All month, I’ve been chatting about gifts, from ones for dog lovers to those we can give our dogs without spending a dime. Today, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the gifts that my dogs have given me throughout the years.
1. The gift of “meh”
A few weeks ago, I was relaxing at home, watching a Knicks game on DVR, Cuba resting at my feet on the carpet. We are raw feeders here, so earlier in the evening the dogs had enjoyed a large meal of whole tilapia, fins removed.
Cuba suddenly stood, his back curved, and started “horking,” my untechnical definition for preparing to puke. On the rug. It was like one of those movie scenes where everything is moving in slow motion; he was already drooling and not going to make it to the much-easier-to-clean hardwood.
I swear my life passed before my eyes as I knelt down with the roll of paper towels. It made me nauseated! This precipitated a Facebook conversation which was epic in its grossness and hilarity — a combination of dog owners and mothers of infant children comparing clean-ups, laughing and crying.
Living with a Saint Bernard, there is frequently mud and slobber everywhere. With a total of four long-coated animals in the house, I don’t even want to know what percentage of my caloric intake is pet hair. But meh, who cares? Messes can always be cleaned. If I have to choose between a sparkling clean house and life with a Saint Bernard, I pick my dog any day. The gifts we get from living with our animals make it worth the messes we may have to clean. It’s a small price to pay for the love of an animal.
2. The gift of being a kid again
When we were kids, we thought it would be awesome to be “grown up.” Until you actually grow up and you realize it’s not really that fun — it’s hard work!
For at least 30 minutes a day, I get to play with all the abandon of a five-year-old, laughing, running and rolling around, being silly, forgetting completely about taxes, a never-ending email supply to respond to, bill-paying, errand-running, list-making, and checking. I just play games with my dogs many adults have forgotten the fun of, like tag, fetch, treasure hunts, hide-and-seek, and tug of war.
For those minutes each day, I feel like five-year-old me, running around with one of my best childhood friends, a Brittany named Brandy.
3. The gift of dog people
I love dog people. We are crazy and opinionated and love our dogs in a way others think insane. It’s a growing club, and there’s really only one requirement for membership: being a dedicated dog owner. My dogs are my ticket into this amazing community, online and in the real world, pet owners and professionals alike.
Dog people are my favorite people — I find there is an inherent goodness in someone who shows great love for an animal and makes a commitment to caring well for them.
Who but dog people like my training colleagues Sara Reusche and Mel Bussey would write or appreciate such genius as “My Favorite Things”?
4. The gift of patience and a deep breath
Clients often say to me, “But you’re so patient with the dogs! I’m such an impatient person,” and I laugh. I’m actually not a patient person, but I am well-trained.
Since I naturally tend toward both impatience and anxiety, I have to “train” myself with as much commitment as I offer my dogs. There are times when I get frustrated working with a client, human or canine. There are times when I get frustrated with my own dogs, my husband, my friends, my family, traffic, etc. But the skills I’ve learned in training — breathe, assess the situation (can I do anything about it? What are my options?) — are all learned skills for me. The more I practice, the more automatic they become, and in this way we are like dogs.
5. The gift of comfort
Nearly three years ago, shortly after the holidays, my father was murdered. It was the worst nightmare I could imagine. Pain, fear, anger, and regret were so overwhelming that I often wanted to crawl inside myself and go into hibernation for an indefinite period. I didn’t really want to talk to anyone, except maybe my sister.
Unfailingly, I wanted to spend time with my dogs. No tissue will ever provide as much relief as a dog you love coming up to you on the couch and licking a tear from your cheek. They also made me feel safe in a world I thought quite frightening. They never asked too many questions or said the wrong thing. More than almost anything or anyone else, my dogs provided me with comfort; they soothed my soul.
So while there were no gifts from Cuba or Mokie this year in my stocking or under the tree, they and all the dogs who have entered my life have given me gifts that are abundant and magical.
If you’d like to share the gifts you’ve received from your dogs over the years, please share in the comments.