10 things my dog taught me – Life lessons from my Best Friend

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Here are some of the things that my dog taught me – the wisdom of dogs should not be underestimated.

Dogs change your life. If you’re a dog owner you’ll know that.Murphy And Me - But Who's Teaching Whom?

The changes seem to sneak up on you unnoticed and simply become part of your normal life and routine. And, I’d venture to suggest, we are all better people because of it.

It’s only when we look back at what we were BD (Before Dog) and then look at ourselves now that we nay notice some differences.

Here are 10 things my dogs have taught me. See if any of them match your own experience.

1 Accept what you cannot  change

I first saw this line on a plaque on a friend’s wall and I thought it was rather clever. The full saying is this:

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Only later did I learn it was written by America theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, and commonly known as the Serenity Prayer.

The main part for me is accepting what you cannot change and this was demonstrated by all my dogs at one time or another when they were poorly.

Don’t let a sore paw stop you

Murphy feeling sorry for himself - but still eager to go for a walk!For example, most dogs suffer from a sore paw at one time or another. It may be sprained, they may have cut it or get a stone in it.

What do they do? In most cases they limp.

That may sound like a joke. It’s not, but it is what they usually do. They get on with whatever they were doing such as continuing on their walk.

If it was me, I’d turn around and head back home. I’d probably swear a bit and, when I got home, complain that I’d hurt my foot and possibly try to elicit a little sympathy. You saw that coming, didn’t you? 🙂

(About the photo – Murphy had a small op and the vet suggested a T-shirt to stop him licking his stitches. A much better alternative than the collar cone.)

When the going gets tough – the dog keeps going

But not dogs. They just get on with it.

This is also true when they are ill. Usually they try to carry on which is why it’s not always easy to tell if they’re not well. If your dog has been poorly, you may have noticed that they still usually want to go out for walks.

The main way I could tell if any of my dogs were poorly is if they’re off their food. Usually they want to carry on with their routine as much as they can.

As I get older (and older!), and bits of me start to ache more than they used to and don’t work as well as they once did, I try to remember to accept it and carry on as best I can.

And limp if I have to.

2 Tidy is overrated

My old office - It may look untidy but I know where everything is.!If you’re a dog owner you can probably relate to this. You may be thinking it would be nice to be tidy some of the time.

Which is not to say that you can’t have a dog and a clean, tidy house, too. It’s just a little more difficult.

The vacuum cleaner seems to go on a little more often, especially when they’re shedding.

There are water drops – sometimes rivulets! – around their water bowl.

The washing machine never seems to be off, particularly during bad weather when you get through two or more towels a day.

And somehow, even if you had a tidy house before, it doesn’t seem to be so important.

A place for everything

You keep the pile of dog towels near the back door where they’re most needed along with your waterproofs and willies. You keep a rowel near the water bowl. You move the dog bed to the front room where your dog will be warm, particularly in cold weather. Maybe you’ll just brush the hairs off the sofa before you plonk on it rather than getting the vacuum out again.

Being neat and tidy is fine but I’m now happy as long as I know where everything is. It doesn’t have to be where I’d like to keep it in an ideal world – it has to be where it’s most convenient.

So the house is tidy in a practical way and that’s the most import thing.

3 Don’t let the weather stop you having fun

Murphy thinks snow is the best worst weather!How many times has it been raining cats and dogs (so to speak) or blowing a gale and the last thing you want to do is take your dog out?

None of my dogs have ever been put off their walk by the weather.

I know a couple of people whose dogs don’t like to go out in bad weather. They scoot into the garden, do their business and come back in again.

I have never had such a dog.

The all-weather dog

My weather-proof walking gear is always by the back door – waterproof jacket with a hood that ties around my face, waterproof over trousers and wellies with thick socks tucked inside.

Yes, I twist a bit, particularly if the rain is the biting cold rain we sometimes get in the UK, but the dogs never seemed to mind.

So I just get on with it whatever the weather.

I have the gear. It’s only water.

Wet dog

Wet dog Monty - he shrinks to half his usual sizeThe most arduous thing is drying the dog when we get back. They don’t have to be out more than a minute to get soaked through so we may as well do our usual walk. They can’t get any wetter.

Am I the only one who likes the smell of wet dog? At least my dogs. Please Comment below.

Once upon a time I may have cancelled plans to go out if the weather was bad, but if it doesn’t stop me taking the dog for a walk, it sure as heck isn’t going to stop me going out socially, either.

I have the gear. It’s only water.

3b Get out more

Murphy is my excuse for going for a walkI have to add this, too, as all my dogs loved going out, especially in the car to a different wood or to the beach.

If you’re without a dog, it’s easy NOT to go out for walks or for exercise.

A dog helps keep you healthy, but don’t forget to go out and exercise even if you don’t have one.

4 Sleep with one eye open – Be aware

It could be advice from the SAS but it’s something I learned from Murphy when trying to cure him of begging at the tale.

He might be in the next room but he’d endeavour to keep a line of sight to the table. He might seem to be asleep but every so often his eyes would flick open for a sneaky peaky to see what was going on.

I never mastered the art of sleeping with one eye open but Murphy taught me to be aware of what’s going on at all times. Not in a SAS way, but just as Murphy didn’t want to miss anything, so being aware makes sure you don’t miss anything, too.

Listen

This can mean listening, really listening, to someone you are with. A lot of the time when someone says something we immediately think of what we want to say in return. If we’re polite we wait until they’ve finished speaking and then jump in but often we stop listening to what they’re saying and wish they’d stop talking so we can say what we want.

Maybe you don’t do that in which case good for you! But be aware and see if that’s what you’re thinking the next time you’re having a conversation.

And I’m sure we can all think of someone we know who does exactly that – as soon as you speak you can see how eager they are to jump in.

Being aware of where you areMurphy loves to investigate his surroundings

The other aspect of being aware is to be aware of your surroundings and environment. How many times do we take the dog for a walk and tune out? We’ve done the walk so many times before, we’re on automatic.

This is easy to do, especially in bad weather, but sometimes you want to run over the events of the day or plan a To Do list. I’m a bit like that too, but a clear spring or autumn day makes me want to look around and enjoy the season.

We should take a few moments at least on every walk to do that. Give it a try.

5 There’s always something interesting going on

Murphy is very curious and finds everything interestingThis is partially linked to the previous lesson. When you’re aware, you’ll be amazed at what’s going on around you.

Have you ever wondered how dogs can find something interesting to sniff every time they go out, even on the same route? Day after day, there’s always something new.

Always changing

If you’re a nature-lover you’ll probably find new things every day.

If you walk an urban beat, do you see the same people every time you’re out or do you always see a stranger or two who crosses your path once, never to be seen again?

Do you pass shops? Are there new things in the window?

There’s always something new out there.

6 Say hello to strangers

This follows on, doesn’t it?

Few things attract strangers more than Monty and his brothers and sistersYou probably nod to another passing dog walker. More likely you say Hello and maybe even exchange a few words about the weather.

Perhaps you even have a conversation, not just about your respective dogs but about family, upcoming holidays, work, and so on.

Dogs always say Hello to each other, and all my dogs have wanted to say Hello to people, too. Murphy was very keen to do this once he discovered that most dog walkers keep a supply of treats in their pocket and if he sat and offered a paw he’d most likely get one.

The kindness of strangers

He also tried this ploy with non-dog owners and I’d have to explain that he thinks they have a dog and therefore some dog treats in their pocket.

One lovely lady who simply enjoyed walking was so charmed that she actually bought some treats to give him the next time we met.

So Murphy discovered that it pays to say Hello and although he didn’t rely on them, he did appreciate the kindness of strangers.

7 Smell everything!

Murphy reading the doggy newspaperHave you ever noticed your dog stick his or her nose in the air and have a good sniff? Have you also sniffed but failed to notice anything?

A dog’s sense of smell is far greater than ours by a factor of tens of thousands. They have 200-300 million olfactory receptors in their nose compared to our 5-6 million and the part of their brain that deciphers the smell is vastly greater than ours.

No wonder they rely on their sense of smell so much – they understand the world through it.

No, don’t smell EVERYTHING!

I’m not suggesting we go around smelling everything but of all our senses, our sense of smell is one of the least used although it plays a part in helping us know what’s around us.

Next time you’re out, have a quiet sniff and see what you can smell – woods on a wet day, the smell of cooking, rotting leaves, cows, maybe perfume or aftershave from a passerby, the smell of summer.

One thing you will almost certainly have sniffed at is a meal. Our sense of smell helps inform us what it will taste like. We smell a good meal and expect it to taste wonderful. If it smells of something we don’t like such as fish or a strong cheese, we will probably avoid it.

So have a sniff now and again, not just at your food but while out walking.

8 Enjoy your food

And speaking of smelling your food…

Is your dog a fussy eater?

I suspect not. None of my dogs were and all seemed to thoroughly enjoy what they ate, whatever they ate!

Murphy loves all his food, especially treatsOkay, I’ll be honest. None of my dogs taught me this. I love food so this was not a lesson for me to learn but I did remark to a friend how much both me and Murphy enjoyed eating. To which they were kind enough to reply that I didn’t eat as fast.

Ah well, that’s something…

Too often in our busy lives we eat while watching TV. Many families no longer have meals together which is a shame as meal times are good times to share and come together.

I love eating out with friends because we talk to each other and it’s also a great opportunity to see what everyone’s eating and sometimes share that, too.

9 Be happy

I feel obliged to quote the whole phrase – Don’t worry, be happy – although I totally confess to hating the song when it came out. I still try to avoid it but I do trot out the phrase, if it seems appropriate, to a worrying friend.

But here it is, in case you feel the urge…

One thing which you probably notice about your dog is that they are invariably happy.

Dogs can get depressed, particularly after a major change or loss in their life. If you think your dog may be depressed, read this.

However, normally, most dogs are happy and always looking forward to something be it their next meal a treat, playtime or their next walk.

Sure, they don’t have the worries and concerns we have living in the modern world but do you not think your dog is happy most of the time?

I hope so. Hopefully we make our dogs happy.

Reasons to be cheerful

Nothing says Happy like Monty, the Bernese Mountain DogThe amazing thing is they seem to be happy for the most trivial of reasons – going out in the pouring rain, playing with you, playing with a toy, chewing a toy, saying Hello to visitors, eating dinner, eating a treat, eating grass, just eating.

I had such a bond with Monty, my second Bernese Mountain Dog that he would follow me around and sit down beside me or as near to me as he could get whenever he could. When I looked at him I could hear his tale thump on the floor. I think he was happy.

Even if a dog is unwell with a sore paw or after an operation, they usually manage a tail wag.

It’s as if they always look on the bright side of life.

And no, I’m not going to link to the song.

10 Loyalty

Chillin' with MurphyThis is possibly the trait most people think of when they think of dogs.

Friends come and go. The true ones stay. As do dogs.

I suspect everyone has had a friend they lost touch with. It’s the way of the world. People move away, they get a new job, new interests, new priorities.

And in this fast-paced world of always-on and instant communication, it’s strange to think that you can actually lose touch with someone. But we do.

Your dog’s your BFF

So isn’t it great to know that your dog is always there? They won’t block you on Facebook, have a spat on Twitter or ignore your texts.

I try to take this into my friendships by being a loyal and trustworthy friend as well as fun and someone people like to be around.

Dogs don’t have to try so hard – they’re always fun to be with, and I found it difficult to look at any of my dogs and not feel warm and fuzzy inside. I doubt I elicit such a feeling in my friends but that’s okay.

Friends come and go but a dog is forever.

If your dog has taught you anything, please share them in the Comments below.

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