11 Things Owning a Dog Has Taught Me About Life

I love dogs. In fact, I can recall several times where I have literally dropped what I was doing (which, one time, included a very important research project) to pet a dog. Yes, dogs are amazing. If you ask me which I love more, it would literally be a coin toss between dogs and mountains. When we were on Mount Elbert, we saw 11 dogs. What a day that was.

It’s hard not to love our furry friends. After all, they’re genuine, (normally) gentle, and super playful. They can also be humorously stupid, but they’re also incredibly smart when they need to be. Here’s to hoping they never need to be when there’s a squirrel within five miles of them…

I’ve been a dog owner since 5th grade. Fast forward nearly 11 years, and my dog is now old, although she doesn’t really act (or look) it. In those 11 years, we taught her to sit, lay down, and give me a high-five. And while we failed miserably on the door manners, roll over, and not begging for food aspects of dog-owning, Molson is still a damn good dog who is filled with love in her heart for everything except small animals like rabbits and squirrels. She hates them, and I mean hates them. But it’s that damn good dog-ness and love in her heart and lack of door manners that have actually taught me a lot; more than I ever could have taught her.

1. Wag More, Bark Less

I’m 99% sure this is actually a bumper sticker, but I think it has a good message. I’m going to go out on a limb and say the meaning behind this is something along the lines of “cheer up and have fun.” I think that’s a great message, and more of us should listen to it. In the end, we’re all going to die, so why take life so seriously? Relax, have fun, and enjoy the ride.

2. Share Your Food

This is a tough one for me. I’m more of a fan of the “Joey doesn’t share food” line from Friends, but I’m lightening up to the idea. No, I have never eaten dog food and I certainly don’t intend to, but Molson eats my food all the time, so long as I give it to her. Being her “older brother” as my parents put it, I try to look out for her, so I’ll frequently sneak a piece of chicken under the table for her to enjoy. Slowly, I’ve learned to be less possessive of things, including food. Sometimes, if something is good, it’s just meant to be shared.

3. Be Territorial

With all of that sharing in mind…

I first read this on Twitter, and then applied it to the dog world. The quote, which was originally about a guy being upset with another guy texting his girlfriend, read something along these lines: “Jealousy is wanting what you can’t have, but being territorial is protecting what is yours.” Possessive, yes, but what a great quote, in my opinion. If someone breaks into your house, you aren’t filled with jealousy. That’s your house, you (or your dog) go through great lengths to protect it. It’s yours, and you’re being territorial. Just as dogs defend their owners and their houses, I think it’s only fair that people do the same. If you have someone or something you love, whether it be a significant other or family member or hobby or item, protect it. If it’s yours, it’s yours to protect.

4. Don’t Hold Grudges

I once got frustrated with my dog because she pooped on my carpet. Within a minute, she dropped a tennis ball at my feet. She could have went upstairs and laid in bed and been pissed at me, but she didn’t, because she’s a dog. Her response was, I’m assuming, “sorry for pooping on your floor, please throw this ball so I can retrieve it.”

What a great way to live, I thought to myself. Why hold a grudge on someone/something when you can put it in the past, move on, and enjoy your day?

5. Chase Things

Dogs love to chase things, whether it be their tails, a ball, or a squirrel. People should chase things too, just not those things (although, if I was born with a tail I’d probably consider chasing it). No, people should chase their dreams, and they should chase them with the same passion dogs chase their tails, a ball, or a squirrel: relentlessly, until they get it (or it goes up a tree). I’ve never seen my dog get half way to her tennis ball and decide she just wasn’t feeling it today, nor have I ever seen her stare down a squirrel and just move on. When there’s something that you want that badly, don’t stop pursuing it. Go after it, and go after it passionately.

6. Be Easily Excited

Sometimes I’ll tell my dog there’s a squirrel just to watch her practically lose her mind. Yes, it’s mean, but it’s also funny, and sometimes you need a good laugh. Speaking of losing minds, Molson will literally lose her mind when I tell her we’re going in the car. She knows we’re going somewhere new (sometimes) and exciting, and that’s reason for her to be excited. I find that sometimes people miss out on fun experiences because they view them as more of a chore or bring a negative attitude before they even get there. If you just allow yourself to get excited for that office party or trip with your in-laws, I guarantee you, you’ll enjoy it more.

7. Enjoy the Outdoors

Being outside is right up there with toast and peanut butter for Molson’s favorite things. In all honesty, watching how much she enjoyed being outside is what inspired me to really get in to being outdoors. There’s so much to do, see, and discover, and dogs know that. They love roaming free and picking up new smells, and I think that’s awesome. So go out there and find a new adventure, and enjoy every second of it. Maybe even take your dog.

8. Always Know Where Home Is

The first summer we had Molson, like incredibly responsible dog owners, we accidentally left the back gate on our deck open. We let her out to pee, and when she didn’t come back in right away, we assumed she was laying on the deck to cool off. Fast forward a few hours, and one of us clued in that we hadn’t seen her in some time. When she wasn’t on the back deck, nor was she upstairs, we instantly knew she was gone. Sure enough, someone poked their head out the front door, and there she was, sitting in our neighbors yard, smelling some grass. Now, I don’t know how far she wandered that night, but I’d like to think she didn’t go too far. She knew her home was there, and didn’t want to leave it.

I’m saying this from experience. Always know that no matter where you go, or how far away you are, your home will always be there to come home to.

9. Be Yourself

While I would be downright amazed if she did, I have never once witnessed my dog change her fur style, her collar, or decide to walk herself to be one of the “cool” dogs. Along the same lines, I’ve never seen one dog judge another dog for how they looked, what their owners looked like, or the color of their fur. They’re just accepting. They see a dog, and (probably) think hey dog, I’m a dog, let’s be friends, and a few butt-sniffs later they’re best buds. Why humans cannot be like this, I will never understand. While we can’t change the human race, we can change how we act. Or better yet, we can not change how we act, because we shouldn’t change ourselves for the sake of others. Be yourself, love yourself.

10. Stay Youthful

Molson is almost 11, but she has the heart of a puppy. She still chases squirrels, toys, and goes on hikes. Yes, she’s slowed down and doesn’t have the energy she once did, but she still finds joy in the same things she has since she was little. I don’t believe in growing old, sitting on a couch, and waiting to die. What good comes from that? You have essentially wasted the last years of your life. But you don’t even need to be elderly for this to apply. Laugh at stupid things, make inappropriate jokes, and just enjoy life. Be mature when you have to be, but I’ve found that most of the time you really don’t. This goes back to the first point: don’t take life so seriously.

11. Stay Loyal

The final thing I’ve learned from Molson is loyalty. Whether it’s a family member, friend, significant other, whoever it may be, stay loyal. Don’t cheat and don’t go behind someone’s back. If someone puts their trust in you, it’s on you to uphold that. You’d be hard-pressed to find a dog who joins in another dog and attacks their owner, because that would not be loyalty. Regardless of whether or not the person you’ve pledged loyalty to is right or wrong, you should remain loyal to them.

 

One final note: be the person your dog thinks you are. If you come home and your dog is excited to see you, or they lick you or curl up next to you or bring you a ball to throw, they think you’re a pretty awesome and super friendly person. If they didn’t think so, they’d probably avoid you. So be that super awesome and friendly person; make other people happy and enjoy your life. If you can’t do it for yourself, then do it for your dog.

Maybe if we were all like dogs, this world would be a better place.

 

—DG

 

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