For years my primary mantra has been: SLOW DOWN. I am one of those people who speeds through life like a whirling dervish, driven by an internal motor set to full tilt 99% of the time. However, no matter how many times I repeated this mantra to myself in attempt to force a slower self into reality, nothing has EVER slowed me down like teaming up with a life partner whose legs are two inches long.
While mantras and positive intentions have great power no doubt, without actions that follow, those intentions fall flat (or as my mom says, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”). It is our actions that define us, not our intentions. My wiener dog puppy, now six months old, doesn’t envision the future, dream about tomorrow or focus on feeling good. His intentions only go so far as his nose, yet his bright eyes and wonderful wiggle have profound lessons to teach.
Ten Lessons I Learned From My Wiener Dog
1. Take breaks. Break time isn’t a luxury to indulge in when your workload slows down; rather it’s a daily necessity that if anything, should be increased when your workload increases. While I used to sit and work at my computer for eight hours straight, this is no longer an option – my wiener dog requires a break every couple of hours. And, I have realized, so do I.
2. Stretch multiple times each day. Every single time my wiener dog gets up from a nap (about ten times a day) or even an extended sit, he takes his time to stretch out long across the floor before he does anything else. Soon he will be running, jumping and pouncing on shoelaces, and he always makes sure his body is stretched, relaxed and ready to go before he dives back into life.
3. Eat with gusto! Even though my wiener dog eats the same dull brown nutritionally balanced kibble every morning, noon and night for his meal, he always plows into it with gusto, crunching on each piece like it might be his last and licking the bowl clean. While he would no doubt like fatty fare, human food or a slice of cheddar cheese on top of his lunch, he eats what he must with happiness in his heart. Whether he is having breakfast, ripping up a paper towel or shredding through a post-it note, he always does so with obvious pleasure and unbridled enthusiasm.
4. Go outside. For my wiener dog, “outside” is where all the interesting stuff occurs: trees, bugs, people, bicycles, wind, leaves, grass… outdoors there’s just so much to explore, sniff and pee on. Inside it’s warm and comfy, but adventures usually don’t happen when you’re sitting on your couch or surfing Facebook. Put on your shoes and socks and go outside!
5. Don’t let your environment determine your mood. Whether my wiener dog is cuddled in an expensive blanket or sleeping in a cardboard box, his positive attitude never falters. As long as he has the basics – food, water and shelter – the rest is just icing on the cake that he will happily lick. He never gets caught up with what other dogs have, or laments what he does not. His mood is not set by whims of fate, but by an internal feeling that consistently says: “Life is good.”
6. Find unexpected moments to play and laugh. Playtime can lose priority as you get older, but my pup regards almost everything he encounters as his play toys: socks, plants, pens, lemons, the remote control, my hair – he approaches the world by asking: “How can we have fun together?” His playful attitude is a constant reminder that life should not be taken so seriously. A romp with a puppy on the grass is a more powerful mood-lifter than Prozac will ever be, and the only side effect is a little slobber.
7. Size doesn’t matter – but confidence does! Nine times out of ten, my wiener dog is the smallest squeak at the dog park – but don’t tell him that! He has no idea that he is so small or so awkward-looking, and he doesn’t take crap from anyone. He holds his own with the hairiest of them and doesn’t shy away for a second from running with the big dogs, because that is where he knows he belongs.
8. Don’t judge by appearance. My wiener dog never judges another dog or human by the clothes they are wearing, the color of their skin, their hairdo or their neighborhood, but rather by their present actions. Body language and behavior tells him all he needs to know, and he couldn’t care less about a new friend’s appearance. Whether you are the queen of England or the guy digging in the trash, my wiener dog will want to say hello and connect with you, often literally, with his tongue.
9. Meet the neighbors! Going on long walks around the neighborhood isn’t just great exercise and good for the spirit; it’s good for your social side as well. Whether you have a dog or not, walking the sidewalks and streets around your home is a fantastic way to meet your neighbors and get to know the people who share your environs. In a day when most people couldn’t pick their next-door neighbors out of a lineup, meeting those who live close to you will give you a greater sense of being rooted in your geographic community.
10. Suck out the marrow of life! My wiener dog doesn’t lick on a bone once or twice and then decide it’s too much work and go watch a rerun of the Kardashians instead. He will diligently gnaw on the bone for hours and hours until he has licked up every single bit of the marrow – the good stuff – and so should we as humans suck the marrow out of life.
“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, To put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die Discover that I had not lived.”
Henry David Thoreau
image: Shilo Urban