When it comes to dogs, there are two things I have never been: a “dog person”, and shy about sharing my disdain for them and their owners. I know! It’s ridicule that is unfounded, uninformed and unfair. I’ve never owned a dog. But, it only takes one nippy, yappy, smelly, slobbery pooch to swell my ignorance. It also only takes the stench of one deviant un-scooped doggy swirl on the bottom of my shoe to radiate my fanatical furor into a sweeping criticism of all of their cult-like masters. That is, until I spent a month with Hunter. After even just a few days living with this Border Terrier, I discovered my inner dog person, and what I learned is crucial to your success at work and at home.
I dog sat a girlfriend’s hound for a whole weekend many years ago. That event didn’t bring on the same level of edification. Perhaps it was because her dog was a 110 Lb. Rottweiler and I felt inclined to sleep with one eye open. More likely, it was because I was young and inexperienced, and just not ready for mutt-inspired life learning. That was the longest I had spent with any dog, one-on-one, prior to spending most of July 2016 caring for my stepsister’s pup, Hunter. I LOVE THIS DOG! Which is a result that took far less than a whole weekend.
While I didn’t LET him sit in the front seat of the car when we’d drive to the park for a run, (he pretty much insisted), I certainly did talk to him in “that voice”, and was delighted when he tilted his head and raised his ears to “listen”. I scooped all of his poops, happily let him sleep in my bed, scratched his belly every time he rolled over, (which was always), and giggled when he licked my ankles upon my return home to his lonesome self. None of this dogsense behaviour happened in the 48 years prior to my living with Hunter.
For someone who has been almost anti-dog (me) to have such a rapid change of heart after almost half a century seems startling. I wondered: could the right dose of dog time be the key to personal enlightenment; perhaps even the answer to creating peace on Earth. Unfortunately, my hope for the latter was quickly extinguished when I realized that dog owners through the ages have included many people with questionable character: Adolf Hitler had German Shepherds; Jeffrey Dahlmer had a Spaniel cross; Ryan Lochte has a Doberman; plus, we all know how fond Lord Ramsay Bolton was of his brood of Cane Corsos, and, SPOILER ALERT, how fond they were of him in the end.
At the same time, if one doggy daycare assignment can swing me to the complete opposite end of the spectrum, there must be something important that the experience can bring to humanity. With a closer examination of my inner dog person THEN (me before Hunter) and NOW (me since Hunter), I offer you my Top 10 Dog Inspired Crucial Life Lessons:
- A dog bites some random dude.
THEN: “Uh, maybe try enrolling in obedience school, or strapping on a muzzle, or staying away from public spaces with that dog, so it doesn’t have to be put down.”
NOW: “Maybe try not to look so much like a suspicious, random dude. (To Hunter) Good boy!”, (in that voice).
LIFE LESSON: Instead of assuming your boss is an a**hole for growling at a co-worker, or the customer ahead of you in the grocery line is a horrible person for lashing out at the clerk, try to empathize and understand where their hostility might be coming from. Perhaps they have heartworm, or rabies.
- A dog sticks its head out the window of a moving car.
THEN: “Cute. But he clearly doesn’t get out of the house enough; probably a condo dog. Sad.”
NOW: A dog can pick up a scent trail, extending their range of territory over long distances, by moving among overlapping circles of familiar scents; such as an owner, a familiar dog, a tree, restaurant, trash can, etc. Every car ride for a dog must be like taking a Mediterranean cruise! Fascinating!
LIFE LESSON: Instead of dreading your daily commute, engage the trip like it’s a new adventure every day, with an upbeat puppy perspective of what each day may bring. But, if someone on the bus cuts the cheese, hold your breath and pretend not to notice.
- Dog breath.
THEN: “Yeah, so this is just reason number umpteen as to why I don’t let dogs lick my face.”
NOW: “Their lack of self-consciousness about intimacy is liberating. They’re like Europeans are with nudity; including the fur.”
LIFE LESSON: When someone leans in to share a great idea in confidence at the office, or express their feelings for you in a crowded bar, their intimate gesture should not be diminished by halitosis. Unless they lick your face.
- A dog shakes water and mud off all over the inside of my car.
THEN: “Great. The smell will probably be trapped and re-circulate through the air vents for months.”
NOW: “Cool! Dogs can shake 70% of the water from their fur in four seconds!”
LIFE LESSON: When a client, or romantic interest, eats corn on the cob at a dinner date, their kernel juice was not projectile sprayed in your face with malicious intent. While sometimes oblivious, people are mostly good and kind. Perhaps, though, they should have ordered rice.
- The inclination to wash my hands after petting a dog.
THEN: Immediately and every time.
LIFE LESSON: Whatever; don’t judge me.
- When I find un-scooped dog poo on my front lawn.
NOW: “I may have only scooped regularly for a month, but it’s really not a difficult, or time consuming task. I’ve now even jogged with a bag-o-sh*t plenty of times. So- Grrrrrrrrr!”.
LIFE LESSON: Even if you feel the need to eliminate the toxic people currently in your life; those whose sh*t you seem to have to always clean-up; they’re still deserving of everything in life that you deem as good. You are not enabling their dysfunction by metaphorically having a few extra bags around to use to pick up after the mess they leave behind. If you happen to know where they live, you may decide to light the bag on fire on their porch and ring the doorbell. Metaphorically.
- A dog eats his own vomit.
THEN: “That is just not an intelligent creature.”
NOW: “That was my fault for leaving out the sunscreen for him to snack on, which caused him to regurgitate his lunch when he was still hungry.”
LIFE LESSON: Despite what you may learn about life and yourself, (being an “old dog” who apparently CAN be taught a “new trick”), there are some things in this world that never change. Such as the subtle ways that cats, who don’t eat their own vomit, can be superior pets.
- A dog licks himself, you know where.
THEN: “What’s really surprising is that he isn’t doing it more often.”
NOW: “What’s really surprising is that he isn’t doing it more often.”
LIFE LESSON: In order to have success in business and relationships, it’s important in your professional and personal lives to be flexible. But, if you’re compromising your reputation by repeatedly putting your hand into everyone’s business, or always bending over for others, you might find people stop being so impressed with your natural abilities. Plus, you could grow hair on your hand, or go blind.
- A dog is barking incessantly.
THEN: “Please shut that dog up. Feed it. Let it back inside. Give it a treat. Even smack it once. I don’t care. I just want it to stop. If you’re not home, I’m going to record this noise pollution and play it outside your bedroom window on your day off, at 5 AM.”
NOW: “Oh, poor puppy. No one is home and something is spooking you. Or maybe you’re hungry; or lonely. Tomorrow I’ll drop by and see if your master will give me a key to let you in if they forget you’re outside next time they go out.”
LIFE LESSON: When waxing philosophically about whether a tree makes any noise if it falls in a forest when no one is around to hear it, don’t bother asking a dog. They think yes, unequivocally. Otherwise, why would they bark when no one is home? Or, maybe they think no; there’s no noise when no one is around to hear them, so why not bark unabashedly? I don’t know anymore.
And my NUMBER ONE Dog Inspired Crucial Life Lesson…
- People who leave a dinner party early because they’ve got to get back to their dog.
THEN: “That’s lame and I take it personally that you’d make the dog a priority over spending time with me. It’s just a dog. She’ll be fine.”
NOW: “Thanks to the dog, I had an excuse to get home and have two more hours to binge watch Netflix.”
LIFE LESSON: As is often the case, the decisions and actions of other people have less to do with you than you might think. Don’t make everything “about you”. They’re not leaving your dinner party because they don’t like your company. They have a treatable, but dysfunctional addition to “Orange Is the New Black”.
So, there you have it. I’m glad getting over my dog snobbery has provided valuable utility in your professional and personal life. Oh, and one more thing: if you’ve misbehaved in some way, a dog response is the best approach. Just look as cute and innocent as possible. But, you probably knew that one already.
As for me, it has been almost three weeks since I last saw Hunter. I suggested to my stepsister that we set up a time for me to Skype with him, (he doesn’t have FaceTime). She laughed. I wasn’t kidding. Alas, he probably has forgotten me already. After all, in Hunter time, it has been 18 weeks since I left. At least when I see him again in November, I can rest assured that he’ll lick my ankles. He licks everyone’s ankles. In the meantime, I hope he thinks of our time together when he catches a whiff of me in an overlapping circle of familiar scents.