10 Life Lessons I Learned From My Dog

10 Life Lessons I Learned From My Dog
by Jenny Hansen

The Hoshi Girl

All the pet-lovers out there can attest to the up sides to pet ownership but the biggest down side, in my opinion, is their short life span. They will always go before we do. That’s my gal, Hoshi, in the photo above. She was everything a dog should be: loyal, loving, sweet-tempered, funny. She lived to be fourteen-and-a-half, a stupendously long life for a 90 pound dog.

Below are the 10 lessons Hoshi taught me.

1) Fill The Well, Every Day

It’s said that dogs need to get fifty new smells a day to stay psychologically alert and happy. Those daily walks are your dog’s version of reading the paper. I know it looks like they’re sniffing every bush, light pole and dog booty on the block but in reality what they’re doing is “filling the well.” Stimulate your mind daily with whatever helps you be happy and creative.

2) Pay Attention

Take notice of the people, places and things in your life that fill your well. In the midst of our busy lives, it’s easy to let the small simple gifts in our world pass through unnoticed.

3) Treats Help Everything

I’m not suggesting that you allow either you or your pet to get too fluffy in the backside but the world is better with steady rewards of whichever treats that say, “Well done!” to you.

4) Smile and Wag

What happens when your dog bounds across the room with a smile and a wag of his or her tail and slides under your hand? You pet them, and coo over them, AND YOU SMILE. It’s hard to resist your pet when they’re sweet. Try to remember this when you’re buried up to your eyebrows in work. People will give you more leeway if you smile and wag, rather than bark and growl.

5) Find the best professionals (and trust them)

At eight, Hoshi began to creak with arthritis. Akita life spans average about 10 years so I started mentally preparing (though, let’s face it, you’re never ready). My girlfriend, Mary, who’s a dog trainer, heard my concerns and sent me to Dr. Voll. A few visits with this wonderful vet and Hoshi was a new girl. Dr. Voll took care of Hoshi for almost seven years and whenever the inevitable ups and downs of a senior dog would occur, I’d worry that it might be time to let my sweet girl go. On one of those bad days, Dr. Voll looked me in the eye and said, “Stop crying! I’ll tell you when it’s time.” And she did.

6) Love Without Conditions

I don’t have to explain this one to any pet owners. Dogs don’t see disabilities, disfigurement or any of the other things that squeeze the human brain. Animals see inside our hearts and make their decisions from there. Try to practice this self-love with yourself.

7) Bring Your “A” Game

It’s not in a dog’s nature to give 50%, at least it wasn’t in Hoshi’s.

I’m a software trainer by day and, after September 11, training projects in Southern California dried up. In 2002, if I wanted work, the dog and I had to hit the road. We traveled throughout California, stopping at every available doggie day care along the way and, whether it was Elaine’s Pet Resorts in Fresno or Fog City Doggie Day Care in San Francisco, that dog brought her A-Game. In turn, these places always made room for her, even when they were full.

8) Invest In Training

As you can see from #7, rigorous training opened a lot of doors for Hoshi. A well-trained dog is a well-received dog and the same goes for us humans. The money and time you put into learning new skills will always be worth it.

9) Service Makes You Feel Good

Every pet thinks his or her owner is a rock star and nothing makes them happier than making us happy. I’m not suggesting you neglect yourself, but I am recommending you give back to your community. If you’re on the lookout, you’ll recognize your service opportunity when you see it.

10) Embrace Every Moment

As Hoshi got older, that inevitable day came. Dr. Voll came when I called her and agreed that it was “time.” I contacted all of Hoshi’s friends and opened the house for anyone who wanted to visit. We gave her every treat we had, plus people brought her scads of contraband food.

On the big day, Dr. Voll came to the door and Hoshi greeted her before polishing off a cheeseburger and some Honeybaked ham, smiling and wagging all the way. When the medicine was administered, she never knew it; I’ve repeatedly thought ‘we should all be so lucky.’

Hoshi was my first “baby girl” and I feel blessed to have learned from her.

What lessons have your pets taught you?



About Jenny Hansen

By day, Jenny provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction and short stories. After 15 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.

When she’s not at her personal blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at JennyHansenCA or at Writers In The Storm. Jenny also writes the Risky Baby Business posts at More Cowbell, a series that focuses on babies, new parents and high-risk pregnancy.

© 2012 Jenny Hansen. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact me at the above links to request permission.

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