Saturday, March 04, 2006

What I Have Learned

I am a member of several online communities for Cocker Spaniel lovers. On one of the sites, somebody posed the question "What have you learned from your Cocker?" I answered with my typical reply of "to enjoy life, live in the moment, etc" But it made me think about what I really have learned from my dogs. I truly think that dogs can be our teachers, if we are open to learning from them and receptive to their methods of teaching.

For instance, I have learned from Quigley that you can recover from really bad things in your life. He was abused before I got him, and had never lived in a house. I think that some people who have experienced similar situations turn bitter, not wanting anything to do with people (or at least, people who remind them of their abusers). Heck, I imagine I would become the same way. But instead of letting it control his life, Quigley learned to let go of his past and to live in the moment (this same ability to live in the moment means he never considers the consequences of his actions either). Within 2 years of him coming to live with me, Quigley was an entirely different dog. He loves meeting new people, he is friendly and happy, and there are very few memories of that past life. I think if more people could follow this maxim (including myself!) then the world would be a better place overall. That sounds corny, but if people lived less in the past, they might not be as reactive to certain events, and that would certainly be a good thing.

Farley taught me that no matter what somebody you love does to you, always kiss them goodnight and let them know you love them. I have done some pretty horrible things to Farley, including having him neutered and giving him a subcutaneous injection (and grooming!). But it doesn't matter what happens through the day, he always snuggles in close at night and lets me know that he wouldn't want any other mom. I try to do that with my family and friends, but I'm not always good at it. On those days that I feel particularly unhappy with somebody, I try to remember how good it feels to know that my boy loves me, no matter what. And that he's willing to forgive and forget. And I try to be like him. Even when I took him swimming, where he got covered in leeches and had to have a long bath to get them off, he loved on me the second he was out of the tub. How's that for forgiveness?

My girl Keeley (who now lives in a fabulous retirement home in Nova Scotia) was the world's greatest at letting things roll off her back. Nothing phased her - I could yell at her, ignore her, correct her (during training sessions) or threaten to withhold food. Didn't matter, she was always smiling and wagging that tail of hers. Even when I felt completely and totally frustrated with her (usually because of housetraining issues), she would just wag and smile at me and tell me to relax and just let it be. She could always make me smile and let go of a bit of anger, just by being herself.

Now I have her son, Billy, and I'm eager to see what I'm going to learn from him. Oh, I know it will be some of the same lessons that every dog can teach, about cherishing naptime and eating every meal like it's the last one. But I sincerely believe that he has a specific lesson to teach me too. I only hope I'm receptive enough to notice it and apply it.

So think about it - what have YOU learned from the dogs, cats, kids, family and friends in your life? Try to take the time to thank the people that have positively impacted you. Even a small thank you can make a huge difference to somebody . . . just knowing you appreciate them. I think I'll give my dogs a treat now.


Visichy said...

What an awesome tribute to your dogs. You should submit it to Dogs in Canada or the Cocker Classic Magazine. It needs to be immortalized :)

Monica said...

Great commentary Kelly.

You got my brain clicking as I was reading what you learned about your dogs and opening my mind to what I've learned from my girls. One comment made me think about how after the first time I groomed Sami, she still wagged her little nub at me and gave me kisses. She never holds a grudge. I also remember other times of her waking me up to take her potty. Her little nub would be wagging as I turned on the light and told her "don't you wag your tail at me, I am NOT happy to see you" but she didn't care. We've lots to learn if only we open our hearts, minds, and ears to listen.