I’ve started taking inspiration wherever I can find it, and lately I’ve been finding it from this fella. This is Fred. He’s not my dog, but I’m lucky enough to spend time with him regularly. He’s unlike any dog that I’ve ever owned, which is to say he’s trained and well behaved. I’ve always had a soft spot for dogs. I think a life isn’t as full as it could be without the companionship of a dog. Now that I’m renting in New Brunswick, I’m dogless, so I’ve latched on to Fred.
We can learn a lot from dogs. They’re living lessons in selflessness, friendship, loyalty, and love. In just a few months they master what most of us will spend a lifetime trying to learn: how to live one moment at a time. You never see a dog hung up thinking about what he just did, or worry about what he’ll do next. From moment to moment, he’s experiencing it all with a joy and wonder that doesn’t fade with age. They make the best of everything.
They feel things deeply and don’t hide it. A dog can’t deny a playful grin anymore than he can stop his tail from wagging when you say a friendly hello. They’re right there with you.
They pick up your feelings, too. A dog is never happier than when he’s making you happy. He’s never more peaceful then when he’s laying calmly by you. He’s never more sensitive then when you are feeling down. He’s never harder on himself then when he knows he’s disappointed you. Sure, part of this is because dogs are naturally perceptive but it’s also because we don’t hide our feelings from dogs the way we do other people. The guard comes down and they meet us as we are. I’ve never once pretended to be happy for a dog, and every dog I’ve known has lived up to the challenge of snapping me out of it.
Sitting on the deck we watch Fred proudly bounce toward the edge of the yard to defend us against an attacking butterfly, or watch him stand guard on the end of the step when he spots another dog a yard away. His eyes follow a bee out of pure amazement. When he sits by you he leans his whole body against you to let you know he’s there. When you scratch his ears he looks you in the eye and thanks you for the love and attention you’re giving him. Whether you’re with him for ten minutes or a whole day his every move let’s you know that he’s your friend, he’s got your back, and he appreciates being with you. His every glance is filled with love and acceptance.
I’ve been reading books and sitting in therapists office off on and on for years now trying to figure out how to be a better friend, and accept myself enough to be ready to accept someone else in my life. It turns out everything I needed to know I could learn in a few hours a week while fighting over a chew toy he’s convinced I want to steal, or he’s just pretending because he knows the game makes me just as happy, and in that moment that’s all he wants, because that’s what good dogs do.