Being the Person Your Dog Thinks You Are
May 9, 2012 § 2 Comments
To fight off worry about the future or regret about the past, I actively look for ways to live in the moment – when I get it right, it’s an incredibly peaceful feeling. I’m closest to that state of being when I am interacting with animals and it’s one of the reasons I became a veterinarian, committed to a vocation that celebrates that interaction we have with our pets – the human-animal bond.
I grew up in a household full of animals, but my first dog, Missy, was a birthday present when I turned eight – she was a beagle, basset, terrier mix that my parents found in the classifieds. She was my best friend and taught me so much about compassion and love, fun and 0vercoming fear. She was there for me through the most difficult years of my life. She died while I was in college and when I think back now, I almost don’t remember my childhood before her. I’ve had many other dogs and cats and other pets that I loved dearly, but my first dog will always hold a special place in my heart.
I saw one of my favorite sayings on a t-shirt the other day: “Be The Person Your Dog Thinks You Are.” What a worthy goal! The relationships we have with animals truly are opportunities to learn new ways of living and connecting with people. I am a better human being because of the animals in my life. Both our dog Guinness and cat Pixel compel me to practice behaviors that help me to live a better life:
- I slow down more often and live in the moment - As I scratch Pixel’s ear and feel her purring contentment, I’m fully present. On walks with Guinness, I take time to breathe, feeling the freshness in the morning air. At night I am forced off the couch to marvel at the miracle of the night sky in the quiet of the evening.
- I see and experience what unconditional love looks like (from the dog, at least.) Although relationships with fellow humans are inherently more complex, I can then practice that non-judgmental, forgiving kind of love in my other relationships.
- In the company of my dog, I play more often; I laugh at his antics and share smiles with so many more strangers. Together we are more curious that I would be alone.
- Animals teach me to be more patient with them and myself and help me practice being “close enough”. I have to accept that my house, my schedule, my life may have some imperfections (ex. dog hair) and that it really doesn’t matter all that much.
The healing and mutually beneficial human-animal bond has existed for thousands of years. According to the CDC, pets can decrease your blood pressure, lower your cholesterol and relieve feelings of loneliness. Pets can also help us increase our exercise, outdoor activities, and socialization. But even without scientific data every pet owner knows intuitively that having animals in our lives contributes to our quality of life.
Today, I will try to be the person my dog thinks I am.