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life lessons thanks to my dogs

20 Ways To Live Like A Dog

They say a dog is the only thing in the world that will love you more than it loves himself.  

I can vouch for this.  I’ve never had a friend more loyal than Lily or Romeo.  Or a friend who’s lived with so much passion, happiness, and eagerness to live life to the absolute fullest, which made me think… if humans lived more like dogs, maybe we would all be happier too.

Here are 20 ways how to live like a dog, in hopes that we can be as happy and wise as the best creatures in the world.

1.  Always be up for an adventure…

Ever notice just how excited your dog is to hop into your car, having no knowledge where they are going?  They’re always ready to go!  Something us humans can learn from.  

Be adventurous.  Take chances.  Stay open to new experiences.

2.  But know your limits

Dogs aren’t afraid to put the brakes on things when they need to.  As much as they can go, go, go… they will let you know when they need to recharge.

Life isn’t fun when you’re running on empty all the time.  Take care of yourself by knowing your limits.

3. Make friends easily…

Dogs (most dogs) LOVE making friends!  At the park, on a walk, or on a trip to the pet store.  They’re always ready to say hi and play!

Somewhere along the way we forget how important it is to connect with new people.  Let our dogs remind us that life is better with friends.

4. But trust your instincts

With that being said, dogs are never afraid to trust their instincts when they meet new people or are in situations that don’t sit well with them.

Trusting our instincts is an essential part of living a happy and safe life, yet so many of us deny them.  I think we would all enjoy life a little more if we learned to trust our initial gut feelings.

5.  Be wary of the vacuum

Some things dogs do are hard to relate to, such as always yelling at the vacuum when it is turned on.  But I think loud, scary objects that move around the house probably should be avoided.

Be wary of anything that suggests cleaning your house.  That’s my best analysis here.

6.  Forgive and let go of grudges

Dogs have this amazing ability to forgive and let go of grudges completely.  Many dogs have been victims of neglect, abuse, and poor decision-making.  Some have watched their families drop them off at a shelter, never to see them again.  Some have lived their life tied up outside, never to feel the comfort of a warm bed.  Some… well, some have been so physically abused their body takes new form.  Yet these dogs – with a lot of love and nurturing – remain some the most loving and loyal dogs ever.  

We have a lot to learn with this one.  Forgiveness is hard, but living with bitterness and anger is much harder.  Try to trust again – you may just be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

7.  Be up for trying new foods

It does not matter what food I have in my hands, both my dogs will try their hardest to sit patiently until I give them their treat.  They LOVE new food!

I read once that people who try new foods are generally happier than people who don’t.  I don’t know if there’s any truth to it but if you asked my dogs, they’d tell you yes!

8.  Be so excited you sometimes pee a little

Maybe not all dogs do this but on more than one occasion I’ve returned home and Lily has been sooooo excited, she’s peed a little.  

Can you imagine being that happy over something?!

9.  Cause a little harmless trouble aka destroy as many stuffed animals as possible

Romeo has killed many stuffed animals in his time.  Was it nice to do?  No.  Was it fun to do?  Oh, I’m sure!  Did it hurt anyone?  No, not quite.

Break a few rules.  Have a little fun.  Don’t hurt anyone in the process.  Pretty simple things to live by. 

10.  Don’t judge people on their height, weight, or skin color

Dogs don’t care if you’re 5’2″ or 6’5″.  They will love you regardless.  They don’t care if you’ve lost or gained 10 lbs.  They will love you regardless.  They don’t care if you’re black, white, or Asian.  They will love you regardless.

Take note, humans.  Dogs get this one completely.

11.  Live in the moment

The here and now is the only moment that exists for dogs.  Their uncanny ability to stay in the present moment is admirable.

Be here.  Stay here.  This is the only moment that exists; let everything else go.    

12.  “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”

Lily looooves getting into the garbage.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve come home to find garbage all over the place.  It doesn’t matter how many times I yell at her for this either, it happens more often than that.

Which clearly only means one thing, one man’s trash really is another man’s treasure.

13.  Channel your inner frog

This one falls in the same category as be wary of the vacuum.  I’m not quite sure why they sit like frogs but if my dog thinks it’s cool to be a little different then I should probably listen.

Don’t be afraid to be a little weird.  Channel your inner frog, just like your dog does.

14.  Accept yourself fully

Dogs don’t get hung up over what color their coat is, how big or small they are, or where they’ve come from.  Without a second thought, they accept things just as they are.

Imagine waking up, looking in the mirror, and accepting yourself completely.  I think this is one of the hardest things we have to do, but it’s clear that when you do life naturally becomes so much better.  Try every day to worry less about things you can’t change and focus on the things you can.

15. When someone’s not looking, steal some of their food

Just yesterday, Lily and Romeo snatched three pancakes off the counter when I wasn’t looking.  I definitely don’t agree with this behavior but it makes you think… who’s the real winner here?  It wasn’t me.

Do it… just once.  Blame your dog if you get caught. :)

16.  Don’t be afraid to get a little dirty

When Romeo rolls around in the grass it’s impossible not to see how much joy it brings him.  Last fall when I would bring him to the dog park he would literally dive into the wettest parts of the park.  Splashing water everywhere.  Getting covered in mud.  Having the time of his life.

Don’t ever let the responsibilities of being an adult let you forget to have fun.  And don’t ever get so out of touch with nature you forget that getting a little dirty is actually really, really, really fun.  Go four wheeling, go for a hike, go play out in the rain.  

17.  Sometimes not saying anything is everything 

The few weeks before a close family member passed away from cancer, I would come home mentally and emotionally exhausted.  Overwhelmed with how unfair life seemed, I usually would cry myself to sleep.  Without fail, Lily and Romeo stayed by my side offering comfort and affection without saying a word.  I will always be grateful for them during that time.

Sometimes it’s hard to know how to respond when someone close to us is going through a hard time.  Sometimes not saying anything, but offering a shoulder to cry on is one of the best things we can do.

18.  Love without conditions

Lily and Romeo don’t expect me to be anything other than who I am, in this moment.  They don’t care about what I look like, how clean our house is, or how much money is (or isn’t) in the bank.  They love me regardless.  That’s what dogs do, they love regardless.  Without any conditions or strings attached.  They love regardless.

How better this world would be if we could all love unconditionally.

19.  Always wipe your feet after you go to the bathroom

This is an odd one, dogs.  I’m not quite sure what this is all about but it never fails, Romeo always wipes his feet after he pees.  Kicks up grass and dirt, which usually hits me, and always walks away feeling very accomplished of himself. 

If dogs are one of the happiest creatures on earth, maybe we should follow suit.  We should all wipe our feet after we pee.

20.  Chase the squirrel

Maybe your dog has, but neither of mine has ever caught a squirrel.  They’ve both wanted to but it’s never happened.  Three years together and not a single squirrel has been caught, yet that doesn’t stop them from still trying.  They’re always interested.  Always excited.  Always ready to pounce.  I would think by now they would understand that it’s probably not going to happen.  But they never give up.  They never give up.

Following your dreams is a lot like a dog chasing a squirrel.  Most people don’t achieve their dreams or reach their potential, not because they aren’t capable but because they give up.  They lose interest.  They become bored.  They abandon their passion.  They believe it’s not possible and they give up.

be a dog

Be a dog.  

Don’t give up.  Don’t lose focus.  Don’t surrender your dreams for a belief that isn’t true.  

Be a good friend.  Take a trip to somewhere new.  Enjoy naps when you want to.

Let go of the past.  

Live with passion.  

Follow your dreams.

Be a dog.

life lessons thanks to my dogs, Lily the Ridgeback

What is a Soulmate Dog?

It’s become a new routine of mine to take the dogs to the dog park after the kids get on the bus for school in the morning.  Yesterday was no different.  I waved goodbye to Christian as his bus drove away and then opened my back car door, motioning both the dogs to hop in.  They were thrilled we were going somewhere before 8 am.  

As was I (please note the sarcasm here).  

The dog park is more for Romeo’s benefit.  He needs to run.  He loves to run.  I mean, really, really loves to run.  I don’t think anything makes him happier than open land, wind on his face, and the freedom to do whatever he pleases. 

As I stood there watching him run laps around me and Lily, who was – of course – sitting about a foot to the right of me, I laughed at how we had simply become spectators to the show he was putting on.  If you’ve ever seen a pit bull smile, you know how easily it can melt your heart.  Now imagine a pit bull smiling, while flying in the air.  All four legs off the ground…. over and over and over again.

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It’s almost magical.

That’s just how it is with Rome.  His presence.  His eyes.  His steel gray coat.  His bark.  His big head.  And slender, muscular body.  And of course, his ready-to-play-at-a-drop-of-a-dime attitude.  Everything about him is somewhat magical and always has been.  I quickly learned when we got him two years ago that this is now Romeo’s world and we’re just living in it.

Trust me, though, it’s a fun world to be in.  

A world that causes a little trouble here and there, and reminds you to lighten up and have some fun.  Without Rome knowing it, he adds so much comic relief to the everyday stress of single parenting.  But every now and then I’m reminded of the year right before we got him.  It was a year that lacked the fun, excitement, and head shaking experiences that Romeo brings to the table.  It was dark and lonely and only a few steps away from when my life (as I knew it) would fall apart. 

In the midst of the darkness, however, a calm, quiet, loyal, and loving force was present.  She was unassuming and safe; as if I had known her my whole life.  A familiar face in the heart of a storm.

Her name was Lily, and she is my soulmate dog.

*

Being a first-time dog owner, I did everything by the books.  Pink leash, pink collar, pink name tag.  Even got her one of those PetSmart “puppy guide” books that comes with tons of coupons I never used.  I logged many hours on Google learning all about our new life with Lily but all I really knew was she was born May 16 and was a ‘hound mix’.  Took some time but we actually learned she was a Rhodesian Ridgeback and that is when I fell in love with the breed.  I joined as many Ridgeback groups on Facebook as possible to soak up more information and share pictures of my sweet girl.  

That is where I met Deena, a dog (and beer) connoisseur of sorts.  I’ve never actually met her but you can tell just how lively and fun of a person she is.  Married, no kids, travels a ton.  At the time, she had two Ridgebacks – one being Piper.  And although the physical characteristics of Piper and Lily were very different, Piper was about 9, with plenty of gray hair covering her face and Lily, just a 13-week old puppy, they still resembled each other in ways that were hard to ignore.  

Soulful eyes, sweet disposition, beautiful faces, gentle souls.  Piper was Deena’s soulmate dog.

I had no idea what that meant at the time, but I liked the sound of it:  Soulmate dog.  Sometimes referred to as your “once in a lifetime dog”.  Again, it was a term that was new to me but oh, how I loved the idea of it.  And I soon realized how well-known this was.  It’s almost like a well-kept secret that only dog lovers know.  Mention the words lifetime dog amongst dog lovers and you’ll be greeted with a sigh, a nod, a smile, and then a handful of stories about how their dog has changed them for the better.  In ways that have never happened before.  Not from a marriage or a child or a dream that’s finally seen the light of day.  

But a dog.  Pretty magical.

Soulmate dogs are dogs we love in extremely powerful and unexplainable ways.  Never really knowing how we lived before them or how we will ever live without them.  They hold such special places in our hearts that seem to reach just a bit deeper than anything else.  They come along when we least expect it.  Maybe in moments of pure happiness or moments of crippling grief.  Wherever you are when you and your lifetime dog find each other, you will soon experience not only unconditional love but a sense of comfort and peace and deep connection.

A bond that truly is once in a lifetime.

*

Lily is that for me.  

She was a silent reminder to put one foot in front of the other when I barely wanted to get out of bed, as if she was nudging me (literally and figuratively) to get back out in the world again.  A 13-week old puppy suggesting to live again, who would have thought?  Even if living meant forcing myself to take a walk with her or to feel things I didn’t want to feel.  That year before Romeo, although dark and hard to look back on, was the biggest turning point of my life.  It’s when I started to break cycles so deeply rooted within myself and learned how to observe my emotions, rather than react off of them.  

I was 28 years old and finally growing up.  

Lily stood patiently, playfully, and loyally by my side.  Never needing more than I could give but always instilling a sense of hope that life will get better.  And it has!  I often think, it could have been any dog but it was her.  My fiercely devoted and stunningly beautiful Ridgeback.  My once in a lifetime girl.  My soulmate dog.  

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life lessons thanks to my dogs

Why Rescue?

I wish I could say it’s easy, but it’s not.  Rescuing a dog is anything but easy.  

Most of the time, at least initially, it’s hard, exhausting, and frustrating.  It tries your patience.  It dirties your house.  It makes walking down the street seem nearly impossible when you have with you a 70 lb pit who’s never learned how to walk on a leash before.  It can make you question if you’ve made the right decision to bring a dog into your home that you know nothing about.

Or very little about.  Sure, we hear a version of their story and see a few pictures.  Maybe even a video, if you’re lucky.

But the real story unfolds a few months after they’ve settled into your home (and heart).  That’s when you start to realize “owner surrendered due to moving” can mean something completely different.  Little quirks here and there shed more light on past situations than anything else.  And when you finally build some trust that allows them to share a little bit about why they are the way they are, what you see won’t always be pretty.  

In most cases, it’s quite sad. 

So, why rescue?

Well… it’s for their first ice cream cone.  And their first swim.  It’s for a car ride to the park, with their head hanging out the window.  For walking trails you’ve yet to explore and parks that let you meet other dog lovers.  We rescue because sometimes we’re the only chance they have of making it out alive.  We rescue for a freedom ride home and for the first time they rest their head on your lap.  Also, for wiggly butts that have never been happier to see you after a long day or just twenty minutes.  We rescue to help create new memories for them, yet we find in the process we’ve created new memories for ourselves.  Memories that, without a doubt, will last us a lifetime.  

We rescue to help.  To save.  To protect.  To restore faith in humanity.  

Because something deep within speaks to us, and we simply can’t not rescue.  A calling, if you will.  A purpose.  A reason to extend our love and home and food and joy to someone who is in desperate need of it.  It’s because we care.  Because somewhere along the lines we experienced what it felt like to be hurt, abused, abandoned, and taken advantage of.  And we want to let them know everything will be okay.  We rescue to remind them that love exists.  And it’s okay to trust again.  Because we know at some point — no matter how long it takes — they will curl up next to us and, without saying a word, express a deep sense of gratitude that will bring you to tears.

It isn’t easy and it’s not always fun.   

But it sure as hell is worth every minute because when you look back, not only will you not be able to recognize the dog you once brought home… you won’t be able to recognize the person you once were either.    

We rescue to help.  To heal.  To forgive.  To love.

rescue