Unexpected life lessons I learned from my dog

Dogs are just the best (I’m keen on cats too)! When we adopted our pup just over two years ago, I thought it’d simply be a fun adventure. It has been fun but my miniature dachshund, Percy, has taught me a lot of important life lessons.

Relationships are 50/50

Dachshunds are notoriously stubborn creatures. I wanted an incredibly loyal and highly trained dog. Percy has learned lots of tricks and people are amazed at his skill set but these skills were certainly not learned over night. It was only after I realized that I was half the challenge did we get anywhere. When a command was consistently met with a confused look from Percy did I think, “mmmm….I guess I should try something else.” Percy needed me to be hands-on with his learning process, shaping his body into what I wanted, then naming it. I cannot expect everyone to conform to my learning process, opinions, wants, desires, needs. We can be more productive if there is more open communication with some give and take.

Routines aren’t necessarily boring; they can be grounding

Percy generally follows the same schedule every day. This involves, food, outside time, napping, watching the world outside from his favorite spot on the back of the couch, chasing our cats and always closing the day with snuggles in bed. The seeming monotony of his day delights Percy. He is comforted by the routine and will often display some anxious behavior if his day is set too far off course. Following his lead, I’ve noticed that a routine helps me stay productive and happy. Gentle wake up, work, gym time/running, chill time, then bed time is the routine that works for me. I fought the routine for a long time but now I use, “look to Percy” as my mantra.

Work against the stereotypes

We take Percy hiking quite a bit. His stumpy legs are working hard so often on the trail people make comments about his size: “Poor guy, he’s so little,” or “he must be tired.” Percy just keeps trucking. He loves being outside and getting his nose in the dirt. He doesn’t let his size hold him back. I can relate to Percy because I myself am a very petite woman. However, I’ve challenged myself (and loved doing it) to become physically stronger than people would expect someone of my size to be.

Appreciate life’s simple pleasures

Car ride? YES! Stick? YES! Peanut butter? YES! YES! YES! Percy is ecstatic about the simple treats. He shows serious love for his favorite humans and displays deep gratitude for any new toy. Percy reminds me that every day offers me wonderful experiences. From helping someone at my job to eating a piece of chocolate (one of my favorite foods) to experiencing a new PR on a run, each day offers something great. They’re always present, you just have to take the time to recognize them. Plus, I feel equally jazzed about peanut butter.

When you commit, do so compassionately

We initially selected Percy through a rescue group because he was just the stinkin’ cutest. He has the bluest eyes, precious little features, and the coolest coloring (mostly white with a dappled head). Shortly after we were approved, we also learned that due to his breeding (a double dapple, which is poor practice), he could potentially have and/or develop blindness or deafness. At that time we had the choice to back out of the adoption.

We decided that we had already committed to this pup and so there was no turning back, no matter the challenges he may face. This was the first lesson he ever taught me. Things aren’t always what you anticipate but it is worth trying to find a way to work with any challenges. Luckily, Percy seems to have little to no sight or hearing issues at nearly 3 years old. I am confident of this because he barks at the slightest noise or sight of any potential intruder (you know, squirrels or even his own humans approaching the door).

Kate Caton is a social change activist residing in a spectacularly strange town in the Blue Ridge mountains. She enjoys running, an unreal addiction to chocolate and spending time adventuring with her husband (activities are not listed in order of importance). Follow her ponderings at https://southernsocialexploration.wordpress.com/ or on instagram at @ksfcaton. 

[Image courtesy PBS]

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