Lessons Your Zen Dog Can Teach You

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Loll, Nap and Careen Your Way to Greater Happiness

We’ve all read that dog owners experience less stress, and live longer. But I think dogs contribute to our lives in other zen-like and meaningful ways that we might not pause often enough to admire.

Here are eight lessons that our zen-like dogs teach us that could make us much happier people.

1. Declutter, simplify and get your feng shui on. Before I understood crates, my then newly found Lab mix puppy tore down the wallpaper in my kitchen. Trailing ivy was so passé, so 2010. Preferring hardwoods, that discerning girl dog also ripped up the linoleum in the bathroom. A fashion forward gal, she chewed the toes off five pairs of shoes that she thought dowdy. The lesson: Out with the old, in with the new, clean house, try fresh things!

2. Learn to loll. Your dog will lounge on the bed they’re not allowed on, eye you and give a luxuriant, slow motion stretch with an accompanying sigh. When preparing to loll, they’ll give a long noisy yawn. Later, you’ll hear a whiffling snore. I envy my dog’s ability to relax every muscle so thoroughly that he once drooped off the side of the bed onto the carpet like overcooked spaghetti. The lesson: Put down the tablet and the remote. Time for a nap. Let’s loll a bit.

3. Embrace exuberance. Remember when you were a kid and used to race around the yard or playground just for the joy of it? It’s hard to not smile watching your dog gallop a lap around the perimeter of the house or run figure eights on the lawn just for the sheer joy of running. Time for a walk? Your dog hears the clink of the hardware on the leash and almost levitates with excitement. You open the car door at the dog park and your dog gyrates, vibrates, and catapults out. The lesson: Let’s careen around, yay! Faster! Watch this! Wahoo!

4. Wake up joyful. Every day, dogs wake up happy and hopeful, with thumping tails, ear to ear smiles and a positive attitude. In the morning, Tucker, our 80-pound dog, barrels up onto the bed at 100 miles an hour with no brakes, rests his paw on a solar plexus, and licks us, making sure we are rising and shining. The lesson: It’s going to be a great day, I can’t wait for things to get started. Aren’t we lucky dogs to be here!

5. Get enthralled with nature. With more than 50 times as many olfactory receptors as their humans, dogs are riveted by scents, especially on cold mornings. One of our dog’s Boston terrier buddies carries dead earthworms around for a while before she drops them. His big ole yellow Lab pal “fetches” trees like they are sticks, and another optimistic buddy chases squirrels he’ll never catch unless he gets a jet pack. The lesson: Nature, yay! Smells, yay! Bugs, skunk and deer poo, yay!

6. Love yourself no matter what. Had the flu for three days and feel like death on a biscuit? Been painting your kitchen all weekend and your hygiene a little sketchy? Morning breath? Grumpy mood? Throwing yourself a big old pity party? Your dog wags his way over to you, leans into your side and gives you a loving look. The lesson: You look fabulous! You smell great! I just want to be closer to you! Have I told you how swell you are? Do you happen to have any chicken on you?

7. Act nobly. To cultivate gravitas, many dogs perfect a noble, proud look. They lift their chins, fix their eyes on a point in the distance, and think deep thoughts. Your dog’s noble look may remind you of Rodin’s The Thinker,   like a profile of a Roman emperor on the side of an old coin, or the can-do look Charles Lindbergh wore in the cockpit of The Spirit of Saint Louis. The noble look is reassuring. If your dog is cogitating life and planning for the future, you can relax. The lesson: I’ve got this one. I’m the man/woman with a plan. Everything’s going to be all right.

8. Make new friends. Dogs are stellar icebreakers. They get the party started. Neighbors meet neighbors because of their dogs. You’ll know a dog’s name before you know their owner’s name. An acquaintance starts out as Benny’s dad or Riley’s mom, then you start swapping stories about the brand of chow that works best for your dog. Next thing you know, you’re borrowing his chainsaw or going to her daughter’s wedding. The lesson: Hey, neighbor, you look nice. You must be good people because you love a dog. Let’s be pals.

So be the student of your zen dog. Ruffle his fur, find the spot on her back that’s hard to get to and scratch it for her. Get down on the floor with your buddy and do some fake wrestling, or take them for a long walk. Run, jog or gambol joyfully around the yard even if your knees creak and you’re easily winded.

Lie on the grass with your dog and look up. Even if it’s cloudy, with your buddy beside you, it’s a blue sky day.

Ah, zen!

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About Author

Susan Schild writes heartwarming and funny novels that always include story lines about dogs. You can read more about her and learn more about her new release, "Sweet Southern Hearts," at susanschild.com .

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