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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Ten Things I've Learned From My Dogs

A couple of weeks ago, I posted some things I'd learned recently from a two-year-old. In thinking of what I'd learned from unexpected places, I realized I'd also discovered a few life lessons from my dogs:

#1: The moment you meet someone you know whether they're a good person or not.

Dogs have an incredible spidey-sense about people. A few months ago, when we had our deck stained, a rather rough-looking guy stepped onto our deck. Our three dogs barked incessantly behind the glass doors until I let them out. They ran to the guy like he was the dog whisperer. No more barking. Just lots of licks and tail wagging. I knew he was a good guy.

#2:  Snuggling evinces the deepest form of trust.

Our 14-year-old dog, Taylor, was a rescue who has had trust issues her entire life. Even though she's in heart failure, she races across the yard like a puppy when a stranger dares step onto our property. But at night, she finally relaxes and allows herself to sleep tucked in next to me and Jamie. Our most recent adoption, Ellie, lived on the streets for a while and is in constant alert mode. It's taken some time, but she now trusts us. When I drape a blanket across my lap, she jumps up and curls her crazy long legs into a tiny ball and completely surrenders.

#3: Allow yourself to nap during the day if you're tired.

I love curling up on the couch on a Sunday afternoon with one dog curled up in my arms and another in the crook of my legs. It's a yummy sleep, and gets me rejuvenated for the week to come.

#4:  Respect the alpha of your pack.

No matter how many dogs you have, there is only one alpha. The alpha commands respect but her role is actually to make the best decisions for the pack. We moms are the alphas of our families. In fulfilling our role of protector and decision-maker, we can't tolerate disrespect. Nothing shatters a family faster than disrespect between spouses or between children and parents. Although it usually arises from annoyance or impatience, the recipient feels it viscerally as hatred.

#5:  You need that person that will clean up your pee and poop with a simple utter under their breath and no true anger.

Having little dogs with little systems sometimes leads to little "accidents." Having two elderly dogs who became incontinent added a new level to my patience. When I watch my dad care for my mom, who's in the end stages of dementia, his love and care humbles me.

#6:   Lie in the sun at least once a day because nothing feels as good or will make you smell like Fritos. 

I love lying on the beach. Next to a pool. Or just out on the deck. There's something inexplicable about having the sun's warmth on your face. The comforting heat causes us to pause.

#7:  Stick your head out of the window of a car while you're riding down the road. It makes you feel alive, allows you to appreciate the speed, and gives you a glimpse of every relevant smell along the way.

We often focus on the destination when the journey is just as good.

#8:  Celebrate when the person you love comes home.

One of the many wonderful things about having a dog is the pure, unadulterated joy they show when you walk in the door. Even if you've only been gone for thirty minutes. If only we showed our loved ones such joy simply because they're present.

#9:  Bark when someone threatens those you love because even if it's just the UPS guy, you never know.

Becoming a parent has released the Kraken that is the mama bear inside me. Whether it's a school bully, a cranky teacher, a screaming coach, or my own family members, my normally docile disposition vanishes in the shadow of my protectiveness of my children.

#10:  Chase your tail when it smacks you unexpectedly because it's obviously unruly or just seeking an outlet. 

Our terrier, Ellie, has unbelievable energy. Sometimes when she's wound up and her tail is wagging, it accidentally hits her. And she attacks it for a split-second before she feels the pinch of her own teeth and realizes... In our hectic lives, our responsibilities sometimes overcome us. The proverbial "tail wagging the dog." Stop it.

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