Have you noticed how dogs treat everything with wonder and curiosity? A simple stick found in the yard is instantly transformed into the best toy ever. Each morning presents a new day ripe with adventure. Even unpleasant odors don’t deter our beloved dogs, who enjoy rolling around in the smelliest of smells (often to our dismay). And as their busy guardians, we humans often dampen the spirits of our canine companions by calling them dumb dogs for finding so much joy with a stick, shushing them when they wake us in the morning with their eager tails pounding against the bedroom furniture, and scolding them for celebrating the putrid discovery their finely tuned noses led them to.
I’m a dog lover and have shared my home with many dogs over the years. I currently have two in my care and I understand that the exuberance of dogs can come at inconvenient times. Like when we don’t want to get out of bed or don’t have time to give them a much needed bath. But I’ve also benefited greatly from witnessing the uncomplicated joy that dogs are so easily capable of experiencing.
When you’re having trouble experiencing joy, dogs can be incredible teachers. And all you need to do is observe them in action. Take them outside in the yard or out for a walk and follow their lead. What do they find interesting? How do they express that interest? If you remain flexible and open minded, you’ll soon find yourself smiling in either amazement or amusement (either way is fine!) at the simple things that make your dog happy.
One of the most beneficial lessons dogs teach us is the importance of the current moment. Dogs live in the now, while we spend a lot of our time in the past and future. Past and future thinking are associated with stress; reliving past events is often a source of anger or depression, while spending too much time thinking of the future can lead to worry or anxiety. We are the only animals with this capability and it is both a blessing and a curse for humans. It can be difficult for us to focus on the current moment but this is something dogs do easily since it’s their nature. If you have difficulty focusing on the present moment, tune in to your dog and follow what he or she is paying attention to. It’s guaranteed to be something that is happening in the present moment.
Another important lesson from dogs is that they appreciate things as they are. Dogs simply don’t have any other way to experience things. Humans criticize, find fault, and look for better options. This has served us well but it has also made us miserable. Dogs remind us that there is beauty in simple things and that it’s possible to be happy – even overjoyed – with what we already have.
In addition to the above, their short life span – while ultimately painful for us – fosters a greater appreciation for our time on Earth. By sharing our lives with dogs we can learn to really experience what’s in front of us, to treat each moment with wonder and curiosity, and to see the beauty that others overlook. For me, this enriching experience is worth the inevitable pain of saying goodbye.
I’m not suggesting that you ditch your human ways and live the life of a dog. Without our ability to remember the past and plan for the future, we’d be hard pressed to take care of ourselves, much less our animal companions. And we’re clearly not going to roll around in the smelly mystery goo we find outside. But why not take a cue from your canine companion every once in a while? You may develop a better appreciation for life, experience joy more often, or even become the person your dog thinks you are.