A little over a year ago, my puppy walked into my life and changed everything. I had always wanted a dog--I begged and pleaded for years for a puppy of my own, and my wishes were finally granted. I knew that I would love my puppy with all my heart. I knew that he would become my best friend. I knew he would be faithful and love me unconditionally. I knew this, because I thought I knew all about dogs. However, I never realized how much I would learn from my little 15 pound puppy.
There are so many lessons we can learn from our dogs. The best lessons in life truly can come from the most unexpected places. Here are 11 life lessons brought to you from my dog:
1. Be Loyal
For someone who deals with commitment issues, seeing my dog's fierce loyalty to my family and I has been inexplicably valuable. He does not stray from our sides until he is sure we are safe, and still refuses to let us out of his sight. Dogs are pack animals, and their owners are their pack. My dog's unwavering loyalty has taught me to remain constant and dependable to my human pack.
2. Protect The Ones You Love
Dogs will always stand up for the ones they love, even if the situations are frightening for them. My little 15 pound puppy will stand up to anything that he deems a threat--even if it's a dog 5 times his size, or a menacing human. To him, nothing is more important than keeping me safe. Essentially, dogs teach us to remain courageous and strong in the face of threats to our loved ones. We need to always stand up for those we love.
3. There's Always Time To Play
No matter how tired he is, how long of a day he's had, or what he's doing in that moment, my dog will always come over to play with me when I get home. Dogs are such happy creatures--always jumping, running, and chasing. No matter how old they get, they'll always come over to play a game of fetch. They're good reminders to find the happy moments in life, and to rekindle those moments of joy we discovered in playtime as younger children. You never get too old to play, and your dog gives you an excuse to bring out the little kid that's still inside of you.
4. Live In The Moment, Enjoy The Little Things
It's so easy to make my puppy happy. A new toy doesn't need to be a $20 bone from the store--an old washcloth makes him just as happy to play tug of war with. Car rides may as well be a vacation in paradise. They'll stick their heads out the window, tongue hanging out and tails wagging, not caring about the destination. They live for the journey. Similarly, we need to recognize that while the goal is important, it's often the journey that means the most. Life is meant to be lived in the moment, yet this is one of the most overlooked lessons in our society.
5. FORGIVE others
We don't deserve dogs. Even after leaving them alone all day because we had to stay a few extra hours at work, or waking them up after coming home late after a night out, they forgive us. Instantly. Seeing our faces seems to erase any sort of qualms they may have had with our actions. Dogs never hold grudges, nor do they seek revenge. They are such pure, sweet creatures that forgive anything and everything as long as it is replaced with love. This may be one of the most important lessons I have learned from my puppy. Holding grudges is unhealthy for my body, and anger is bad for my soul. We must forgive others to achieve peace and happiness in our own lives.
6. Accept Yourself, Love Who You Are
I'm going to make an assumption here, since I can't read my dog's mind, but I'm pretty sure Rafiki isn't walking around wishing he was a Havanese instead of a Maltese or wishing his fur was jet black instead of snow white. Rather than becoming envious around other dogs, he simply wishes to play with them and make new friends. Humans, on the other hand, constantly seek to achieve an idealistic level of perfection that is just as unattainable as it is unreasonable. Instead, we need to accept who we are and love the individuals we are as God made us.
7. Never Be Afraid To Express Yourself
Humans often walk on eggshells when it comes to expressing our emotions in front of others. Dogs are simple. They love you? They'll give you kisses all over, whether in public or at home. If they're scared, they cry. Mad? They'll bark at you. Dogs are expressive with their emotions, rather than living in the fear of what others will think.
8. Be Understanding And Listen
Even though he probably doesn't understand what I say 80% of the time, my dog patiently sits and listens to me when I'm talking, venting or crying. His patience calms me down and makes me feel as though I'm not alone, that someone understands what I'm going through, and that someone cares. We need to make sure to do the same for those in our lives. Anyone can be a friend through the good, but very few people can stick around through the bad and ugly. By channeling a similar level of patience, compassion, and understanding as that exhibited by dogs, we can be better friends to those in our lives, and better humans in our world.
9. Accept Compliments
Many cultures call for turning down compliments or acting shy when praised by others. Dogs simply smile and soak up the constant praise they receive. They live for the love, praise and recognition, and allow it to positively influence their self worth. It's important to remain humble in the face of compliments and praise, but it's ok to accept it and be gracious. We all deserve to feel good about ourselves.
10. Stop And Smell The Roses
My dog stops to sniff almost every flower when we go on walks. It gets slightly annoying at times because it interrupts the walk, but I can never stay mad when I see how enthusiastically he seeks to explore all the beauty in life. Put away the technology once in a while and just explore everything around you. Be curious about the world you live in. Smell the roses.
11. Love Unconditionally
I don't think I will ever find someone who loves me the way my dog does. No matter what I do, he's there to greet me with a smile and countless kisses. He doesn't care if I'm dressed up or down, whether or not I have a ton of money, or if I passed or failed my exam. Loving unconditionally is one of the most difficult tasks in the world, but also the most rewarding. It's an act that is difficult, but one that would change the world if only we each tried a little bit harder to make it our reality.
There is so much that we have to learn from our dogs. They appreciate us, motivate us, inspire us and love us. In fact, your dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than themselves. And with that, the most important thing you can do is try to be that amazing person your dog thinks you are.