4 life lessons from my rescue dogs

It’s time I jump into the fray and add to the “what I’ve learned” category of blogs. Here’s what I’ve learned from my two rescue dogs.

Every new human is an opportunity for love. Even while traumatized from their experiences, each of these dogs meets new people with enthusiasm. They see each person as a new set of hands to pet them and a new person to love. What a wonderful outlook on life! No fear – no holding back. We should all embrace new people with such openness and vulnerability.

Take the time to relax and love. I’ve totally spoiled my dogs by allowing them into my bed. But some of the rationale behind this is practical: on a cold winter’s night in New England, it’s great to have two small dogs warming up the bed for you and keeping you warm as the temperature drops. In the morning, they’ve learned how to stay quiet until I’m awake and ready to start the day. On the weekends, when we wake up and I don’t have to rush to get ready for work, they roll on their backs and I rub their tummies for a while. Their tails wag, they’re happy. They don’t even need their morning food as I take the time to love them. In the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it’s clear that love and affection win out over food (until, of course, I announce it’s time to eat!).

Gratefulness leads to happiness. When they arrived at my home, they were both timid and shy. They didn’t know what to make of their new situations and, while they were affectionate, they still showed signs of their trauma. Over time, when they realized that the situation was not temporary but more permanent, they allowed themselves to trust and to be happy. Now, their exuberance and gratefulness is palpable. Each day is a cause for celebration. They are, by nature, happy little beasts.
What a wonderful lesson here – no matter what muck and mire you experience, you can be happy again. So when you’re out of the muck and mire – and on wonderful dry land – with sunny skies above – enjoy it! Allow yourself to be happy! (Don’t look for something to make you unhappy instead.)

Accept where you are – life is good! Don’t read this as any implication that people shouldn’t strive or aspire to more and better. It’s great. Certainly I do. In the animal world, however, it’s also important to know where one is in the order of ‘the pack.’ There’s a “top dog” and then a sort of pecking order. This is not unkind – it’s how they’re wired. And they’re not unhappy about it. They may struggle to better their place, also, but not being at the top doesn’t make them unhappy.

So as we struggle to be more, to do more, sometimes to have more – it’s also important to look around and accept what you have today. We are where we are and, as long as we’re fed and clothed and warm, it’s not that bad, is it? In fact, life can be great if we decide that it is. I think we, as humans, can learn a lot about acceptance – and being happy – even as we strive to do and be more.

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