By Marie Yates
We all talk about how incredible dogs are, how clever they are and how much we love them. We’re not wrong, they are wonderful beings and if we’re honest, I think we’d all agree that we haven’t really begun to understand their full capabilities. Given the opportunity, they learn at a phenomenal rate, have sensory capabilities beyond our ability to measure, and a level of intuition of which humans can only dream.
When we look at what dogs have to offer, we are humbled. They bring so much to our lives and ask for very little in return. They offer an unparalleled level of unconditional love and have unlimited patience when it comes to our human failings. No matter how hard we try, we all have our off days, don’t we? Whatever we do, whatever silly things we say or if we are grumpy for reasons that even we don’t understand, our dogs still love us. They see through the human nonsense and see us for who we really are. They see the good, they see that we’re doing our best and they’re there for us when it feels like we’re undeserving of kindness.
If that’s not a shining example of how we should aspire to live, I don’t know what is.
Like you, I love learning from dogs. I believe that they have more to teach than we’re capable of understanding. Spending time in the company of a dog teaches me more about the way I would like to live my life than any human has ever taught me.
The two lessons, among hundreds, that never cease to astound me are the ways in which dogs have built resilience and their ability to live in the moment.
Resilience is a skill. It’s the ability to bounce back from adversity and it is something that is necessary for survival. If we crumple at the slightest bump in the road, we’re going to struggle. If you have spent time in the company of a dog, you’ll see resilience. How would you cope if you were plucked from your family as a baby and dropped into the home of another species? For a dog, that’s the best-case scenario. Being taken to a loving family, albeit with their human failings, still means getting used to the weird and often not-so-wonderful ways of life in a human world.
What about dogs who have been abandoned, neglected and abused? Spending time with rescue dogs will teach you more about resilience than you ever wanted to know. There’s never a good reason that a dog is taken to a rescue centre. Whatever the circumstances, wherever the responsibility lies and regardless of intention, the dog has been let down by humans and experiences a significant change as a result.
Think about some of the stories that you have heard about dogs who have found themselves in rescue. Being able to deal with the change, coping in the new environment and learning to trust again is something that most of us would need professional help to overcome. How many of the dogs you just thought about have shown a level of resilience that you would be proud of if you found yourself in their situation?
Life in the Moment
One of the reasons that dogs have the bounce-back-ability that we admire is their capacity to live in the moment. As Kevin Behan says in his book, Your Dog Is Your Mirror; “a dog cannot remember, yet he never forgets.”
That’s something that is difficult for us humans to comprehend. Of course, dogs respond based on experience, yet they are able to engage fully in what is happening in the moment. I’ve watched as one of my rescue dogs was faced with a situation that, based on his experience, could be frightening. However, the offer of a game of “find it” trumps the fear and he is fully engaged with a wagging tail and his nose to the floor. He’s not thinking about how tough his life was, how he was let down and how the world can be a dangerous and terrifying place. He’s thinking, “cheese!”
How many times have you watched your dog as they’re engrossed in playing, chasing their tail, figuring out a game or while they’re sat with you, enjoying your company without the need for words? In that moment of quiet, while they’re sat with you and you’re simply alone, together, they are with you, one hundred per cent. Can you say the same thing? Are you thinking about work, what you “should” be doing, checking your phone, wondering what’s on the TV… the list goes on.
Next time you’re with your dog, give them your time. There will come a day when that time will be the thing you miss most in the world. Breathe with them and any thoughts that pop into your mind can be told “thanks, I’m with my dog so I’ll deal with you later.” In that moment, you will learn the most powerful lesson that your dog can teach you.
You will be living in that moment, you will experience calm and you will be with the best friend you’ll ever have. In that moment, you’ll realise that you are accepted just as you are. You are perfectly imperfect, just as you are.
If dogs can teach us this, then there’s no limit to the lessons we can learn from them.
If you love learning from dogs, check out www.lovelearningfromdogs.com and join #TeamLuna. It’s for all the humans out there who have been let down, have experienced tough times, but know that life can also be an awesome adventure. Members of #TeamLuna are RESILIENT. We all need reminders, motivation, training and treats. We are continually learning. We are doing our best.
Love Learning from Dogs is brought to you by Canine Perspective CIC, a social enterprise inspiring positive change using the power of the human-canine bond.