidence and respect for others.

Trying a new path: If your instincts pull you down a street you’ve never traveled, who knows what novelties await you. At the very least, the new scenery keeps a daily ritual from becoming a mundane chore. 

Showing those you love that you value their attentions and their efforts: This feedback can be in the form of settling at the feet of the one who feeds you to offer a large, post-meal belch of appreciation or the fluttering of eyelids at the slightest hint of a belly-stroking. Be creative. 

Using a natural approach to stress management: When the routine gets you down, or nervous energy brings you close to implosion, run some ovals in the back yard – or laps around the block – then flop down in a shaft of sunlight in some quiet corner of the house. Wear yourself out and then reward yourself with quiet time; as the tension flows from your body, peace will flood your mind. 

Understanding that joy does not reside in things or circumstances: It’s the attitude we bring to an activity or outing or possession that gives it the power to delight, amuse, entertain. Even the rattiest old plaything, discovered anew after being lost in the toy basket, becomes a source of pleasure if it’s approached with an attitude of gratitude.

And perhaps most importantly, stopping to smell the darned roses: My little girl insists on parking herself on a corner half-way through our pre-breakfast walk every day, simply to soak up the sun, take in the morning air, and survey the horizons of the neighborhood. I’m ashamed to say that I used to let my impatience – and my hunger – lead me to scoop her up and cart her the rest of the way home on days when my schedule was particularly busy.

Now, I pause a few minutes to slow my roll and scan the landscape along with her. A few deep breaths of dew-freshened air never hurt anybody, and just the idea of taking five minutes to do nothing at all but soak things in is a balm to my over-rushed body and my over-loaded psyche. 

Antidepressants? Shrink? Sleeping pills? Who needs ’em. Get yourself a friendly, non-purebred, curious little walking companion who will lead you on new adventures every day, and pull you out of any rut you may have gotten stuck in. The joy of watching those eager little legs skip along ahead of you is at least as good for your overall health as the exercise you’ll get in the bargain. 

And did you know that petting your dog lowers your blood pressure? What an investment in wellness.

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Recipe. According to Encarta, "a list of ingredients and instructions for making something." The thesaurus offers the alternate terms, "formula, guidelines, directions, steps, technique."

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