Five things I have learnt from sharing my life with dogs

I grew up with dogs. As an adult, I have always had dogs as well. I will remember the dog’s name when I am introduced, but forget the person’s. You could say I am a life-long fan. Even a dog fanatic.

My furry four-legged friends, over the years, have all had hearts as big as the universe. They have (and do!) entertained me, amused me, loved me. They were gentle teachers as well as companions.

#1 – If the dogs do not like him, neither should I

This is one of the first things I learned as a child. And used, for my own gain, as a teenager. My sisters and I would invite friends over, specifically prospective boyfriends. If the dogs did not like them, they were not boyfriend material. The few times we went against the dogs’ judgment, our fragile teenage hearts paid the price.

Unable to say if it was the prospective boyfriend’s pheromones, fear levels or energy vibrations that the dogs picked up on, but the dogs were always better judges of character than we were. My daughters, in turn, have carried on the tradition. And paid their school fees, against their mother’s and the dogs’ judgement. The candidates who finally made the grade as long-term prospects? Both are dog lovers, and get on well with our dogs.

My granddaughters, if and when they come along, will be encouraged to carry on with the tradition.

#2 – Live in the moment

One of the things you notice about dogs, when you live with them every day, is that they do everything in the moment. Breakfast time? They cannot be distracted from their dishes. Naptime? They sun their tummies on the paving in winter, lie in the draft on the cool tiles in summer.

The person who touches the dog leashes, hanging from a hook in the kitchen, unleashes a torrent of dog coming around the corner. One morning, after driving to our local park where we normally walk the dogs, we discovered that we had left one leash at home. Four dogs, three leashes. Back into the car they all went, the rottweilers very reluctantly.

At home, we realised we no longer had enough time for a walk before the commitments of the day. We got out, took leashes and harnesses off, but the two rottweilers declined to get out of the car. They were geared for a walk and a walk they were determined to have. We left the car doors open, went inside to change and start the day. An hour later, they were still waiting in the car.

For humans, living in the moment is underrated. We multitask, further our education via our headphones while taking care of fitness. We fold laundry while watching TV. Read while we eat breakfast.

Very seldom do we focus exclusively on what we are doing, and even more seldom, focus exclusively on doing something we enjoy doing. Doing nothing, with abandon, until our batteries are recharged, the equivalent of sunning our tummies in the sun? Just about never.

To our own detriment.

#3 – Take time to play every day

Puppies play, all the time. Young dogs play, loudly and energetically. They entice the older dogs into a game, and sometimes just run, doing laps around the house, for the joy of it.

Our current pack, four strong, are between 8 and 6 years of age, in human terms. In dog terms, that translates to 56 to 42. Middle-aged. Far from being boisterous puppies. Yet the four of them have at least one game every day. Their favorite is the pre-breakfast game, where they play tag in the driveway. A different two will team up and chase the others each day. Reaching the front door first means winning. Underneath the caravan is the “den”, the safe place, where tagging you do not count.

It gets quite boisterous, and loud. Very loud. But all tails are wagging, all tongues hanging out. They enjoy it tremendously. We do as well, watching them play.

If you share your life with a dog, they will give you, as well as unconditional love, at least one reason to smile every day. They themselves need no additional reason to smile, as they make sure to play every day. Why don’t you?

#4 – Be happy to see your significant others

Your dog is happy to see you, the human significant other in the relationship, when you arrive home every day. Whether you arrive home from the long day’s work, a two-week holiday, or a 5-minute trip to grab bread and milk at the nearest convenience store, the tails wag and the tongues hang out. They TELL you how happy you are, clearly and often. In fact, every single time you come back home. Sometimes even when you just re-enter the room.

The same when we get up in the morning. Our dogs sleep on the floor in our bedroom, listening to our snores the whole night. Yet we are greeted with smiles and happy tails every single morning.

How privileged we are, as dog owners. How much better our own relationships with our significant others will be if we greet each other affectionately, focusing only on how glad we are to see each other, more often. Every single time we get home. Focus on each other, as the first thing we do each morning.

#5 – When you need love, ask for it

One of our current pack, Sasha, is a rescue dog, mostly rottweiler, we think. We do not know how old she is, or what her story is – she was found by a neighbor, being chased by the builders in the area. They say she stole their food. She was thin, and hungry.

We took her on, and gave her love – in abundance, as to all our dogs. Sasha is special though. She needs more love, more cuddles, more attention than most. She asks for it. She will come and sit with you, happy to move her head under your hand, or under your foot, as long as she can feel your touch. Sometimes it is enough for her that you just run her ear through your hand, or a finger up her nose.

When you do pet her, her front left leg sneaks up to be placed on your knee, while she tries to cuddle closer and closer. If you are standing up, she will give you both her front feet while sitting. Pretending to be a circus dog. She tells us every day that she should really be sleeping between us on the bed, helping to keep the bed warm. Imagine how different your life can be if you can, in the same way as Sasha, ask for a show of love from your nearest and dearest.

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