My dog, Champ, had just woken up from his afternoon nap and the first thing he did was get up and walk towards me to say hello, I guess, in his own doggy way. I looked into his eyes, said hi, and told him how much I loved him. It was a hectic afternoon for me. Pressed for time, I felt a little bit anxious if I would even make it. But looking at my best friend wagging his tail with excitement, it made me laugh. And just like that, I felt my stress melt away.
Once again, Champ has saved the day. Quite honestly, this isn’t the first time that my dog has made my days better.
When I first moved to the United States three years ago, I had my walls up so high it could compete with the great wall of China. After getting rejected and betrayed so many times in this lifetime, growing cold and guarded was an inevitable outcome.
It’s not that I didn’t want to let anyone in, it’s just that… When you’ve been hurt so bad, opening up again becomes too difficult a task. It’s a process I know too well because even I had trouble opening my heart to myself.
All I wanted was to live a life where I am free to be myself or be able to find a place where I felt like I can be vulnerable, let my hair down without feeling the need to look over my shoulder because I fear someone could stab me in the back at any minute.
You see, I fell in love. The love I found helped me build a good relationship with myself. I could feel my reservations and skewed perception about love and life evaporating. I could get used to this, but apparently, I haven’t healed enough to stop myself from pushing my self-destruct button.
When you grow up constantly being told that you aren’t good enough, you start to believe in it yourself. To the point that anything good you achieve will start to feel like you don’t even deserve it.
Having loved and lost, I moved to a new country with that mindset and all my guards up. I had to, especially if I am going to try and win back the love that I lost, I needed to prepare myself in case I failed.
But that all changed when I met Champ.
Though he was a lovely bonus from the risk that I took, we didn’t click at first because I didn’t know how to be around dogs or any other animal. There was something special about him that got me feeling like my life would never be the same again.
Fast forward to today, I hang out with Champ, and all I can feel is an overwhelming sense of joy and love. Looking back, I never thought I would be blessed to experience this kind of love. Along with that, I gained wisdom that helped me build a better relationship with myself. These are the things that my dog taught me:
How to treat myself better. I used to be my worst critic. I couldn’t forgive myself whenever I have made mistakes and failed at pursuing my goals. I punished myself by depriving me of pure happiness. But no matter how many failures and mistakes I have committed, my dog still loves me and thinks the world of me. Even though I haven’t achieved anything significant, his love for me remains unchanged and why can’t I do the same for me? I stopped judging myself harshly and ultimately gave up negative self-talk.
Never settle for less. Having experienced the kind of loyalty that my dogs give me, I set a certain standard for my personal relationships both platonic and romantic. I can no longer count the number of times I got my heart broken when my friends and lovers betrayed me and instead of setting boundaries, I chased them for breadcrumbs of their respect and validation.
If an animal can love me and be loyal to me wholeheartedly, I am sure that I am worthy of being given genuine love and care by my peers as well. I need to have faith that there are people out there that live by the same values, beliefs, and standards as I do instead of trying to force a connection with people so that I can avoid my FOBA (fear of being alone) & FOMO (fear of missing out).
Delayed gratification. You know how your dogs run to you all excited the moment they see you walk in the door as they wait for you to come home? They miss you when you’re gone, but they wait for you because they know at the end of the day they will see you and be with you. In this world where everything is instant — instant noodles, instant coffee, instant messaging — we almost have zero patience to wait. But my dogs are a constant reminder that rewards are much sweeter when you wait for the creme de la creme that can fulfill you instead of giving in to something mediocre that can satisfy you only at the moment.
I could go on and on, but these are three of the most important lessons my dog has taught me that completely turned my life around. He is a superhero who has saved me from myself, and I will forever be grateful for the blessing that he is.