It’s true, a dog is man’s (or lady’s) best friend — and a great teacher. One writer shares the five biggest life lessons he’s learned from his pooch, Lucy. (Photo courtesy Robin J. Hall)
You know what they say, a dog is a man’s (or lady’s) best friend. I have definitely found that old adage to have quite a lot of truth to it (though, just for the record, Michelle is numero uno).
Being obsessed with self-development, I have found my little dog Lucy to not only be a wonderful friend, but also a great teacher. Her spirit and big personality are inspiring and heartwarming to me from the moment I get out of bed to take my morning boot-camp classes to the moment I lay my weary head on the pillow, and she is still there by my side, the epitome of a faithful friend. I look at Lucy as a vital part of my small family, and her instinctive wisdom and disarming cuteness provide me and my fiancee with boundless joy.
So here are five life lessons from the woman, the myth, the legend, Lucy.
The author, Robin J. Hall, with Lucy. (Photo courtesy Robin J. Hall)
1. Stay Present
I can be guilty of getting stuck in my own head. Many of my clients talk to me about this same dilemma. It is so easy in this hectic, hurly-burly world to get caught up in a tsunami of to-dos and to-don’ts. I always preach to my clients to stay present, to concentrate on their life which is happening right now before their very eyes, not in an imagined past or future that flits behind their glazed pupils in an imaginary fantasy land built out of “what if?”
When I find myself going down the rabbit hole of self-involved speculation, I only have to look to Lucy to bring me out of it. An animal is always present. Lucy is forever in the moment. If something spooks her, she doesn’t dwell on it, she is ready to move onto the next thing. Our lives are happening now, and we must continually center ourselves and appreciate the reality of our journey that sits obediently right in front of us ready for our mindful commands.
2. Rest. Play. Repeat.
I always remember Deepak Chopra explaining the importance of sleep and meditation; “Dynamic rest brings dynamic activity,” he preached, and that lesson stuck in my craw. Martha Beck, one of my favorite life-coaching mentors, breaks life down into an equally simple formula. She says we must find something that we are passionate about, something that feels like play and then play with all our heart until we need to rest. Once we have rested, it is time to play again!
Of course, the trick is to find what it is we love to play, but if you look to Lucy for guidance, the act of living is a game unto itself. We should approach life like a wonderfully challenging game, don’t hold back, but live it with passion, and give it everything we’ve got. Lucy doesn’t do life halfway. When she is awake, she is energy personified (dogonified?) and when she naps, it is lights out. Rest. Play. Repeat. (Don’t you just love they way those one-word sentences have become a trend?)
3. Unconditional Love
Dogs are love. I might not believe in a god, but I definitely believe in dog. Dogs are wonderful for people because we can project all our affection and idealized emotions onto them. Dogs soak up love and give it back tenfold and with no reservations. Psychopaths could learn love from caring for a dog, I bet. They bring out our highest impulses through just being adorable and unquestioningly adored.
Lucy has been a spiritual blessing, and I don’t use the word spiritual in a supernatural sense, but in a psychological sense in that she encourages a higher sense of self-awareness, a more mindful perspective where my view of life is more nuanced, calmer and less selfish. Having Lucy as a friend has elevated my thinking in that she has encouraged me to view people with more empathy and understanding, rather than judgment. Is it a coincidence that “dog” is “god” in reverse? I think not. Treat people like they are dogs, I say, and the world will be a better place.
It is around 4 in the morning. I feel a tiny plop of weight on the bed, and a small creature nuzzles its way in between me and Michelle. I am half-asleep. “Lucy,” I murmur drowsily, “get down.” It is not convincing, and she knows it. Neither me nor Michelle have the heart to kick her off in the wee small hours when our emotional resilience is at an all-time low. By 6 a.m., I am half off the bed shivering and fighting for some covers, and Lucy has all four legs stretched out directly in front of her, claiming an inordinate amount of space for such a wee hound with her unfurled sticks.
She has learnt, through painstaking trial and error, the ideal hour in which she should make her way onto the bed. A few hours earlier, and our resolve would be stronger, and she would be back on the floor, but her tireless experimenting has yielded great results, and she knows the sweet spot in the night where she can get away with this crime of sneaky snuggling. So, too, with getting my clients to throw her a tennis ball. At boot camp, she will plop a ball by a client and, if they don’t throw it to her in a quick fashion, she will pick it up and plop it next to someone else until she gets her desired result and the ball is tossed for her to fetch. Her persistence is legendary and inspires us to keep pushing for our goals and never take no for an answer.
Lucy in a game of fetch, having successfully lobbied my 2-year-old nephew to play with her. It doesn’t matter how old or where the ball comes from, she won’t quit until she achieves her goals.
5. Be Authentic
Sometimes I look at Lucy just being completely cute and looking as if she is posing for one of those mushy pet calendars, and I say to her, “You don’t even know how cute you are do you?” She wags her tail as if to say, “Of course I do!” She lacks all pretension, she lacks all vanity, she has no self-awareness, and yet every position she slips into is absolutely delightful.
When we are comfortable in ourselves, when we can just sit in our skin and be relaxed in who we are without having to prove that we are smart, successful or superior, it makes us more authentic, and our truth makes us beautiful. Do you find your hair standing on end when someone is begging for attention or trying too hard to prove their intelligence by holding on tightly to their precious opinion or factoid? It is because they are uncomfortable and insecure in who they are. We need to find our authentic selves, be comfortable in the knowledge of our character and let our inner beauty speak for itself. This is what letting go of the ego is all about. Be proud of the dog you are!
Robin J. Hall is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.