My mother and father own a dog, whose name is Molly. She’s officially the cutest little Cockapoo on the face of the Earth, bar none*. This can in fact be scientifically proven and the evidence is provided below, and if anyone was to wish to repudiate the claim then I would challenge them to a straight-up fight to the death.
Molly has a sister – her name is Bella. She belongs to some friends of my Mum and Dad, and they had no idea that they had found dogs from the same litter until the pups first met each other. The resemblance was indeed uncanny. We had a period dog-sitting her over the Christmas break, and the two together was some sight.
Now if you’ve never had a pet, you probably won’t follow the train of thought here…. But for those of you who have, I think you’ll relate. Observing the hound alone and in company actually provides a host of learning lessons from which we can draw some inspiration, or at least some knowledge.
- In a pleasant home environment, dogs know only love.
- Dogs are forever children – they play, they eat, they sleep.
- They are energised by the company of others (have you ever seen a pair of dogs play?!)
- Solitude is a valuable state also, and they sleep soundly for being expended.
- They live in the present, always.
- They have their own personalities, and it shines through.
1 – Love is always present in their little hearts. If you show them affection, they will show you the same. Much like ourselves, if bitten we can bite back, shy away and retreat inwards but in positive surroundings they will thrive, and radiate affection out into the world. Look at a dog in a happy home and see a prime example of unrequited love.
This is enviable. Though there will be setbacks, hardships and struggles throughout life, it should be a goal for all of us to maintain the positive outlooks that our canine companions illustrate. It is easy to become bitter, twisted and cynical in a society that can often seem out to get the little guy, but in truth we all feel very much the same. “Love thy neighbour” is one of the founding tenets of Western culture, yet why is it so hard to do?
2 – Dogs don’t have bills, mortgages, work stress, dietary issues, pressures of social demands or fitness needs. All they do is play, with their owners and their local area dog-buddies, eat the food which is given to them and sleep when their owners are out or they feel tired. This links in nicely with 5 – their present-moment existence. They can chase the demand-free activities that are truly hedonistic and find satisfaction in the activities that they choose. Their time is their own and they make the most of it.
3 – They realise the true value of the tribe, and whether they are the lone dog in the household or not, the joy is always evident when another dog is encountered. The social interaction amongst dogs is as vital as it is among humans, and although interactions between dogs and their owners is worth something, it is not the same.
Dogs need the company of other dogs. There is a kinship between even completely different breeds. Though a type of dog may differ completely from the one it is encountering, they can see a kindred spirit reflected back at them and the energy that ensues in the subsequent playing is unparalleled. The lesson here is that however introverted one might be, social interaction, the bond of a tribe around you plays a vital part in your health both physically and mentally. Contact with others will forever be an essential human requirement, and the dearth of this in modern society is a travesty.
4 – In a complete gear-switch from number 3 above, dogs too show the desire for solitude. They can be at peace for being fully expended in the activity they choose to do, and so when the exhaustion hits they can truly switch off. This is helped by the added benefit of being in a safe place, but even out in the wide world if a dog needs to rest, it will rest.
Though (at least as far as we can tell!) a dog does not know introspection, forward thought or reflection, dogs can still be known to enjoy the chance to relax in between bouts of activity. We too should seek to find the ability to switch off so completely. To be truly outside of stimuli is near-impossible in the 21st century, in the world of instant messaging, virtual reality, notifications and social media. The ability to disconnect is one to idolise and seek.
5 – Present-moment awareness similarly is a quality that is hard to cultivate. There is so much out there to draw our attention away from whatever moment we find ourselves in. It is a challenge to enjoy a good book in the wake of a vibrating mobile phone. It is difficult to immerse ourselves in a conversation with so much input surrounding us. It is a fight to focus on a sport, an activity or a session in the gym when the stresses mentioned in #2 bear down on our consciousness and take us away from what we are doing.
This is another case of our greatest strengths being our greatest weakness. Our consumption of data and desire to plan can be paralysing. It has been said that “indecision is fatal“. “A good decision made now is better than the perfect decision made never.” “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” Massive action as Tony Robbins calls it is what brings success, for without action there is nothing. Dogs act. Be more dog.
6 – Dogs know no other way than to be themselves. The little quirks that owners become familiar with are not put upon the dog, but shine out from inside. Any family that has owned more than one dog will know how dramatically different a canine personality can be, and this is much the same as people.
The difference is that dogs have no fear, no doubt or insecurity. They are ultimately content to be their own being, and know no other way. Humans have to face up to and contend with all of these issues, and cannot escape them. The burden of intelligence, I guess.
All that we can do is draw inspiration from the ability of the domestic creatures that we love so much, and try to emulate them in the most admirable ways. Though we are far advanced of dogs in many ways, they still have ancestral virtuous qualities that we have lost in our development. It takes humility to acknowledge this, and acceptance to see its value. But we differ less far than we might think from our canine friends. More than 25% of our genetic base pairs align with dogs, and dog genomic segments aligned to 61% of human transcripts (see paper on The Dog Genome, Kirkness et. al¹).
Any source of wisdom can be drawn from once acknowledged. Though we may not glean routines, habits and rituals from man’s best friend, we can glean a lot of character points that have been lost to time.