Dogs are such phenomenal teachers for us. They teach us about gratitude, love and compassion, being present, and joy. But they teach us more than that.
I recently lost one of my dogs to cancer. Every day since he came into our family as a rescue only two years ago, this gentle giant (a 130-pound longhair Rottweiler) with a huge heart showed us such an abundance of love and gratitude that we felt like the rescued ones.
His last lesson to me was about acceptance and letting go. It reminded me once again how we humans have an emotional attachment to what we imagine could have been and what we regret. The lessons of loss bring us back to being present and having gratitude.
For dogs, life is lived in the now — and we can all learn something from that.
1. Dogs only care about the relationship they have with us. It's all about the heart, not the ego.
Each day could be the last, so don’t waste it with unimportant concerns. Make the day matter with something that you care about. Let your intentions and actions be guided from your heart, not from your ego.
2. Dogs only care if you're going for that walk now; promising it will happen tomorrow doesn't count today.
We only exist in the now. Tomorrow is a story, and yesterday is a memory. We humans are so attached to fixing our mistakes (which causes us to well in the past) and controlling the outcome of what tomorrow brings (when we can't ever really know what will happen). It's part of our survival instincts to stay on the lookout for danger, but don’t make it how you live your life. Allow the moment to be what guides your choices.
3. Dogs don’t care if their dog bed is more expensive or their car (your car) is bigger than the neighbors'.
They only care if you spend time with them. Love is all that matters in the end. The times to remember and cherish are the moments spent sharing love.
4. Dogs don’t have a concept of planning their time.
They would never choose to take care of an impossibly long list of tasks at the expense of living, and enjoying, their life. Time is the most important when life is running out, so be here now and make the best of it; you will never get this moment back. We cannot control time; we can only control what we do with it.
5. Dogs don’t have a concept of holding back their love until they make sure you love them.
They just go for it. The more love the better. Loss and grief is all about love. The more love, the more loss — and somehow knowing that makes the grieving process gentler. So give it all you got. The loss will be meaningful, but only because the love was.
6. Dogs will be hurt, ignored, and even neglected, and still just show surrender to love when offered a belly rub.
Being vulnerable is a gift that brings more love. Everybody wants love, and being vulnerable makes us able to receive it.
7. Dogs are the best partners in sadness.
They just snuggle up with you while you cry and are ready to lick your face afterward. Being sad is OK. Sadness helps you open your heart and feel the love the surrounds and support you.
8. Dogs mourn too, but they also accept what is.
They mourn loss, but not a lost future. Being stuck in grief is not OK. Acceptance of what is and appreciation for what was help us mourn and move us through to the love and memories, which are what last.
9. Dogs are the best at self-care.
They will curl up and retreat when they need to self-soothe. No self-judgment — just a good snuggle up will do. Self-compassion is essential.
My dogs are my supporters and teachers on this journey called life. First they need us; then we need them!
If you're considering getting a pet, please rescue one. So many animals are in need of a home and what they give you in return is unconditional love, gratitude, and many lessons of being mindful and living in the NOW.
Photo Credit: Torkil Stavdal