Dogs can be our teachers if we’ll let them. They teach us how to love wholeheartedly. They teach us how to forgive quickly. They teach us how to trust others even when they’ve been burned in the past by untrustworthy people. They teach us how to play with abandon and then relax completely. They nap without apology any time of the day, and scratch what itches without embarrassment. They start each day with a fresh slate, unencumbered by the blunders of yesterday or worries for tomorrow. They recover from disappointment quickly, eager to do the next thing, whatever that turns out to be.
“We’re going for a walk? Yaaaay! We’re going for a walk! Oh. We’re not going for a walk. We’re watching TV instead? Yaaay! We’re watching TV. We’re not watching TV. You’re going out. Yaaay! We’re going out. Oh. You’re going out; I’m staying home. Pooh. Okay. I’ll just take a nap till you get back.”
When my dogs and I go for a walk, we take a trail that winds through the undeveloped property behind our house. Same old trail, every day, a half-hour hike through the woods. Every day, the dogs teach me how to pay attention, how to live in the moment, completely captivated by whatever they see, even if they’ve seen it a hundred times before. Some days, I even manage to learn the lesson. Often, though, I remain depressingly human.
My thoughts on the trail:
“When we get back, I need to make those phone calls I’ve been putting off. I need to remember to start a load of laundry first, so that can be running while I’m making the calls. Oh, look. What a pretty flower. Or maybe I’ll get my writing done first, get that ten pages out of the way so I can go ahead and send the next chapter to my critique partner early in the day….”
My dogs’ thoughts on the trail:
Jack: “Wow! Look at that! A tree fell over. Now I can smell the whole thing, all the way up the branches! Hey! A squirrel has been here!”
Jules: “Yeah! Do you get a whiff of Raccoon, too? I get a whiff of Raccoon.”
Molly: “Feel how squishy the mud is down here where the roots pulled away from the ground. I’m gonna roll in this. It’ll be cool and awesome. Oh, yeah, it’s cool and awesome.”
Truman: “Yeah, yeah. I’m running ahead; there’s something dead up here. I’m gonna find out what it is.”
Jules: “Ooh, hey, wait for me! I’m gonna roll in it! Then I’ll smell like the animal that died. It’ll be just like Halloween!”
Dogs teach us how to pay attention to the moment at hand, instead of dwelling in the past or projecting into the future. Today, I’m going to try to be more like my dogs, and enjoy the current moment, whatever that looks like. First, though, I’ll start a load of laundry.