Friday, July 30, 2010

Skip's Tips: 10 Things I've Learned From My Dog

This Sunday marks the one-year anniversary of the day we brought our sweet little beagle Skipper home from the shelter.  She has since become my constant companion, my best (non-human) friend, my confidante (she's excellent at keeping secrets), and my shadow. And while I'd like to say that I've taught her a lot in these twelve months (e.g. roll over), upon reflection, it seems she has taught me even more. Here is just a sampling of good ideas I have picked up from watching my little dog interact in the world.

1. Naps Are Awesome.  Skip spends about 18 hours of every day snoozing. Whether it's on her favorite wingback chair, in a small patch of sun on the kitchen floor, or on JM's lap the minute he sits down, she takes the most wonderful looking naps all over the apartment (so good, in fact, that her tail frequently wags in her sleep). But the second the buzzer rings, JM walks in the door, or I open the closet where I keep her leash, she pops up, full of energy and raring to go. I now approach naps with the same philosophy- find a comfy spot anywhere (no darkness or bedding necessary), close your eyes for a few minutes and just enjoy the relaxing feeling. Whether you fall asleep or not, it does wonders for recharging your batteries.

2. Anywhere Is A Good Place To Make New Friends. It is difficult to walk Skipper around the block quickly, because she approaches everyone we encounter (canine or human) with an irresistible smile and wagging tail. Before we got her, we hadn't met a single one of our neighbors, but after this year, we know everyone (and every chihuahua, basset hound, and dachshund) on the block. And she is completely non-discerning- she loves little kids, surly teens, homeless people, and cops all equally. She even loves the vet and the mailman. Through her, I have made great new friendships with everyone from the five-year-old downstairs to the dry cleaning delivery guy to every doorman this side of Central Park.

3. Greet Like You Mean It. Whether you have been out all day, or just went around the corner to get a coffee, Skipper will greet you upon your return as if you were made out of beef jerky. It is hard to feel down on yourself, even on the worst day, when there is someone waiting for you at home for whom you are the whole world. I try to remember to express that same joy and love when JM walks in the door after work (although it's awfully hard to top the dog).

4. Food Is A Wonderful Thing. I have always been a great appreciator of food, but no one loves food more than my pup (probably because she was so underfed in her early life). Every day at mealtime I am reminded of the Far Side cartoon which shows two dogs being fed, and one is saying to the other, "Oh boy! Dog food again!"- that's Skip.  I try to remember to savor my food as much as she does, and to be grateful for all that we have, when there are so many who do with so much less.

5. Be Curious. Skipper is endlessly fascinated by everything that goes on around her- whether it's an ant trail on the sidewalk, a newspaper blowing in the wind, or the sound of drunk kids down on the street making their way home. Watching her frequently makes me notice wonderful things that would have otherwise passed me by. And if curiosity killed the cat... well, that's just fine with Skipper.

6. Persistence And Patience Pay Off. When we first got Skip, we were determined to keep her off the furniture. She would hop up and we would gently push her off, over and over again. After about two weeks, we realized we sort of liked having her up with us, and she won. While I'm not so proud of my dog-training skills, she has reminded me to try to apply that same kind of moxie and never-give-up attitude to my own endeavors.

7. Forgive. Over the course of this year, part of the problem with the "shadow" thing is that I have accidentally stepped on, kicked, and sent Skipper flying with a hastily opened door. I have cut her nails too short, dressed her in mortifying outfits, attempted to brush her teeth, and dragged her from her hiding places to force her into the most dreaded and terrifying warm baths. And every time, without a moment's hesitation, she has forgiven me and showered me with love.  It is not hard to admire this as a virtue (even if you think she only does so because she knows I'm the keeper of the #4).

8. A Good Personality Goes A Long Way. Conversely, Skipper leaves an endless trail of dog hair all over our apartment which daily sweeping and lint-rolling does little to combat. She eats JM's snacks off the coffee table, leaves disgustingly chewed-up toys all over the apartment, gets into anything you leave unguarded below waist-level, and occasionally forgets her housetraining. All of this would be unbearable in a dog of lessor virtue, but one look at her waggily tail and, um, puppy-dog eyes, and she wins us over again. When in doubt, it seems a kind heart, good intentions, and a goofy smile can cover a multitude of sins.

9. Make Your Own Fun. In the few hours a day that Skipper is not sleeping, she can be found engaging in some seriously ridiculous behavior. Whether it's wrestling and pouncing on a rubber band, sniffing around the kitchen for errant crumbs, running laps around our ottoman, or trying to climb into the pile of warm, clean laundry as I fold it, she is a gal who knows how to have a good time.  We'd all do well to have such  joie de vivre.

10. There Is Dignity In Resilience. When we got her, Skipper was underweight, scabby, suffering from parasites and infections, and had recently given birth to a litter of puppies (when she herself was still just a puppy). Despite all that, she is a warm, loving, goofy, funny, exceedingly friendly pup, with surprisingly little baggage.  Would that we could all emerge from our hardships with such grace.

Oh, and...
11. Squirrels And Vacuums Are A Menace And Must Be Destroyed. I'm less convinced about this one, but she makes a pretty strong and compelling case.


Carrie said...

This is SOOO true. Love it! :)

Christine said...

Aw I loved this post. We got Paddy on 1 August, so I can agree that I've learned a lot of the same things in a year-ish. Dogs are so great! I can't imagine my life without one now!

Anonymous said...

Felt just like I'd written this post about our fun, sweet little beagle, I know how beagles so inspired Charles Schultz to create Snoopy!
And, on the furniture...well, like you, we realized we just like her - and her clouds of tiny hairs! - up next to us!

Natalie said...

So I just found your blog. I love it. This post especially. Its so cute and so true.

Anonymous said...

I have had many beagles, the food thing is normal. Every beagle I know (and there are quite a few in my family) would clean out the pantry, the fridge, the cabinets, and then ask for more. They are the best little dogs, my newest baby is 4 months old and could swear you were describing her most of the time.

Brittany said...

This was a very inspiring post! Really enjoyed it!

legal4lien said...

Very lovely! Thank you for the positive points I definitely should learn and copy ^_+