Canine Wisdom

Learning to think and act more like happy dogs.


Opening the mail can make my day dreary – when people write in to point out a phone number is incorrect, say, or when they are just plain angry about something we’ve published. But the mail can also brighten my day considerably, like when someone drops me a line to say, “Good job!” Recently, a friend sent me the following bit of doggerel that I’m still smiling about. There was no author or source acknowledged, so my gratitude to whomever wrote the following:

If a dog were your teacher, you would learn stuff like . . .

When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
When it’s in your best interest, practice obedience.
Let others know when they’ve invaded your territory.
Take naps and stretch before rising.
Run, romp and play daily.
Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
Avoid biting, when a simple growl will do.
On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
On hot days, drink lots of water and lay under a shady tree.
When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
No matter how often you’re scolded, don’t buy into the guilt thing and pout; run right back and make friends.
Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
Eat with gusto and enthusiasm. Stop when you’ve had enough.
Be loyal.
Never pretend to be something you’re not.
If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.

Indeed, happy dogs seem to have it all figured out. When my husband steps into my office and sees me slaving away at my computer, still in my pajamas at noon, dark circles under my eyes from a horrifically late work night – and Rupert lounging on a pile of plush dog beds, chewing on a juicy rawhide, he always jokes, “Just exactly who’s in charge here?” Rupert’s the smart one, according to Brian, and I’m starting to think he’s right.

The point of the verse goes beyond just taking it easy, however. It’s also suggesting that we humans would benefit from learning to live “in the moment,” being the person we really are, with basic good manners but without pretense. Wouldn’t it make life a lot easier if we could all do that more often?

The verse also suggests that we revel in the lusciousness of every enjoyable moment of our day – a patch of sun, a fragrant breeze, a tasty meal, a deep stretch, a kind word or even a pat on the head!

Any smart dog would also recommend that we simply walk away from the unpleasant moments of our days, shaking them off like a Lab coming out of a cold lake.

Sounds good to me. I’m walking out of my office today (a Friday) at noon, and I’m not going to go back in until Monday morning. I’m going to soak up some sun this weekend. And I’ll solve the problem of how to enjoy Monday when it gets here, not before.

-By Nancy Kerns


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