by Leigh Currey Merrifield | Editor
I’m sure you have heard the expression “It’s a dog’s life”. I consider myself fairly intelligent, but I certainly interpreted that line all wrong! Going by my experience with the pets that have stolen the hearts of my own family through the years, these animals lived a pretty carefree life. They were fed, watered, bathed, nursed when they were sick; they were given toys to play with; they were patted, hugged, and loved. And no one ever expected anything in return; they didn’t have to perform any type of service for anything they were given. I thought our dogs’ lives were pretty A-OK.
Some random reading I did recently pointed me in another direction. I guess the real meaning of “It’s a dog’s life” means something else entirely. It is supposed to insinuate a rather tough existence … enduring an unpleasant situation. The example shown went something like this: “I get up early, get everyone ready for school, clean up the breakfast mess, get myself ready for work, work all day, come home and get dinner, deliver kids to activities, help with homework, do laundry, and I am the last one to crawl into bed at night! It’s a dog’s life!” In short – it’s a tough job but somebody’s gotta do it!
I guess I stand corrected! Yes, there are perhaps higher expectations for some breeds. Some of them may perform service work as guide dogs for the visually impaired; some offer comfort such as therapy dogs; some do search and rescue work; some breeds are used for herding livestock; some participate in the sport of racing such as greyhounds; some are sled dogs; some are drug detectors; some are involved in police work; some are show dogs and are expected to bring home blue ribbons; and still others have become ‘entertainers’ of sorts such as Lassie and Rin Tin Tin. For those animals, I guess they DO have a job to do and it may be a “dog’s life”. But for most, they receive lots of care and only expect a little attention and cuddling to keep them happy and contented.
My grand-dog Sparky is one of those. He knows he is loved and he loves in return. That’s about it! He is well behaved and pretty much asks for nothing more than to be able to lie close to you. I remember my son telling me one time that he had been sick; he had a fever and chills and for a couple of days only got out of bed to head for the bathroom. With tears in his eyes, he said, “You know, Mom, I think Sparky was worried about me; he never left my side. He cuddled up on the bed beside me and followed me every time I went to the bathroom and then jumped back up on the bed with me when I returned. He seemed to know that I felt terrible and he didn’t want to leave me alone!”
It makes you wish sometimes that they could speak to you and tell you what they’re thinking! Of course, they do have other ways to communicate their feelings! One more personal story ….. Sparky ALWAYS likes to sleep with his ‘daddy’! But sometimes in warm weather – because he cuddles so close – my son gets hot and has kicked him out of bed a few times. And a few times he has closed the bedroom door to keep him from coming back. Sparky evidently doesn’t like this and he makes his point! He is TOTALLY housebroken, but he makes his hurt feelings quite clear by pooping right outside the bedroom door when he’s tossed out of ‘daddy’s’ bed! If he could speak, my guess is he’s saying, “Back atcha, dad – hope you step in it!”
There are lots of lessons we can learn from dogs, though. Here are a few examples ….. When loved ones come home, always run to greet them … Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride … Allow the experience of fresh air and wind in your face to be pure ecstasy … When it’s in your best interest, practice obedience … Let others know when they’ve invaded your territory … Take naps and stretch before rising … Run, romp and play a little each day … Thrive on attention and let people touch you … Avoid biting when a simple growl will do … On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass … On hot days, drink lots of water and lay under a shady tree … When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body … No matter how often you’re scolded, don’t buy into the guilt thing and pout; run right back and make friends … Delight in the simple joy of a long walk … Eat with gusto and enthusiasm … Stop when you have had enough … Be loyal … Never pretend to be something you’re not … If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it … AND … When someone is having a bad day, just be silent and sit close by, nuzzling them gently.
Sounds to me like dogs are innately intelligent! They don’t go to school to learn these habits; they just know. They are your loving, trusting, and faithful companions, and that bonding relationship is just as important for you as it is for the animal. If you haven’t experienced that amazing bond with an animal at least once in your lifetime, you’ve missed something very special!
This week’s dessert: “Petting, scratching, and cuddling a dog can be as soothing to the mind and heart as deep meditation … and almost as good for the soul as prayer.” ~ Dean Koontz