I come from a background and culture that really doesn’t “get”the love for a family pet thing. Growing up, my dad used to tell me that where he came from dogs were considered a wild animal, used for sheep and cattle herding mostly. Fast forward to 2005 when our 5 year old daughter picked the last, largest male golden retriever from its litter…my dad just about disowned me!
Soon, he warmed up to the idea of having a family pet but only if it was for my kids because he couldn’t understand why an adult would need one? Didn’t an adult already learn and know everything they needed to know to live a regular life? Once he actually realized it was me, just as much or more than my kids, who wanted and loved the dog with all my heart, he’d soon laugh at our silly dog stories, curse jokingly with “f*&^ dooog!”, shake his head, grin, and use the expression, “mitil ibin Adam,” which in his language means, “just like a human being.” Dad came to understand and wanted to know more about this novel idea of actually having a dog “inside your home?!” too.
Eventually, what I, and my ‘used to be’ dog fearing family came to learn is that my late loving, iconic, golden retriever Willy, and our fun loving, sensitive mini golden Mylo, and now our newest, youngest, playful, trusting mini golden Boomer, all have real important life lessons to teach to the all knowing human beings sharing their world.
Our retriever Willy through his size and physical ability to dominate if he ever chose to, (which he often didn’t and preferred to step back for others), showed us to to not fear anything or anybody bigger, different, or stereotypically different from you until you actually take the time and effort to come to know it and them. Then if you do that, you will come to understand a big and seemingly different and intimidating body usually houses an even bigger heart, a most gentle soul and a wise mind, all too willing to spend their precious time just loving you.
Our mini golden Mylo, through his human like, dark, deep set eyes, playful spirit, and strong personality taught us that if you are trying to consistently try to change one’s preset mind they have about you, try a loving embrace, show a love for fun, identify and partake in a shared passion with them, (discovered a mutual love for pita bread with Willy). Then they will likely come to see you as their equal, and finally might allow you into their guarded circle and just might even allow you to share the couch with them too.
Our newest pup, Boomer taught us that good things do finally happen to good souls. Boomer waited many weeks for someone to recognize his worth, see his value, and be brave enough to give him a fair shot at life. His energy, his temperament, his joie de vivre teaches others that above all else, a genuine goodness can always earn the greatest fans.
As a mom and educator/researcher, I tend to always wonder and question and poke at the “why” of things. This weekend, with us bringing home our latest pup, I know why we did it. Our puppies over the years have helped me raise sensitive, loving, empathetic children who are in tune to the needs and wants of their pups but also to humans. My teenage son was just, if not more excited to welcome home this latest puppy than he was 5 and 8 years ago when our other 2 joined us and he was just a boy and toddler! I saw my husband, and my children, plan, problem solve, gather, purchase, and tend to the needs of this lil’ pup with so much time, empathy, love, attention, care, that I don’t think any amount of formalized lesson plans, textbooks, or teachers could ever instil in them in comparison. Perhaps in our world of today with so much negativity, racism, prejudice and suffering, we really should consider looking to our furry friends to teach our children acceptance, empathy and good character. One study I looked at showed how animals could potentially teach pro social behaviours to children and can really alter children’s beliefs about aggression, violence and levels of caring for others. This is so understandable because when we give people opportunities to care for something or somebody, I place my hope
in the power and potential for the human heart to want to see another entity survive, thrive and succeed. This reminds me of the “egg” project from years ago when high school students were assigned an egg as a baby to care for for a few weeks. How many of us really failed at that project? If that’s the case, perhaps everyone should welcome a furry soul into their homes, into their schools and classrooms? They could potentially uncover the most well rounded, sensitive, effective, loving human beings by their very presence!
Life Lessons Learned From Our Dogs
1- It doesn’t matter what designer collar you are wearing, you will never be too good for others sniffing your behind and deciding for themselves if they like you or not based on just you.
2-Regardless of breed, litter, shelter, family, background, status, we all still squat or lift to do our bathroom business. Oh and if someone or thing annoys you, sometimes the wisest thing to do is walk away for awhile.
3-In the end, earning another’s respect and one’s own valued place in the pack comes down to who unconditionally feeds you, hugs you, plays with you, and spends time with you regardless of what you chewed away, had an accident on, or shed hair onto.
4- To love someone or something unconditionally is to make clear that regardless of any accident, mistake, or behaviour, a simple wag of a tail can always signal you belong, are loved and welcomed in your forever home with your forever humans.
5-Find that soul who embraces the real you, loves your good and forgives your bad sides, lets you be the alpha once in awhile, has no problem licking your face even when sweaty and dirty, and allows you to come and go as you please, all the while knowing full well you will always choose to return home because of the pure and innocent love you were shown.