Life Lessons From a Dog

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.
-John Lennon

“Are you sure it’s a dog? It looks like a giant rat.”

At the age of 37, the breeder handed me my very first dog. All 1.5 pounds of him.

We named him Bandit because he kept stealing and hiding things – mostly slippers. A Yorkipoo, he looked like a Yorkshire Terrier but with curly, soft, brownish-grey Poodle hair.

Completely Clueless

To say Bandit rocked my world is an understatement. Having never owned a dog before, I was completely clueless. Poor Bandit was my first test subject, and I made so many mistakes.

“Socialization,” I kept reading, was necessary for puppies, to expose them to the larger world. So I set out to expose Bandit to as much life and variety as I could.

We took him on trips, got him out and about as much as possible. I even took him through a car wash, which I think traumatized him for life.

However, in my quest to socialize him, I overlooked a few things. Most importantly, the fact that he got carsick – every single car trip was a disaster. Plus, he was a very anxious dog, and craved routine and familiarity – not adventure and long car trips.

Big Changes

Funny thing about dogs though – in my many hair-brained attempts to expose him to life and all its complexities, he was actually changing me more than I was changing him.

The changes were slow and subtle. I knew something was up when out for a morning run, I thought “I really should be cutting my runs down so I can spend more time with Bandit before work.”  Then I started worrying that I wasn’t bonding enough with him. Before I knew it, I was head over heels, crazy in love with my new pint-sized fur baby.

Then came the real shocker – my fur baby got me thinking about having a real baby. Not that I didn’t want children necessarily – I had just never been in a hurry, had always taken a wait-and-see approach. I was hardly the maternal type – or so I thought. I craved independence, freedom, my own space. Or did I?

Apparently not, because two years later, I had not one, but three babies – two fur, one real.

Animal Love

I am not sure what would have happened if Bandit hadn’t come into my life. He seemed to take everything I thought I understood about myself and flip it completely upside down and inside out. I was never a huge fan of animals until he came along, but he showed me the amazing bond that can happen between humans and animals, and the depth of my ability to love and care for others.

All these big lessons from such a tiny little dog. But as the saying goes, “good things come in small packages.” Or in my case, with small fur babies.

 

Don’t Take Everyday Routines for Granted

Tonight I was walking our dog Roxy down by the school and suddenly felt a pang of sadness. Since we had turned back the clock a few days ago, the nights were now getting dark at suppertime. This was the second day we weren’t able to do our nightly after supper ritual – playing at the school.

After supper, you would grab your little pink purse, full of animal finger puppets and a few Fisher Price Little People, and we would “skip” down to the school (note: fun for kids; embarrassing as hell for adults). It was always the same routine – you climbing up to the top of the slide for a game of “Get” (a.k.a. throwing everything in your purse down the slide, and instructing me to “get” them and give them back to you). Then you’d run around the school and make us chase you. Then back to the slide. Then you’d hide in the big rubber tires and I’d have to “find” you. Then you’d run down to the big, colorful, painted rocks at the end of the soccer field and point to every one (“red, yellow, blue…”). Then, if there were puddles, there was splashing and throwing rocks in the water.

Finally, you’d get tired and say “home,” meaning you were too tired to walk, so your dad or I would have to carry you (all the while, muttering, “Why didn’t we bring the friggin’ bike?”).

Seeing the school surrounded by darkness, and knowing it was the end of our nightly ritual, just reminded me how I can’t afford to take all of our little “routines” for granted – they are so short and fleeting, and change in a heartbeat. Of course we’ll be back at the school again when the days are longer, but the routine will inevitably be different, and will keep changing.

You have always been one to follow a very exact routine for weeks, sometimes months at a time, then abruptly shift and start a completely new one. There was the “running back and forth between mommy in living room and daddy in kitchen” phase, the “take me everywhere in my little red wagon” phase, the “mommy has to take me to the swings every day on her lunch break” phase….etc…etc…

It is hard as a parent to realize how fleeting your time is with your child, and that someday they will be gone, and you will be left with the memories of all those little “routines”…and wish you could do every single one all over again.