My dog is awesome-sauce! But in addition to being man’s, or in my case, woman’s best friend, he is an incredible teacher of some pretty valuable life lessons. From Baxter, I have learned:
1. Communicate your needs. Make requests of others.
When Baxter wants a walk, he growls at the front door. When he wants a treat, he stares at the treat jar and licks his lips (yes, I googled it. Dogs have lips…well, lip-like structures). When he wants to be petted, he nudges me with his cold, wet nose. Yet we “sophisticated” human beings stink at asking for what we want. Instead we expect others to know what we want. I, as a therapist, see this communication style in couples therapy. “He should know I want flowers for our anniversary.” “By now, she should know that I don’t like to drive long distances. I want her to drive.” Ultimately those sessions end with someone frustratedly saying, “How would I know that? You never told me that.” Avoid disappointment and communicate your needs.
2. Get enough sleep!
Our society loves to glorify busyness. We seem to think that being busy means we’re being productive and productive means we’re succeeding. The problem is (well, there are many problems with this thinking but I will stick to the topic) that there are only 24 hours in a day and if you do not prioritize rest, you will crash. Baxter has never complained to me about burnout or exhaustion. Do you know why? Yep, that boy is a napping-champion. Sleep and rest help us to recover from mental and physical exertion. Insufficient sleep increases the risk of chronic health problems and leaves you more vulnerable to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
3. Show your love, now.
No matter how long I have been gone, an hour, 8 hours, a week, Baxter is always so excited to see me and love on me. It feels so good! We humans need to do a better job of this. It’s good for the giver and for the recipient. Don’t wait until you see them in person. Don’t think it’s awkward. Just do it! Tell people what you like and appreciate about them. Tell people you are grateful for them. Express your love through words and behaviors.
4. Eat the damn treat!
Baxter enjoys his milk bones and we should too. I mean, we probably shouldn’t be gnashing on milk bones, but we need to relax and enjoy the treats in life – dessert, a good book, time with a friend, a warm cup of tea. Slow down and mindfully enjoy the treats. By mindfully, I mean – be present for whatever treat you are enjoying. Be aware of the pleasure. Don’t judge it.
5. Be enthusiastic. Wag your tail.
Dogs and children are good at this. When Baxter plays with his 4-legged friends, he gets so excited! He wags his tail, spins, and pulls on his leash. Have you seen a child open a gift they love? That! That reaction! You need to find some of that enthusiasm. Tell yourself you are awesome after completing a hard or dreaded workout. Jump up and down when you pay off that credit card. We tend to dilute enthusiasm and diminish accomplishments with statements such as, “Yea, I did the workout but I did not get a personal best.” Stop that! Enthusiasm is infectious, motivating, and energizing. Experience it and show it.