A Four-legged Friend's Take On What Truly Matters

In September 2011 (re)discovered the many benefits one derives from having a dog as a companion. That's when we adopted Belle, a lovely 3 1/2-year-old greyhound & former racer we were fortunate enough to adopt from a greyhound rescue operation located in our city. Initially, Belle was to be my companion because Mr. F2P was to start working away from home for weeks on end, leaving me alone in a very empty house. That said, we quickly realized that she would be much more to us than a security blanket for me while he was away. She has become a full-fledged member of the F2P family and we wouldn't have it any other way.

Living with animals...can add to the soulful life by limiting your activities—dogs have to be walked and fed every day—thus giving you the graceful natural rhythm that animals enjoy.
— p. 104, A Life at Work by Thomas Moore

Belle is a great companion in many respects, but her actions and behaviours also serve as daily reminders of what's important in life. And, regardless of how advanced a species we think we are, we often either forget what matters most or take it for granted when we lead our busy, often-preoccupied, lives.

Daily Doggie Reminders of What Truly Matters in Life:

  1. Trust: Unless a dog has been badly abused, it takes very little time for one to trust a new family. Within days, a dog trusts that you will take care of it and return home at the end of the day. (If you doubt it, just think about patiently "holding it" for hours trusting that someone will eventually let you "go".) People tend to use language and action to establish expectations, building trust over longer periods of time. We can all stand to gain by reducing the time it takes to trust another person. What wonderful doors this might open for us all.
  2. Gratitude: I dare you to tell me a story of a regular dog that doesn't wag its tail at the slightest hint of something good...even if it happens multiple times a day, like getting fed or getting water. How often do we crack a smile and feel grateful for the most basic of things we experience in our everyday. Yeah, not so much.
  3. Contentment: Ever see a dog after a meal? While being petted by its owner? Chewing on a bone? Their threshold for contentment is extremely low, making them happy most of the time. It can make us wonder whether we really understand that less is more when it comes to happiness.
  4. Simplicity: A dog doesn't seek complexity. Curiosity? Yes. Complexity? No. Nothing has to be fancy. Anything fancy we do for a dog is more about us than it is about a furry friend. A dog likes to know four things: when's kibble time, where's the water, when can I go "out" and when do we go for a walk. Anything else is, well, unnecessary. If we look around at what we have and look at what we want, how much of it is really necessary? Sometimes I look at what we have and use and I can't help but think it's pretty ridiculous.
  5. Joy: Can you find me a dog that doesn't experience joy on a daily basis? Just about anything triggers it: finding a branch to play with, meeting a new/old friend, eating, drinking, greeting you at the door, getting petted/groomed, playing, walking, running, chewing on a bone, nesting...it's all SOOOO good. Belle reminds me daily that something as simple as, say, having a cup of coffee is an event in and of itself and I should enjoy it.
  6. Play: A dog wants to move. A dog wants to have fun. A walk is an adventure that brings old/new sights, sounds and smells; playing fetch is addictive (so much so that some dogs play fetch solo!); and playing with a squeaky toy...need I say more? We also want to move, to have fun, to play but we feel we need to seek permission for some strange reason. We worry about looking goofy, weird. It's time to play a little more fetch...or catch, or Frisbee, or tag...with or sans pooch. In fact, any one of our bipedal friend(s) will do.
  7. Connection: If a dog that isn't on guard duty thinks you might, maybe, possibly want to be part of the pack, they welcome you in, no questions asked. Once a small connection is established (a quick, gentle sniff will do) it's usually enduring. And that goes for 2-legged and 4-legged friends. In fact, most dogs seek out these connections actively, no matter how many people or dogs they encounter in their day. In comparison, most of us fail miserably in that department. If anything, our dogs help us, or even force us, to make these connections by the mere fact that they get us out for walks that inevitably lead us to meet other dog owners or dog lovers...and we're usually better for it, both mentally and physically.
  8. Affection: What dog doesn't regularly give and seek affection, be it with owners, friends or new acquaintances? They don't seek permission. They just initiate and nine times out of ten, we accept. They don't worry about social barriers as much as we do. They put themselves out there. They're not afraid of being vulnerable. They're simply not self-conscious. Most of us need more affection in our lives yet we hold back from asking or giving that pat on the back, that hug, that kiss, that shoulder rub or foot massage. So come on everyone, let's hug it out!
  9. Loyalty: A dog will stand by its pack for life...even when it's had to leave it for another one. To see a dog that is reunited with a previous owner is amazing to witness. It's as if no time has passed; as if all loneliness and sadness of the past was forgotten in an instant. They never forget who's been there for them. They move on because they have to, not by choice, yet they don't hold a grudge. These days, loyalty is a rarity. Our relationships are more transitory than permanent fixtures in our lives. We dismiss the expectations and rewards of community and are quick to move on, usually based on external as opposed to internal motivations. 
  10. Routine: A dog doesn't need to learn how to tell time because its body knows what's expected by quickly learning the routine and being in tune with both its body rhythm and the rhythm of the household. A happy dog knows when to expect its meals, naps, bathroom breaks, walks, and the pack's comings and goings. Though they don't mind novelty, dogs embrace routine and have no difficulty letting you know when you're going off script (a fact everyone comes to know when they've missed food or walk time). Routine prevents us from forgetting to take care of the essential. It ensures we make time to eat, sleep, exercise, relax, and play. Our body craves routine but, to our detriment, we quickly displace this need based on external pressures. At least our four-legged friends can help remind us of what keeps us well.

These reminders are so powerful and appreciated, we've even doubled down and started fostering*. So far, we've had the pleasure of caring for three other greys or greyhound mixes: Malibu, Kate and now Breeze (pictured right).

Has a pet changed your perspective on what matters in life? If so, I'd love to hear about it.

*Fostering is a great option if you're not sure you want to take the canine plunge and commit to a decade or more of caring for a pet. I'll admit though that it's sometimes tough to let them go when the time comes. What makes it somewhat easier is knowing they'll help yet another family (re)discover one or more of the important lessons these four-legged friends have to share.