November 26, 2014

10 Life Lessons I’ve Learned from my Dog.


I am a self-help addict.

I love to read how others have met adversity head on to become, at least in their minds, better people.

The fabulous and funny George Carlin observed that there is “no such thing” as self-help: anyone looking for help from someone else does not technically get “self” help; and one who accomplishes something without help, did not need help to begin with.

He has a point.

Regardless, I love to read anything that is remotely well written on the subjects of finding inner peace, living your best life and kicking ass as an introvert.

Recently, it dawned on me that I have the best self-help guru right at my feet. I have been spending an exorbitant amount of time with my dog lately and I gotta say—that canine has his sh*t together.

At the very least, his priorities are worth noting, and I’ve learned many valuable lessons from him. So here it is, the world according to Iggy:

You don’t have to be the alpha dog, but somebody does or you get nowhere.

I remember my first trip to Europe with my best friend. We were 18-years-old and clueless. We were best friends but terrible travelling companions. Neither of us could make a decision to save our lives so nobody ever got their needs met. Years later, with a few careers and continents under my belt, I’ve learned that I don’t always have to be the decision maker, but I have to have a decision at the ready if no one else does. Alpha dogs know this, and you can bet your milkbone they get their needs met.

Wake up happy.

Life can weigh you down and sometimes, even in the light of day, you can’t shake it off. There’s nothing worse than waking up crabby and taking it out on our supposed loved ones. Iggy doesn’t have a wrong side of the bed, and I envy that. Me? I go to yoga. Some people meditate, some work out, some have sex. I think if you’re Sting you have all of the above. However you face the morning, it’s important to tune in to yourself in a way that leaves you relaxed and calm and ready for whatever the day has in store.

Not all dogs are worth knowing.

Your dog knows this, my dog knows this and no one is the worse for it. If I listen to my spidey sense just a little more often when it comes to people or situations, I could save myself a ton of grief. I think it’s part of my upbringing—smile and be nice and don’t hurt anyone’s feelings. Screw that. Some people just need to be kept at arms length, so trust your gut—and if you’re not sure, trust your best friends gut.

Looking sheepish and skulking off in a corner means “I’m a butthead and I’m sorry.”

I have a real problem saying “I’m sorry,” and I’m not alone. “You’re right” and “I’m sorry”…what is the deal with that? For some reason the human race seems to have an issue with this one, so maybe we should all just hang our heads and go lie in the corner when we’re sorry. Then you’ll come over and pet us and everyone will be happy again. Nobel Peace Prize, here I come.

Lick your wounds ’til they heal.

I know this doesn’t sound profound, but it is. Like many of you, I’ve carried around a boat load of hurt in my time and more often than not, my bandaid was all too temporary, or equally harmful. Dogs don’t let up until they’ve licked that wound clean, never giving it a second thought. Yeah, sometimes they need the cone over their head because they don’t know when to let up, but I equate this with my wine consumption. A glass can lend clarity, a bottle just makes things worse.

Slobber when you’re happy.

When was the last time you expressed unfiltered joy at some mundane thing, like dogs do almost constantly? I became less expressive in my life because life was a serious business, dammit. Now that I’ve hit my 50s and come out the other side of some serious sh*t, I’ve realized that expressing joy is just about the most fun a person can have—and it’s contagious.

Play well with others, but if someone’s being a dick, show ‘em your teeth.

I was raised in a family that did not express much emotion, so baring my teeth does not come naturally. I’m not a yeller, or a dish thrower or a crier or a screamer. I did throw a plate once, but it was in Greece and the whole family was throwing plates so I don’t think it really counts. For some reason I’m attracted to hot blooded emotional types, and through those relationships I’ve learned to find my own voice, even if it’s more a hum than a howl.

When you’re patient, you get cheese.

Iggy can be an a**hole but if there’s a remote chance a piece of cheese is in the offing, he will sit nicely for hours. Okay, maybe minutes—but the point being, he always seems to get what he wants when he’s patient. I’ve found the same to be true. Every time I panic about something and get pushy, things don’t usually go my way. On the other hand, if I picture what I want and put things in motion, taking cues from others, voila! Cheese!

Don’t try to hump someone 5 seconds after you meet them.

I don’t think this actually needs an explanation but just in case, go to a dog park and watch what happens when Rowdy thinks he can ignore this common courtesy.

Always be ready to go for a walk, always.

Walking is good medicine. It clears your head, it’s a form of exercise and you can do it anywhere. Iggy is always up for a walk, no matter what. Which means he’s always up for exploring the world around him. And I think that’s pretty cool, and the best lesson I’ve learned from him yet.




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Author: Alison Wattie

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Author’s Own

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