|Hamlet with his pack|
Twenty-one things my dog taught me about being a better man:
1. Be true to your own nature. There’s no point in faking it. A golden retriever isn’t a chihuahua or a pug or a greyhound, and for good reason. Being comfortable in your own skin is 90% of the trick to rocking out your life. Not everyone is meant to be Rintintin or a seeing eye dog or an Iditarod racer. It’s okay. Find yourself and embrace your nature. That’s always a great place to start.
2. Be true to the ones you love. Your friends, your family, your tribe, your pack. A life lived for others is a life well-lived. Selfish pursuits aside, ambition often grows hollow when turned inwardly instead of outwardly. It’s one thing to want to be pack leader, but there is just as much value and honor in serving than in leading. When in doubt, see item number one.
3. Never say no to a chance to go on a car ride. When the days grow short, I guarantee you’ll wish you’d have gone on more car rides.
4. Leashes are the enemy. Avoid them at all cost.
5. People are strange. So much potential, yet here they are, doing everything they can to complicate rather than simplify their lives. It’s puzzling.
6. Belly scratches.
7. The end isn’t pretty, but if you can face it with dignity and grace, none of your body’s weaknesses will matter. Your heart, your courage, your spirit is what people will see and remember. This isn’t only applicable in your last days and weeks. It’s applicable every day of your life. Adversity happens. It’s how you deal with it that matters.
8. Forgiveness is easier for dogs than for humans, but humans have opposable thumbs and the ability to speak, so it all balances out in the end.
9. Your bark is your own. No one has one quite like yours. Own it. Love it. Project it.
10. Trust your instincts. They rarely steer you wrong. The feeling in your gut though, that’s probably just something you ate.
11. Just because you’re meant to live on land doesn’t mean you can’t feel at home in water. Play outside the safety zone. Swim in the deep end. Dive in. We’re all designed to do more than the obvious.
12. Play more. The game is irrelevant. Just play. Tip: Exploring is play. Having adventures is play. Finding out what’s behind the next hill is play.
13. Your body growing old doesn’t mean you can’t be a puppy at heart. Actually, the first should have no impact on the latter. If you find that it does, take a step back, regroup, and restart. Always be a puppy at heart.
14. Humans aren’t all bad. But they aren’t all good either. Choose yours wisely.
15. Always keep that 20% wolf in you. If you ever give it up, you’re done. A dog without a little wildness in the blood isn’t a dog. It’s a furry robot. The beauty of a great dog doesn’t lie in its obedience but in its loyalty. Loyalty is a choice. Dogs choose to be dogs and not wolves. That’s what makes them so special.
16. Running full bore across a field in the rain.
17. There are no mysteries. Take cats, for example: Half rat, half badger. Crap in a box. Eat rodents. Where’s the mystery in that? If you look hard enough, you can figure most things out for yourself. The world isn’t as complicated as it sometimes seems.
18. Sometimes, you have to back up your growl with a bite. Go with it. Some people like to test your bark-to-bite ratio. With those “inquisitive” types, a little education goes a long way. As much as it sucks to have to go there, it is sometimes necessary. (It’s what the fangs are for.) Your territory, your space, your safety… They’re worth defending. Make a show of it once, and chances are you’ll never have to teach anyone a lesson again.
19. Being alone is no way to go through life. We’re pack animals. Humans, dogs, same thing. We need others to make all of this worthwhile. As an aside, if we live through others, why not also live for others, even if only a little bit? It isn’t that much of a stretch.
20. When you chase the ball, CHASE the fucking ball. Two reasons: a) It’s a chase. You don’t half-ass a chase. You go all out. It’s what you do. It’s the point. b) You don’t want some other mutt to get to the ball before you and slobber it all up, do you?
21. In the end, you will revisit your adventures, your battles, your chases, your voyages and all the excitement of your life with bemused pride, but it’s the quiet moments with loved ones that your mind will settle on. The comfort of those days when all you did was spend lazy hours with them, your head on their lap, their on yours, taking in the afternoon sun and the hundreds of fleeting stories carried like whispers on the breeze, those are the memories that will stay with you to the end and beyond.
Never give up on your thirst for life, on the beauty subtle moments, and on chasing that ball as hard and fast as your legs and heart will carry you.