Author: Hendricks, Ralph

Lessons from my Dog

My dog really loves bluegrass music. She enjoys the music even more when the music is outside at a festival however it seems fewer and fewer events allow our four-legged friends these days.

If there is a jam, this canine buddy wants to be in the middle of it. We had a really tight circle of about seven musicians recently at the house playing and I felt a tap on the back of my boot….it was my dog asking to get into the center. Now that may be a little uncommon but this dog has been exposed to bluegrass music since she was a rescue puppy weaned at six weeks. I’m not sure if she also likes other types of music since nothing else ever gets played at home. Regardless, it amazes me that it doesn’t take off when a banjo and all the other instruments start twanging.

So my dog and I have bonded and seem to enjoy a lot of the same activities like bluegrass, camping, walking, hiking, running and B-B-Q’ing. I’m not sure there is much I’ve taught my dog besides a few basis commands but we do share a kind of telepathic way of communicating.

Perhaps it’s the quiet time with my dog that gets me thinking esoteric thoughts. It has made me wonder and wish: could there be a shortcut to learning life’s lessons? You know, a way to avoid trial and error. It would be great to get smarter without all the hard work. Well life’s just not that simple is it?

It was one of those days recently when stress had replaced calm and things seem so complicated and frustrating. A headache was building along with an unhealthy dose of anxiety. Thoughts of “could-a, should-a, would-a” ran through my mind as my heart raced. I was a mess.

It was at that instant that I glanced over at my dog. It was napping in a corner of the room and looked so totally relaxed and at peace. How was this possible I thought while so mush crazy stuff was going on in the world? If I had a rough day with all my capabilities how could this small creature be better off than me? It was at this moment that I remembered a quote from Ben Williams: "there is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face." That quote helps me remember the day when we got this canine buddy from the animal shelter. A little ball of fur shivering with big eyes looking for assurance and then, falling asleep in Helen’s lap as we drove the half hour home.

I’m thinking it can’t be easy to be a dog. So how can mine be so relaxed all the time? After all, the life expectancy of a dog is significantly shorter than ours. My dog isn’t in any hurry to see the world or make a name for itself or be anywhere other than where it is right now. It doesn’t seem to worry about anything “important”. My dog is content to hang out with family, eat the same food every day, be led on a leash when around cars and occasionally perform a few tricks like sit, come or stay.

Then it hits me like a lightning bolt. It is exactly that lack of complexity that makes my dogs life so great. No worries about paying the rent. No interest in the news, unemployment or the world economic crisis. A dog doesn’t have to “get ready” in the morning or even comb its’ hair. A dog doesn’t need an iPod or a cell phone or a job. It can be perfectly happy just chewing on a bone (or a shoe). Heck a dog doesn’t need to read emails and can spend almost all of its’ free time just sniffing things. A dog never has to pay for lunch or dinner and if it gets fat, it’s my fault. A dog is always excited to see the same people. My dog is happy just to be my friend. We’ve never argued over paying bills or what to do on the weekend or who was “right” and who was “wrong”. Unlike me, my dog never complains about anything. I’m suddenly shocked to admit that my dog is a better person than me.

The highlight of my dog’s day is going for a walk. I really need to lower my standards and find time to get more out of just a simple walk, not as “exercise” or as a “chore” (as in “it’s your turn to walk the dog).

Maybe my dog knows deep down inside that it’s time here is only about 1/5th the life span of mine so why not make every minute count. Maybe just being my dog is fulfilling enough and everything else is just window dressing. Will Rogers had it right when he once said "If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went."

So I think my dog has made me a little smarter lately. If I just slow down and pace myself, the world seems to slow down too. As I sit here with my guitar looking out the window with my dog at my side, I realize a little peace in a hectic day. “You’re a good friend. Thanks for teaching me to relax” I say and she looks up at me with approval much like a teacher who is proud of the student. I laugh at the moment because who would have ever thought I’d be getting lessons from my dog?
Posted:  11/21/2011

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