Ten things my dog taught me
My dog is large, more than 60kg large, stark white and a constant shedder of hair whatever the season. It’s his temperament rather than his size which reminds me of what God sees in me and what I should see in others.
His priorities are rightly ordered; loyal, trusting, fearless in expressing his needs, affectionate despite the cost, one of the pack, patient, accepting, and, of course, loving. The relationship requires effort, but he returns it in abundance.
The lessons he provides include:
- Get down to his level. He’ll ignore me if I call him and expect immediate obedience. However, if I squat down to his level and wait, he almost always responds by coming over to see how he can help.
- If he has the choice between food and a pat, affection always comes first. Every time. Love is precious. Food is predictable.
- If he wants affection, he comes across and asks for a head rub, without fear. Ask and you shall receive, I’m told.
- He trusts. Recently we had to take him twice to the vet for some intrusive treatment. As he knew what the man in a white coat was going to do the second time, I automatically assumed he would object, but he didn’t. I patted his head and spoke to him. He put up with the discomfort. Perhaps because he knew that I wouldn’t let anyone do anything to him that was unnecessary.
- He wants to be with his family as much as possible. Despite the discomfort of his arthritic ageing bones, he will get up and greet me with a wag of the tail and an affectionate lean whenever I arrive home.
- When he decides he needs to dig a hole in the garden near or on the choicest flower beds he will go ahead and do so. I guess he works on the basis of seeking forgiveness not permission. It seems to work.
- When I come home he always seeks a shake of the paw. This is followed by grunting and cat-like purring which, considering his size and the fact that he is not a cat, is weird. It’s his way of showing appreciation for the attention, I suppose.
- There is nothing he likes more than to be part of the pack. It can be a wide-ranging human pack of dad, mum, uncles and aunts, cousins, or whatever a dog considers these humans to be. Did I say dog? Sorry. I don’t think he appreciates being seen as dog.
- He puts up with others who are not the same as him. A couple of times a month he joins us to visit his “cousin” Charlie, a levitating labradoodle who never seems to sit still. Charlie’s greatest life ambition is to get his friend to acknowledge his existence and, on the odd occasion, to appear to take part in a game. He has never shown the slightest sign of aggression towards Charlie. Mild, even-tempered acceptance instead. As a result, Charlie seems to feel accepted.
- See paragraph 5. He just wants to be with his master, always. That involves getting up from his spot on the carpet in the loungeroom and following him to the toilet, the bedroom, the verandah, the kitchen, the garden, the car or anywhere else. After all, it’s his life’s work.