by Linda Anderson Krech

Most of us are interested in cultivating admirable and beautiful qualities.  Often we notice and learn from our experiences with one another, either by being inspired by a positive example or being repelled by a negative one.  We influence each other in subtle and not-so-subtle ways all the time.

But this kind of influence is not strictly limited to our human relationships.  In fact, these days it is the company of our dogs that is noticeably inspiring and instructive to me.  Our dogs are helping us to become better versions of ourselves.  We benefit from the natural and positive qualities that they so beautifully embody – their patience, loyalty, playfulness, forgiveness, and love.  And joy.  

Here’s an example of what I mean.  If you even glance at our new puppy, Betty, or say one word to her, her tail will respond with an immediate and vigorous wag.  Her basic orientation toward life is happiness.  It is her nature to be cheerful and to communicate her love of life all day long.  She can’t pretend to be different than she is.  Her tail gives her away.  It’s uplifting to be around her positivity.

And there’s no doubt that her happy wagging has translated into happy smiling for me.  Some smiles are just spontaneous, but we can also decide to smile.  We can remember to smile.  To smile is to remind myself that I am alive, and that I am part of the big mystery.  It is to remind you of the same thing.  It helps us to remember that we can actually enjoy ourselves, while taking care of our lives and solving our problems.  Wagging and smiling lift the spirits and turn us, and those we meet, toward the light.

Ella, our grandpuppy, is not a big wagger.  She saves her wags for special moments, but she is my acceptance teacher.  (Ella lost much of her kidney function recently due to lyme nephritis, but I’m happy to report that she survived the initial crisis and has begun to normalize a little bit, thanks to the help of several vets, Chinese medicine, lots of medication and tons of loving care.  She’s not out of the woods yet, but is doing better than expected right now.)

Ella is called a “perfect patient” by her vets, no matter what kinds of treatments or tests are being done.  She shows such tolerance of experiences that are unpleasant, even though she doesn’t understand what the purpose is.  How does she remain so naturally composed and cooperative when facing challenging circumstances, when Gregg and I still struggle to do so after years of effort?  As she tolerates Betty’s dangerously wild and exuberant greeting each day, without any complaint, I make note of her good and accepting nature.  I find it helpful to connect with my inner Ella, and keep her good example alive in my consciousness.  

The other day I accidentally stepped on Betty when I was in the kitchen.  She let out a strong yelp and I immediately got down on the floor and apologized to her as best I could, with my voice and my touch.  Without even a moment of hesitation, Betty communicated that there was nothing to apologize for, that she understood it was an accident, that she loved me completely and that it was time to play.  

There is something profound and mysterious about having a loving relationship with a dog (or other species), since words don’t get in the way.  Without explanations that can be misinterpreted or misleading or confusing, there is just a direct and authentic connection with another sensitive being.  May we notice the beautiful qualities that our dogs so naturally embody, and let them help us with our complicated human lives.  



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