The human brain truly is a marvel of anatomy; it functions much like the main processor of a computer, sorting through vast amounts of data: making decisions, prioritizing, utilizing information. But despite its incredible capabilities, and although it has been responsible for the creation of everything from roller coasters to nuclear weapons, our brains can become overloaded – especially in today’s technologically driven world where our devices continuously wash us with a steady stream of facts and always more information.
Don’t get me wrong – I love my android and my laptop! In many ways they make my life easier, and they respond instantly to my brain’s queries. Our Western culture supports this need to be constantly connected and informed. But sometimes, I just want to unplug; I just want to stop the tsunami of yet more information. And I know exactly where to look for a role model to help me do that.
Yup – dogs! Dogs have the innate, wonderful gift of keeping it simple. They remind me of my childhood, a time when I was blissfully unaware of protocol, of wearing lipstick in public, and ensuring that my clothes were neatly ironed and lint-free.
For me, dogs are ignorantly innocent hedonists. When they see a cozy, sunny spot on the rug, they stretch luxuriantly in downward dog pose and meander over to lie there, basking in its warmth and softness. Itchy back? Flop over and wriggle around with legs flailing wildly till the itch is gone. Great smell in the backyard? Dig and dig some more and unearth that magical scent! Time for a snack? Saunter up to the nearest human who has access to food and look up beguilingly with eyes wide and beseeching. If dogs need to yawn or burp or fart, they just do it unapologetically.
And, if dogs want some attention or love from us, they just ask for it. Probably more than anything, their ability to ask for and give love is the most endearing quality about dogs. They don’t keep a mental tally of whose “turn” it is to be affectionate; they have no hidden emotional agendas; they don’t use innuendo or implication. They are forthright and clear in their expression of affection. And, they express their love and adoration often throughout the day.
It didn’t matter whether I was gone for twenty minutes or for two hours; when I came home, my dog Nora always did her “whirly dance” at the door. She bounced around exuberantly with her eyes bright and a big smile on her face – I was back!! How could I not smile? Whatever I had experienced when I’d been out dissolved away. There was my beautiful, sweet pup welcoming me home, so delighted to see me again. Each time she danced her welcome dance, I was reminded of what was really important: that she loved me, that I loved her, that we were a family.
Take a minute or two to imagine our world as a place where all people felt loved and expressed love freely. What would that be like? Would war cease to happen? Would anyone ever go hungry again? Would prejudice vanish? Would we ever be afraid of not having enough again? Could our fears of not being enough simply disappear? Would our feelings of loneliness, frustration, depression, and anger fall by the wayside?
Hmmm, sounds like a possibility to me!
Longer than any other domesticated animal, we humans have lived with dogs. Researchers place our co-habitation at a minimum of 15,000 years and on the far end, up to 30,000 years. Either way, it’s been a long time. We put them to work: they herded for us, they pulled carts, they guarded our land. They gave us their all and asked for little in return. In time, the role of dogs shifted and today they are our companions.
I believe they are also our teachers, that they can be vital role models for us. They remind us to cut to the chase, to figure out what our priorities are. They help us to simplify, to pare down our lives to those parts that really matter, mentally, emotionally and materially. Dogs are emotionally forthright and honest; they ask for what they want and they give back without restraint. Current research tells us that yes, they do have a variety of emotions, but we can see that their feelings are pretty transparent and direct. Dogs take care of their own needs whenever possible and when not possible, they just ask for help. They know when to run and chase, and when it’s time to take a nap or admire a beautiful view.
Maybe that’s why dogs don’t need to live very long. Maybe they’ve got the most important stuff figured out and they see their current job as helping us to get it too.
That’s what I believe.
Deborah Dobson is a dog behaviorist, professional pet sitter, and obviously a dog lover. Please contact her through her website: www.thegraceofdog.com or at email@example.com.