Life lessons I’ve learned from my pug (yes, my pug)
My pug, Ralph, is two and a half, and I’ve had him since he was a puppy. For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of a pug in their life, they are one of the most hilarious and lovable creatures ever. I regularly get stopped on a walk by passers-by keen to say hello to him. I see people smiling at him out of car windows and feel myself glow inside knowing that my dog and I are spreading a little bit of joy around the world in our own small way. But better than that, he’s a constant reminder to me to relax and not always take things so seriously. He’s changed my life for the better by teaching me the following things.
When I take Ralph to the park and he’s allowed off his leash to run around, he runs with such enthusiasm and abandon that it reminds me to find my own freedom every day. He’s completely lost in the moment, not thinking about what happened today or what might happen tomorrow. He doesn’t consider how he might look to others or what they’ll think of him. He completely submits to the present. Whether it’s doing exercise or reading a book, whatever makes you feel free of your everyday stress and strain is worth doing. Without his walks, Ralph goes mad, so no wonder we can feel overwhelmed without some mindless activity in our everyday.
Make sure your needs are being met
I know all about it if Ralph wants or needs something. He’ll bark constantly at the kitchen counter if he suspects a snack might be forthcoming. He sits on my knee, his eyes boring into me, if he’s trying to tell me it’s dinner time. He follows me relentlessly around my flat, pouncing on my lap at the earliest opportunity if he wants a nap. He doesn’t worry that he might offend me by telling me what he wants, or that speaking up about his needs may lead to judgment or ridicule.
Now, granted, there are times in life where we must put others before ourselves — but not always. Many of us are guilty of forgetting our own needs in favor of those of the people we love and care for, or even work for. But we are no use to these people if we are lacking ourselves. Stop and take time when the world is asking too much of you.
Be open to new people and experiences
Ralph is pretty fearless. If we go somewhere he’s never been before, he treats it like an adventure. Every place is somewhere new to sniff around and look for food and meet people (or doggy friends!). Some places are more interesting than others, but his enthusiasm at the start of each trip never wavers. He doesn’t consider past disappointments or wasted efforts. There’s no hesitation in embracing new challenges or activites.
Ralph is always excited to meet new people and dogs (and other animals, who often don’t take to him the way he’d like — cows, cats, and horses are not big pug fans apparently!). Sometimes he’s received a little nip from another dog after he’s come on a bit strong, but he doesn’t let this stop him bravely continuing to try and strike up a friendship. And he certainly doesn’t think about it next time he meets a new potential playmate. Sometimes people adore him and bend down for a cuddle, and sometimes they are not “dog people” and shy away. He treats them all the same. Ralph expects the best of people and if they don’t measure up, he moves on with no ill will or angst. I think we can all learn to be a bit more like this at times when we interact with others.
Anyone who has a dog or cat will know all too well the funny places that animals seem to be able to fall asleep. If they need a nap, they take it, regardless of what is going on around them. I often laugh at how quickly Ralph can go from bounding about barking at the birds outside, to snoring loudly on my lap. One morning, I was standing in front of the mirror drying my hair and Ralph rested his head on my feet and was sound asleep and snoring loudly within seconds, despite the fact that he’d only been awake for about 30 minutes!
We are often guilty of being so busy that if can feel impossible to stop and take a moment to relax. When Ralph tries to clamber on top of me, smushing himself against the laptop when I’m doing extra work or stressing about the balance of my online account, it reminds me that sometimes it’s okay to take a break. We need to recharge before the next trip to the park/other busy activity in our lives! He’s appeared beside me for a cuddle even as I type this — a constant reminder of the need to chill out once and a while!
Don’t do things for nothing
Ralph loves food. He lives for it, in fact. This made him relatively easy to work with at puppy class where the treats were always in full supply for our rewards-based training. He would do anything and was the model puppy. But remove the food, and my pug is a law unto himself. Pugs are renowned for their stubbornness (it’s no coincidence that the term pugnacious is connected to the breed name!) and this is no more evident than when I’m trying to motivate Ralph to do something he doesn’t want to do.
I’m not suggesting that we all live life with a “me, me, me” selfish attitude, but Ralph’s refusal to do things that have no benefit to him reminds me to think about my motivations in life.
The friendship with a person who drains or belittles you, where you feel yourself putting a lot in for nothing back. . . why bother? Spend time with people who lift you and make you happy instead. If you’re always offering to take on extra tasks at work for no recognition or even acknowledgement, think about how it will benefit you once in a while. Is it good for you in the long run? If it’s only going to add to your stress, try to say no next time. (Or at least don’t always be the one to volunteer!)
Being kind and helpful to others is great and often lifts our own spirits, too; and therein lies your reward. But if doing things for others only drains you and is a source of negative energy or attitudes, don’t take on so much. Ralph certainly doesn’t!
Sarah Lathan is a teacher and avid reader/writer from the UK. The dizzy heights of Scotland to be exact. She is obsessed with pugs, baking, Made in Chelsea and pretending she’s going to ‘quit’ social media. She’s given up caffeine this year instead. If you enjoy updates about and photos of pugs, you can follow her on Twitter @sarahlathan.