I am definitely a dog person, always have been.
When I was little, I used to wish on every star in the sky, every furry dandelion, every birthday cake, for a dog all my own. My wish eventually came true and my first dog brought me abundant joy and happiness.
I have had a few dogs since my childhood pooch, named Sparky.
I live in China now, on expat assignment with my husband and three of our children. We had to make the heartbreaking decision to leave our beloved dog, Evan, behind when we came here, and I thought we would be dogless during this adventure abroad. Then, as luck would have it, our Mandarin teacher told us she had rescued a wonderful dog named Dahei, and she felt Dahei would be the perfect pet for us.
Stephen and I resisted at first, but eventually agreed to meet her. Dahei arrived at our home on a Thursday evening last spring and she has been here ever since. She quickly became a full-fledged member of our family, but I feel she has been an angel, a healer and a teacher in a special way for me.
When she arrived I was going through a spell of deep loneliness and depression.
I believe, in my heart, she was sent to be my companion and to be my daily reminder of these most important life principles. I am blessed to have her by my
side each and every day.
These are the essential life principles my dogs have taught me:
It is of absolute importance to go outside at least once every single day.
Okay, barring illness or other events that truly make it impossible, this is a must do for our health, our sanity and, I believe, our spiritual growth.
Even if we’re not the outdoorsy type, we all benefit from breathing in fresh air, feeling our feet on mama earth, experiencing the beauty of the world around us. It kindles our aliveness to watch the changing seasons, observing how things come and go, the beauty of flowers, the smell of rain, warm sun on our face, catching snowflakes on our tongue.
When I go outside I remember who I am, part of this glorious world, captivating, beautiful.
Dahei does not let me go a day without stepping outdoors for a walk or three or four.
Dogs head out the door each day eager to check out their surroundings and see what the day has to offer—what new sights, smells, sounds and tastes are waiting to be discovered today! Dahei has her favorite walking routes, but each time she travels them she does so with great attention and interest.
She uses all her senses and I can see her visibly perk up when she detects something new or intriguing.
Even though her kingdom is relatively small in area it is infinite in possibility and she engages it as such.
What a difference it would make in our lives if we could harness such enthusiasm and interest in our daily routines and approach even what seems boring or mundane with curiosity. Dahei points things out to me that I would gloss over on my own, new flowers that have bloomed, a bird in a tree, the smell of the air and earth. Such miraculous and incredible things are all around us to witness and explore.
Do one thing at a time and do it fully.
We have become a multitasking world.
I often notice that I am doing something, but my mind is elsewhere or I am trying to kill seven birds with one stone and end up feeling scattered and anxious. I end up doing many things in a half ass sort of way and I miss the total experience of each action. I am there, but not really there.
The antidote for this is presence and mindfulness.
These are skills that can be practiced and cultivated, and lord do we need them!
“It’s about living your life as if it really mattered, moment by moment by moment by moment.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn
Dogs are fabulous mindfulness teachers.
Dahei does one thing at a time and she does just that one thing. When she is playing she is full on, tearing around at full speed, leaping, throwing her toy around wildly while she growls like a fierce forest hunter. When she eats she fully engages her food, everything else seems to disappear for her. She might not chew as much as she should, but she delights in the feast when the feast is on. When she sleeps, she sinks in fast and deep, she sprawls out or curls in, but it is clear, looking at her, her rest is profound and complete.
Unconditional love is real.
Love is often complicated, messy.
It is easy to fall into a pathology of pleasing or put stone walls of protection up around our tender hearts. I look around sometimes and become terrified by all the anger and judgment I see. It becomes a risky proposition to show up and be open and honest with others about who we are, what we think, how we feel. People might not be able to stomach our idiosyncrasies, bad habits, our shadow parts or perhaps we shine too bright, have a little too much sparkle in our step.
We can end up either too big, too small, too this or not enough of that. And yet, we all thirst for the very same love and acceptance that can seem elusive at times. That kind of love and acceptance is possible. Not only that, it lives in the very heart and soul of each of us, it gets lost in our upbringing, our indoctrination into propriety and a culture riddled with scarcity mentality.
Dahei loves me every second of every day no matter what.
She adores me in the morning, bedhead, coffee breath, grunting and groaning, as I creak back to life. She loves me when I am happy and playful, equally when I am bitchy, spiteful, sad, anxious or depressed. She wags her tail unfailingly, and with great enthusiasm every time I walk in the door, whether I have been out for five hours or five minutes.
Her love shines on me and our family without fail, constant and true. Unconditional love, she gives it and in turn we learn how to receive and give it as well.
Never give up on life.
My last two dogs have been rescue dogs.
Dahei had a particularly harrowing start to life. She was abandoned on a construction site in the cold of winter in Shanghai. She had no shelter from the elements, she only had garbage for food, and in her situation in China, she was in grave danger of becoming someone’s food herself. Dahei survived all of this harsh and hopeless circumstance and her will to survive led her to us. Believe me, her life is as different now as it could possibly be because she hung in there.
Miracles can happen. Life can change.
If you are thinking of getting a dog, wishing on stars, dandelions or birthday cakes like me, please consider adopting a rescue dog. These dogs are also wishing on the stars for you to let them into your life and bring you the gifts of love and companionship, loyal and true.
You may think you will put all the effort in training and teaching your dog, but the truth is your dog will have much more to teach you.
Author: Jean Jyotika Skeels
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock