Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The 10 Things I Have Learned From My Dog Cont.

So today is the remaining 5 of the list of lessons my golden girl has taught me thus far.  Here they are:

5.  To never forget your inner child (or puppy):  Despite being an adult, and a relatively wise dog, Maya never forgets her inner puppy.  This adorable, endearing characteristic leads to antics such as stealing shoes, playing chase, and jumping up on the bed, even when she’s not supposed to.  The desire for play, curiosity for unfamiliar things, and a penchant for mischief, leaves one shaking ones head in laughter.  To engage in play, without expectation of reward, is something we don’t do enough as adults.  Too often we are in a rush, working to much, preoccupied with tasks and goals, getting buried in the drive for ambition, that we forget to have fun.  To play, to have fun, that is what often brings the greatest relief from the stresses of everyday living.  We as Americans don’t do it enough, is it any wonder we are unhappy, screaming in traffic, and resentful of those who do take a moment to play?

4.  To love unconditionally:  I have never had a dog, Maya is my first.  I finally understand what it means to be loved unconditionally.  This gift from heaven loves me for who I am, regardless of what my faults might be.  I aim to be the person my dog thinks I am.  Now there are dangers with unconditional love, sometimes loving someone unconditionally can be disastrous for your life.  Having said that, when an opportunity arises where such love won’t lead to personal harm, to love unconditionally has great reward.  Love is a powerful motivator, as well as a powerful drug.  Love allows us to form connections, connections which social animals (and that’s what we humans are), need to survive and thrive.  It is a dearth of love, not too much of it, that causes the greatest aches in peoples lives.  If we loved each other more, without strings attached, we would have better relationships with our children, family members, partners, friends, and yes even co-workers.  My dog is not related to me, she came to a home of strange people whom she had never met and chose to love us unconditionally, without strings attached.  This affection, without any expectations, is a powerful example, at least to me, of what exceptional looks like, and what incredible benefit can come from it.

3.  To be find joy in ordinary things:  My Maya is a happy sort.  The glass is always half full.  She finds immense joy in long walks, her meals in the morning and evening, chewing on her toys, greeting us in the evening and seeing us off in the morning, back rubs and head rubs, and sitting by our feet when we go about our business.  She never has a moment when she is glum.  The tasks that may seem boring and mundane, she does with zest and joy.  She realizes, my wise golden retriever, that joy is not found in select accomplishments, but in the ordinary tasks that we do everyday.  She is a stop and smell the roses kind of gal.  If all of us spent a few moments not rushing through life, maybe we could experience a little more joy.  It is the ordinary that has the greatest potential to bring happiness, and it is the ordinary that is the most overlooked.

2.  To be persistent:  Persistence is possibly Maya’s greatest attribute.  This being will do what she has to do get what she wants.  She doesn’t take no for an answer, and she does in it in a way that endears her in everyone’s heart.  My darling, golden girl will bark, she will frolic, she will do something “bad,” in a way that will melt your heart and make you say “ok, you sweet, silly thing, we will go for our walk now.”  She never gets discouraged, she never stops trying, and she never loses heart when she doesn’t get what she wants.  There is always the next time, the next chance, and if she sees it, she seizes it and goes for it.  Life is not about the sprint, it is an endurance test.  What is needed most for long lasting endurance is persistence.  Persistence in the face of failure, persistence when you don’t want to get out of bed, persistence when you think the situation could not be more unbearable.  Winning, which brings great satisfaction and a rush of endorphins, is not as important as the journey to the destination.  The journey is where the learning occurs, so you don’t make the same mistake twice.

1.  To be fearless:  I have a golden retriever who is not afraid of anything.  Whether it is a new situation or loud bursts of thunder.  My dog treads on with courage and curiosity, to understand, not shirk away from the unknown.  When a loud crackle of thunder erupts, sending down shivers through everyone else’s back, my Maya looks out to window to see where it’s coming from.  This quality, fearlessness, is one we should all try to have a little bit more of.  To live a life ruled by fear leads to doubt, timidness, and prevents initiation.  Think of all the opportunities that get missed because of our fears.  A trip to a foreign country, a move to a better job, a start with a possible new love.  Life is about taking risks, to take those risks, one must let go of what they fear the most.

So there you have it: I have an inspiration worthy pet.  She has stolen my heart, moved me to be a better human, and most importantly, is teaching me to love life.  What greater gift can anyone ask for?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The 10 Things I Have Learned From My Dog

As the seasons change from summer to fall, I always find myself engaging in introspection.  The daily commute is the perfect place for such an activity.  It has been several months now, and my golden girl and I are no longer strangers.  I thought I would take the next two days to share with you the lessons this bundle of fur has taught me in this short time.  Today I will talk about 10-6, and tomorrow I will finish up with 1-5.

10.  To enjoy exercise:  I’m not a fan of exercise.  I keep my girlish figure by eating a balanced, high quality diet.  So when I see my Maya’s overjoyed look at exercise, I think “I could use some of that.”  This is a dog that lives to go on long walks, regardless of the weather.  Knowledge of an upcoming long walk sets the girl up in a frenzy of excitement that parallels a five year old opening presents on Christmas morning.  So it is an understatement when I say I am inspired, no awed really, by Maya’s joy for exercise.  This exuberance applies to playing fetch, running, chasing, and all manner of strenuous activity.  As I watch myself age, and my metabolism slow, I look to Maya to give me both the motivation and inspiration to get up and move.  With so many of our fellow citizens struggling with their weight, a little enthusiasm for exercise would certainly go a long way towards a healthy, long, vital life.

9.  To relax and do nothing:  If there is one thing that Maya does a lot of, and does well, it is to lie around and do nothing.  Sometimes she pants because she is happy, sometimes she sleeps, and sometimes she just sits and gazes.  This sitting around, relaxed, seems to explain her general lack of stress about anything.  I have a dog that is not anxious and is never stressed.  I dream of having a quarter of this sense of peace.  We are an overworked society, always in a rush, without a moment to spare, especially for ourselves.  Once in awhile, to sit, do nothing, and introspect is what we need to help us solve life’s most troublesome challenges.  It is probably also better for our heart.

8.  To be curious: Maya is nosey.  Really, not nosey, but curious.  If something is brought to the house that is new, she wants to know what it is.  If she goes for a walk and something catches her eye, she goes to investigate.  If a new dog walks on her path, she tries to find out who he/she is.  Maya is curious, she wants to know, she is not content to let the world pass her by.  Curiosity is a trait that we should all try to foster.  It opens new worlds, expands the world we live in now, and sometimes it leads to a sense of wonder we all think we lose after the age of 5.  Where would we be without curiosity?  There would be no discovery, no inventions, no desire to learn.  What is life, after all, without these three ingredients?

7.  To seek out affection, without fear of rejection:  Ahhhh, the fear of rejection.  It stops so many of us from pursuing opportunities with great potential rewards, especially when it comes to love.  Here is an area where Maya excels.  She never misses an opportunity to seek affection from anyone who seems capable.  She is always rewarded with sweet words, rubs on the head and back, and big smiles.  No wonder I have such a happy dog!  This feedback loop only confirms for her that everyone loves her.  For all of us who are shy, awkward, and suspicious of other people's intentions, this lesson in seeking affection from those around us is an important one.  In a sea of isolation, affection from another person is often what makes the biggest difference.  So the next time you see someone who seems dejected, ask them how they are, and sit awhile and listen.

6.  To view everyone as an opportunity for friendship:  As a hermit, this is one characteristic I admire most about my dog.  She views everyone, whether it be a stranger or another mammal, as an opportunity for friendship.  While this also has potential pitfalls, the openness to such opportunities typically result in rewarding results.  No one humans are able to resist smiling at Maya’s persistence for friendship, and most mammals respond with in kind friendliness.  My dog, you see, is incapable of making enemies.  She would much prefer that everyone get along and play a healthy game of chase.  Imagine if all of us treated each other with less suspicion.  Imagine, how our relationships with each other, our neighbors, and other nations would look.  Think of the misunderstandings that would never occur, and the deadly conflicts that might have been avoided.  In a world that is more distressed, openness to friendship is more critical now then ever, if we want to live on a planet where we don’t end up finishing each other off over something that isn’t all that important.

Tomorrow I will share the top 5.  I hope everyone had a wonderful day.