My small family bought a dog this summer. He was not but an arm’s length and he was my first animal. My daughter had been pestering me for a dog and when no more children came after five years, I thought our house needed new life. So on the way home from a weekend down the shore, on a lonely tree filled road, we saw the sign: “English Springer Spaniel pups for Sale”. We took the number and the next day we drove down and bought one. Without a leash or dog food, and with one recognizable tick, we drove home with smiles on my kids’ faces, a brown furry face in my wife’s arms, and a sick foreboding in my stomach.
I do not have to tell you what happened in the next four months. Anyone, over the age of eleven, who ever had a puppy remembers the frustration, exasperation, happiness, and anger of living with a wide, eyed, energetic ball of life. He melted into our family and has become everything I didn’t know I needed so bad, and even more for a family growing so fast. The little pup, who is now 39 pounds, has taught me even more:
Greet People at the door and be Ecstatic
People are everything and when they leave, dogs feel it the way we all should. Because they are aware of their loneliness and separation, they release a torrent of affection when people return. They make people feel welcomed in a gush of happiness and gratefulness. We would be a better family and friend if we mirrored their appreciation with just 20% of their honesty.
Take two 40-minute walks a day
No matter what the weather, take a walk. I have always been a runner, but walking is a pleasure I have forgotten. I have not walked this much and experienced nature in all her forms since I was in elementary school and used to walk home the four blocks, twice a day. You are bathed by whatever is outside and your troubles are gone before a block is past. It is best to share a walk with someone who really needs it as much as you do.
Love a Treat
It is good to eat, but life should be counted in treats. Savor each one with instant gratitude as if that would be the last you will ever have. Stay close to people who offer you treats and be loyal to those who treat you well. In the end, the day is better when you enjoy it with your favorite things. You can not regret one day when you treat yourself or someone rewarded you with a kindness.
Take the Couch
Never stop going for what you want the most. I have never let the dog rest on the couch, but I have a good idea that when I am not a home, there is some lounging with the other members of the family. My dog will take the couch when I am not looking at all times of the day. He will sit there silently and for as long as I do not walk through the doorway. And no matter how many times I have removed him with stern warnings, water bottles, papers and swats, he returns the next hour until he is too exhausted to try. Never give up on what you want the most, because sometimes, you do get it regardless of the big angry person.
For someone who never liked dogs, I might have changed the most in my family. He teaches me to listen. He teaches me to fear how angry I can become. Most of all he teaches me that a day is everything we have and should relish. I still have that sinking feeling every once in awhile, but mostly I am glad we took that long way home from the shore that July afternoon and saw that sign that we didn’t ignore: “English Springer Spaniel pups for Sale”.