Four months ago, I adopted a fuzzy brown wiener dog puppy – and my life will never be the same. Leonard Sylvester – aka Lenny – has the indomitable spirit for which his breed is renowned, the awkward gait of a drunken rabbit, and eyes that would melt the coldest heart.
It has been best of times and the worst of times, as I raise the wily wiener dog puppy into adolescence. For weeks, he had to go out to the grass several times a night – and at least twice per hour during the day. He chewed up my favorite pair of high heels, the corner of my wall, and a brand new rug before the tag was even off. And he has contributed a vast ocean of happiness, silliness and laughter to my life.
Here are the top ten lessons he has taught me:
1. Sometimes, you just need to wait and let problems solve themselves. When I first introduced the new puppy to his big brother Steve, the older dog lunged violently at his throat in a vicious, unprovoked attack. I was quite worried that the two would never get along. Steve continued his frothy snarl offense through the night and the next day. I was trying to keep them in separate rooms but accidentally left the bathroom door open. Moments later I heard a few growls and then the running of tiny little feet. The two wiener dogs were playing and romping throughout the house, and they haven’t stopped since.
2. We will be treated how we accept to be treated. Out of the two dogs, Lenny the puppy is without a doubt the alpha – even though Steve is older and stronger. Lenny jumps on his brother’s head over and over until Steve finally snaps at him – then Lenny gladly stops being such an annoying jerk and leaves him alone. The amount of annoying behavior that Steve will tolerate is 100 percent up to Steve.
3. A puppy’s toilet schedule trumps everything else in the world. It doesn’t matter if you are in the middle of cooking dinner, making love, writing an article, or going to the toilet yourself – when your puppy gives the cue that he needs to go out, you take him out. Immediately. Otherwise, you’ll be cleaning up a mess – and you’ll have failed to impart a crucial potty training lesson.
4. Speak clearly, because not everyone can understand your accent. Yes, you have one. Whether speaking to a puppy, Siri, or a foreign traveler, enunciate your words so that you can be better understood.
5. People don’t love you in spite of your weird, unique, oddball self – they love you because of it. Don’t ever try to hide your quirks so that you’ll fit in. Maybe your legs are super short, your body is longer than everyone else’s, and your zest for life is wildly incompatible for your size. Own it. Be authentic. You are loved because you are one of a kind.
6. Don’t rely on willpower – remove temptation instead. My puppy will chew up anything on the floor: magazines, shoes, plants, rugs, remote controls, iPhones, his own bed, pillows, blankets – ANYTHING. The only way to keep him from doing so is to remove everything from the floor except for his toys. It’s the same reason why I keep no chocolate ice cream in my house, only fresh fruit. I could rely on training and willpower – or I could just remove the damn temptation already.
7.Affection is a very important part of love. My puppy showers me with affection (and little bit of slobber) whenever I return home, even if I’ve just been away for 10 minutes. It feels great – and it makes me consider if I’m giving the ones I love in life enough affection.
8.Celebrate good things, even when they become routine. Puppy chow again? WOOPEEE! My puppy could not be more excited to dive into his dish of brown pellets. Rolling in the grass, playing with his favorite toy, running around the couch – even just waking up in the morning – these are reasons to celebrate for my puppy. And for us. Don’t let the routine nature of certain pleasures diminish their significance in your eyes. Life is sweet.
9. Establishing boundaries is extremely important. Many people are afraid that by setting boundaries, they will appear aggressive or uncooperative or worst of all – bitchy. But if you don’t set firm boundaries with your puppy, your arms and legs are going to get humped. Setting boundaries is an integral part of being a self-actualized person.
10. Being present is the best gift. The number one thing that my puppy wants from me is to hang out. To be with me. To sit by my side, and to have me around. Your family members and true friends want the same from you. Give the gift of your presence to them, and to yourself through mindful living. My puppy can’t ever tell me that he loves me – but his mere presence adds so much to my life, that I don’t really mind that he chewed up the baseboard. Not much, anyway.
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Photo by Shilo Urban