One of the happiest days of my life was when I brought home Bruno, a dog of my very own. I couldn’t wait to teach Bruno so many tricks that he would be the envy of every other dog and dog owner. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that it would be Bruno doing the teaching while I did the learning.
Bruno is long gone, and I’ve been dogless for too many years. So I recently brought home Lulu the Lovable Labradoodle to fill the dog-shaped hole in my heart. Not surprisingly, in the short time since she’s joined our home, she’s already been teaching and reteaching me some lessons I need to apply.
Here are just a few things that I’m relearning thanks to Lulu’s help:
Learn to Sleep Like a Log.
Puppies can sleep 12-18 hours each day. And they need that much rest to fuel their incessant barking, leaf stalking, feet attacking, and toilet paper killing.
According to research conducted by The Journal of the National Sleep Foundations, young adults and adults require 7-9 hours of sleep each day to be at their best. If you don’t believe me, you can review the full report here:
Want your Best Self to show up each day? Learn to prioritize rest.
Learn to Take a Keen Interest in Others.
Animal behaviorists believe that dogs demonstrate their interest in another dog by sniffing its butt. It’s like a canine way of inquiring, “Where ya been? Whatya been you eating?”
Adult humans generally frown upon the practice of butt-sniffing. But since we have well-developed vocal chords, we can accomplish much the same thing by approaching others throughout the day and saying something like, “Hi! I haven’t seen you in a while. How have you been?” Then, and here’s the really important part, really listen to the answer and take sincere interest in what the other person says.
Want to come across as approachable and friendly? Learn to make it about others.
Learn to Play In a Way that Matters.
For a dog, the work of the day is the business of play. It doesn’t matter if he’s digging a hole in the backyard, playing fetch, or chasing the mailman—play takes up a large part of a dog’s life. Accordingly, a dog has clear, unambiguous priorities: sleep, play, eat, and poop.
Humans have many other things besides play to keep them busy. But according to the 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, we do just fine. Men average 5.5 hours each day in sports, leisure, and social activities, and women, 4.8 hours. You can see for yourself here:
Perhaps humans don’t need to spend more time in play, but we could benefit from engaging in certain activities more than others. For example, hiking inspires awe. It beats watching TV. Taking a family walk promotes bonding, which is better than trolling social media. Reading fuels your mind and imagination more so than video gaming.
Want to find more time for the things that really matter? Learn to combine play with things that feed your soul instead of just fill your time.
Learn to Love Unconditionally.
If you own a particularly ferocious breed like a Yorkshire Terrier or Labradoodle, you know what it’s like to be savagely loved by an overly-aggressive tongue. Most dogs truly love their owners, flaws and all. Mark Twain said it best:
“Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, [humans] would stay out and [their dogs] would go in.”
As far as humans, what can I say? We are known to love foolishly, emotionally, intellectually, blindly, and selfishly (like that quote that tries-not-to-sound-selfish but is: “I love you because of who I am when I’m with you”!). But unconditionally?
Unconditional love is loving another in his core, as he is, regardless of what he does or doesn’t do for you or to you. Many parents have this kind of love for their children.
Maybe the best way we can practice unconditional love as humans is to do what a dog does when it looks at his owner as if he is the only person in the world. No rolling of eyes, no judgment. And maybe just an occasional look around to see if anyone dropped something tasty nearby.
Want to make the world and your world a better place? Learn to love those in your immediate proximity first, and then extend from there.
What has your dog, cat, pygmy goat, or ferret taught you?