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June 14, 2017

My Dog is a Genius & yours Might Be Too.

Not too long ago, my fiancé surprised me with an adorable rescue puppy.

Black, floppy ears, soft and fuzzy belly, wet kisses on my nose—all cuteness and squirmy greetings.

I’ve been a dog owner before, but not since I was a teenager. When I packed up my life to head off to Northwestern, I had to leave my little, furry companion behind with my parents.

Now, as an adult with a fiancé and a city apartment, it felt like the right time to invite this new responsibility back into my life. But one of the things that I did not anticipate was how much my puppy would teach me.

It has astounded me from the very beginning to see how this little creature, who has only been in the world for mere months, can be so intuitive, intelligent, and opinionated.

Here are just some of the lessons he’s been schooling me in:

1. Stop, Watch, and Listen.

We adopted Galileo from a rescue organization in suburban Chicago, but we live in the heart of downtown. When we brought him home, there were sights and sounds that were overwhelming to our little pup.

Now I know for myself, when I get into new and overwhelming situations, my instinct is to run and problem solve as quickly as I can. I try to make everything right.

But not Galileo. No, when new and scary things arise (as they frequently do for us all), he stops whatever he is doing, sits down patiently, and observes. He takes it all in and until he is satisfied that he has a good grasp on what is happening, he waits to move again.

Initially, this made going on walks rather frustrating for me, as his escort. But I eventually learned to appreciate his innate wisdom. And it has reminded me to be a little more patient in letting situations unfold without needing to jump in and “fix” them.

2. Good Sleep and Food are Critical.

I love our little fur-baby, but to be honest, when he arrived home he was a little punk. He was just so edgy and cranky.

We discovered that he wasn’t eating the food the shelter had been giving him, so he was constantly hungry. And he wasn’t sleeping. In our first two days together, he maybe slept 10 hours altogether.

I looked up puppy sleep habits online and learned that he should be sleeping 15-20 hours per day.

So we did what any good dog parents would—we bought him higher quality, more nourishing food that he enjoys eating. And we made him nap…a lot.

And within a few short days, he mellowed into a lovely and affectionate little guy.

It reminded me that I should be doing the same for myself. Those late nights and early mornings on substandard meals really don’t do much to improve my state of mind. I need to nourish my body well if I am going to function at my best.

3. There’s Always Time for Play.

I’ll admit—I’m a “doer.” I almost always have a project going, a book started, or a task to solve. I’ve got a to-do list that never ends.

But this little creature makes me stop. He makes me appreciate the moment at hand.

And he quietly indicates to me: “Hey, I know you’ve got a lot to do—and I promise you’ll eventually get it done—but do you think you can take a few moments to throw my ball and scratch my ears? It’d mean the world to me.”

And how often do I give myself the same permission? How often do I say: Why don’t you take that long shower? Or stop 10 minutes earlier tonight and read a few pages in your favorite book?

How can I plan more “play time” for myself—and not just for my puppy?

4. Age and Insight are Not Always Correlated.

I’m rather guilty of thinking that in order to know something well, one must study it for a really long time. I heard that it takes 10,000 repetitions to achieve mastery at anything.

And I tend to dismiss insta-celebrities and child prodigies. I hold a lot of credence in the years of struggle and dedication it takes to know something well.

And yet, here is this little critter who has been in the world such a short time and already has so many big things figured out. He has a fully-formed personality, opinions, and ideas.

He is teaching me that I can learn from anyone. That any source can provide exceptional understanding. That anybody can have brilliance within them, and not just experts who have spent decades honing their skills.

He’s helped me appreciate the genius within us all.

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Author: Kaelan Strouse
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Supervising Editor 1: Danielle Beutell
Supervising Editor 2: Callie Rushton

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