Sunday, January 23, 2011

What I Have Learnt from my Dogs

Far from me to think that dogs, and other pets, don’t have their own peculiarities, idiosyncrasies, and at times, even nasty habits (such as eating unidentifiables, or even too easily identifiables). But, given the chance to weigh the negative against the positive, the pluses far outweigh the minuses.

Let me describe a day with my girls. The very first thing that they do, if I’m not up yet, is quietly play with each other, as if aware that they should respect my need for silence. But if I’m already awake, their first concern is to say, doggie-style, “Good morning. Isn’t it a wonderful day? We’re so happy to see you”. I’ll admit to sometimes waking up sort of half-way and being a bit of a grouch. They don’t seem to care. Within a few minutes, their happiness is so obvious and contagious that it puts a smile in my heart and on my face. Invariably, the morning routine turns to a head or chest scratch from the grouch to each girl, the small ones and the big one.

They wolf down their food and would go for seconds and even thirds! What a way to show appreciation for the food that I’ve prepared for them. There’s no, “… I don’t like broccoli…”, “…I hate fish…”, “…how come there’s no dessert?” – everything is appreciated. One dog I had, a labrador/shepherd cross whose name was Keesha, would ALWAYS turn her head toward me after first putting her nose to her bowl, as if to say, “…thanks”. She wouldn’t start eating until after she’d had this grateful look.

Since the girls are now one year old, I’ve reduced their eating times to twice a day, morning and supper time. Out of the habit of having a noon meal when they were puppies, comes mid-day, they scratch at the door to come in, expecting a full meal. We’re now in the weaning stage so I’ll hand feed them carrot and apple bites. There’s no whining, no begging, no attitude. Happiness is the order of the day. What’s not to like?

They seem to perceive whenever I’m down and their attitude immediately changes. They come quietly to me, a worried look in their eyes, as if to ask, “… what’s the problem? What can we do to make it all better?” I remember the first family dog we had when my kids were small. My sister is not a dog person and the dog could sense it when she came visiting and simply go out in the yard. One day however, she was terribly upset and began to cry. He immediately came to ask to come in, went to her without trying to attract her attention, and quietly sat at her feet under the table, as if to show compassion. He didn’t budge until she was ready to leave. (I wonder if she’d even been aware of him). This to a person who had always ignored him and would even at times shoo him away! How about us forgiving and showing compassion to even those who diss us, or simply ignore us?

Now, don’t anyone tell me that I’m anthropomorphising. Dogs DO feel. Dogs DO respond to people’s emotions, and could teach us kindness. Regardless how long I’ve been gone, my dogs’ welcome is joy unlimited, tail wagging, even whole body wagging. Mindy seems to have many of the characteristics that Keesha used to have. One time a friend came visiting and seeing Keesha’s enthusiastic whole-body wag exclaimed, “… Good grief! One day of these days, she’ll wag right out of her skin!” Mindy also has a whole body wag and it’s quite heart-warming to be so welcomed.

In short, they have taught me forgiving, kindness, forbearance, appreciation and gratitude, even in the most dire circumstances. But more than anything, they have never failed to show me the kind of love that many of us would have a hard time emulating—unconditional love! That’s why I took to the road years ago. Just so that I could keep my dogs, which I wouldn’t have been allowed to do in an apartment rental. That’s why I kept to the road until I found a lot here in Mexico where I can keep another set of dogs. Simply put, I cannot live without a dog or two. Or three!

This is a “poem” that I read and can never finish without feeling a big lump in my heart and an even larger one in my throat trying to hold back the tears. I hope all you, friends of dogs, like it and recognize what our beloved dogs are really like.


If you can start the day without caffeine,
If you can get going without pep pills,
If you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,
If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,
If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it,
If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time,
If you can overlook it when those you love take it out on you, when, through no fault of yours, something goes wrong,
If you can ignore a friend's limited education and never correct him,
If you can resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend,
If you can face the world without lies and deceit,
If you can conquer tension without medical help,
If you can relax without liquor,
If you can say honestly that deep in your heart you have no prejudice against creed, color or politics,
Then, my friend, you are almost as good as your dog.


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¡Vizcacha! said...

Sheesh. I'm not even as good as my cats!

(The Good Luck Duck)

Stargazer said...

I just love your comment Roxanne! Thanks.

Russ Krecklow said...

As my wife's brother always says: "We should try to be the people our dogs think we are."

Great comments. I'm just now reading a book called "Inside A Dog" that is very interesting and insightful.

Thanks for sharing.

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