Working at a doggie day care is one of the most fulfilling jobs I’ve had.
I’ve learned a lot from our furry friends that visit and since I suffer from mental illness, I try anything I can to reach moments of happiness.
Believe it or not, dogs are one of the best teachers for this practice.
1. Forgive others.
Sometimes, working with dogs is ugly. There’s fights and humping and excessive barking. To stop this behavior in a humane but effective way, we use spray bottles filled with water and give them a bit of a squirt. Some dogs hate the squirt bottle. I mean really hate it.
But what amazes me is the instant love I receive seconds after their punishment. With a little apology coming through in a “it can’t-be-helped” puppy voice, their tail instantly wags and they’re over it. They accept your apology and move on, returning to their back and forth game with their doggie friends.
Why would they ruin their day with anger?
2. Be in the moment.
Most of the time our minds are filled with ten or more things at once. We worry about tomorrow, yesterday, five minutes from now, 6 years from now, so on and so forth.
My dog, Maggie, if you give her a toy, she’s enthralled for hours. She isn’t worried about her bad morning when she was punished for pooping on the floor, she doesn’t think “I hope this isn’t the only toy I ever get” she just—plays with her toy.
In that moment, she is purely happy, and that is mindfulness, something eastern philosophers have been teaching since the beginning of eastern philosophy.
3. Take care of you.
Dogs are notoriously known for unconditional love of their human moms and dads. They would take a bullet for them—if they knew what that meant. But something dogs are also good at is allowing themselves the things they enjoy, guilt-free.
When we eat something we shouldn’t we feel worried about our weight, what we should do to counteract it, how many calories are in it. When we kiss ten different people because we like to kiss people, we worry about criticism, opinions and our future relationships. But, if we commit to something we enjoy, we can’t take that away from ourselves by worrying.
If you like kissing people, kiss people! If you want to eat a brownie, eat a brownie! Don’t rob yourself of happiness if you’ve already decided you’re going to pursue it. Just enjoy it. Our happiness is just as important as others.
4. We can’t surrender our day to negativity.
We all know that dog that sulks in the corner after being scolded for doing God knows what. But even the most dramatic of dogs forgets about their hard time before dinner. They don’t sit and stew for days over how unfair their punishment was, they let it go.
Dogs understand something that we sometimes can’t grasp, bad feelings are only temporary.
They get punished, they live in that sadness, and then—they give it up for happier things. They don’t surrender their entire day to one bad feeling. There are balls to be chased! Treats to be earned! Butts to be scratched! Why miss out on those opportunities to be sad? Silly humans!
5. It’s okay to not like someone.
It’s the truth: some dogs just don’t get along with certain dogs. We have three play yards at our daycare, and sometimes we have to separate specific dogs because they will always fight.
What’s amazing, however, is how little they let it affect them. They don’t feel guilty about it afterwards, they don’t pretend to like the other dog, they just let their true feelings be known, because otherwise, that would be counter productive to the psyche.
Why then, do we do it? Are we afraid? My dog is ten pounds. If she doesn’t like an 80 pound dog, she lets them know. I’m not saying it’s the smartest thing to do, but she won’t lose sleep that night thinking what she should have or could have done. How much happier would we be if we weren’t afraid to get rid of all the toxic people in our lives?
6. Be an opportunist.
The bowl isn’t half full or half empty, it has water in it, drink it!
Dogs don’t contemplate what they have and what they don’t have, they just use and enjoy what they’re given.
We shouldn’t bog ourselves down with how much luckier we are than others, or how much more others have than us, we should watch how a dog eats their food and doesn’t bother itself with what other dogs are eating.
7. The body is a tool, not something to please others.
As humans we are guilty of sculpting our bodies, stuffing our bras and paying way too much for gym memberships to lose weight.
Dogs utilize their muscles for running, jumping, and playing. They use their front legs to dig and their back legs to scratch. Their ears are for hearing and mouths for tasting. Whether they have a stump or a long furry tail, they still wag. They don’t think, “Oh man, the color of my eyes are ugly and my nose is too long.” They think: “I can see that bird I’m ready to chase! I can smell out that tennis ball!”
When you look at your legs, remember they are for walking. Your eyes for seeing and yes even your breasts are there for a big reason—your future children. We need to worry about what we can do with our own bodies, not what other people can do with them.
8. What is time?
Dogs don’t worry themselves about being old. They don’t think “Oh god my life is almost over… How have I spent the past fifteen years? Was I a good doggie? A bad one?” Time doesn’t exist in a dog’s mind, time is a concept that we as humans have come up with to understand our surroundings.
I have a bad habit of worrying about how long it’s taking me to get my degree. Which spirals me into panic, which then affects my performance greatly. Whereas if I were to just worry about the now, I would be a lot less stressed, and a lot more accomplished.
We let time define us, when we should define our “time.” So when we see our dogs, we should look at them like little furry Buddhas, and let them teach us the way to a happy life.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Lauryn DeGrado / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Author’s Own