Dip a toe into independence

Cooper’s life, until this point, has been largely steered by his owners. Obviously, he made the decision to chose to live with them in the first place, there’s no disputing that, but he’s been happy enough passively going along with (far too infrequent) mealtimes on their schedule, walks when they want and if he wanted to survey his domain around the garden outside, he would have to wait till they let him out. It was mildly annoying sometimes, but Cooper is a patient dog and generally happy with his lot.
 
A tall cheery man was recently invited into the house, smelling of sawdust and sweat. Delicious. Cooper was shooed away (as always, pretty rude), and when he returned later to investigate what had gone on, there was Something Different about the back door: there was a small Cooper size door within it. He cocked his head and eyed it up a bit suspiciously. Huh. Strange. He poked it with his nose and it moved, so he stepped back in alarm watching the opaque perspex clatter back and forth. A gorgeous smell of the outdoor world curled in through the gaps and headed for his nostrils and he breathed in the complex smell of the garden, fascinated how it had reached inside his home. Summoning up his courage and sense of adventure, he poked his head through the flap and it was true – there was the outside and he could move into it freely. He bounded out, ran around gleefully, and then back into the house. And then back out. And then back in. It looked like he could move between his home and his outside domain whenever he decided!
 
Dip a toe into independenceFor Cooper there will always be the time Before the Door (BD) and After the Door (AD). Before, he was happy enough feeling passive in his place in the world, but after, he realised he was now in charge of his movements in the day. He could make his own choice on whether it was the right time to go for a sniff. In fact, he could decide to investigate the garden smells all day long or not at all (which would be ludicrous, but it had become his choice). He could even traipse around in the middle of the night, under his own steam, with no one to tell him what to do. This freedom of having his own destiny was exciting and slightly scary. Nothing was as pinned down and certain anymore because he could now rely on himself to make this decision. But for Cooper, he felt that he had grown in this moment, swelling out his furry chest, and become a more self-assured and self-possessed animal. He liked it.
 
Now… how could he control meal times?
 
What can you learn from your dog?
 
We start off in life having little control over what happens and when: our parents steer us around and that’s the end of that. Then school and employment… we might still feel we are passively moving through our lives and are controlled by someone else. It feels safe but it can also feel like we are trapped. Our dogs happily put up with being told what to do, and so can we, in fact it can be nice not to have to think about it, but when we actively make our own choices, we can make changes, our own mistakes and explore different directions entirely. That’s when it’s our own life. All ours.

Love completely

Rizla the weimaraner is a soppy dog. From the first moment she met her owner she was besotted and entranced. It’s such an easy way to be; her owner is her world, her everything, and her favourite place to be is near her.

Love is very important to Riz and she feels that giving her owner unconditional and constant love is her reason for being. For Riz, she doesn’t need to dig any deeper than just accepting the pure love she feels throughout her furry body.

If her owner goes out, Riz feels a sense of loss when she’s on her own, a tad out of sorts. It aches at her heart a little, but she potters about the house, doing her weimaraner thing. At the back of her mind, though, she’s continually wondering when her owner will be back. Something is just missing.

Love completely

Riz’s love for her owner feels like an elastic band that connects them together. The further they are apart, there is a tension, a sense of unease, and when they are close together, it’s relaxed and the natural state of things. This means it makes sense that Riz acts as a shadow, following her owner from room to room (and boy, does she move around a lot). Padding up to the toilet and waiting outside, back to the sofa and curling up. She needs and craves the physical touch of the person at the centre of her life.

Love for Riz is a sense of absolute peace. She is exactly where she’s meant to be, lying next to the person whom she loves so absolutely. She feels centred. She feels accepted. She feels loved. The calm washes over her and everything is okay.

What can you learn from your dog?

Love can be a beautiful, pure and intoxicating thing. Can you gently lose yourself in someone or something you feel an incredible innate connection to? Don’t fight it, embrace and let yourself be in the love.

 

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The first book “The Barklife Way – Introducing Cooper” is available to buy for £12.99 here: http://www.thebarklifeway.com/shop/

LIFE DOESN’T ALWAYS GO AS PLANNED

Flint, the whippet has unexpectedly become a father. He fondly remembers going on a date, Lexie was a nice girl, lots in common: eating, sleeping, running and she had a cute butt. It was truly the full package. And the date ended up going… spectacularly well, shall we say? Yes, he thinks wistfully, that was a pretty good day.

He was keen to see her for a long-awaited follow-up date. He had hoped to maybe rekindle what they had previously, perhaps over a drink from a fresh water bowl. But no, things had changed dramatically: as he entered her home he saw she was surrounded by mini versions of herself. Wriggly, noisy little whippets. And these small puppies, well, they also looked suspiciously like him too. With a lurch he realised; he was their daddy.

Now puppies sure are cute, aren’t they? All waggy tails and filled to the brim with infinite joy. But five of them? All enthusiastically headed in your direction? Adamant to get your attention at any cost, whilst yapping away? Flint felt a headache coming his way as he backed into a corner. He didn’t remember a discussion about where the relationship was going, it seemed to have leapt several steps without his input. He was surely too young to be a father, he hadn’t travelled the world… all the way to that field he saw in the distance. And there were all those other things he wanted to spend his free time doing: chewing a bone, running around, napping. He didn’t want to change his bachelor lifestyle.

As the puppies eager faces stared up at him, he cocked his head to one side. Of course, there was the indisputable fact that he was fairly wise. He thought he had a lot to teach a new generation, actually. He was an absolute expert at relaxing and he wouldn’t want this envied skill-set to die with him; these offspring were his legacy to the world. Maybe, he pondered, as one of his children started nibbling his leg and one that looked the spitting image of him licked him on the nose, maybe it could be quite nice having these creatures in his life after all?

*What can you learn from your dog?*

Sometimes life throws us a curveball. There we are, planning away, moving towards a life we are trying to create for ourselves and Something Big will happen. Maybe it’s bad or at least will seem a bad thing in the moment, but it’s there and we have to roll with it. Maybe you have said it yourself, but you’ll certainly know someone who has said: “at the time I thought it was the end of the world, but actually it was the best thing that could have happened to me”. Redundancy, breakups… or an unexpected litter of puppies… you can deal with it, and it may change your life for the better.

Relax how you like to relax

Chilling out come in many forms. For Cooper, he likes to go for an ambling walk, no time pressure, just a nice lackadaisical stroll with lots of nice scent-laden bushes to sniff. He connects with nature and breathes out any anxiety and sniffs in pure happiness and peace.

Other dog friends find a good bone chewing is an excellent way to de-stress, or creating a number of gorgeous holes in a flower bed.

Flint is Cooper’s whippet buddy and is truly an expert in relaxing. When Flint relaxes he absolutely takes it to the next level. After an energising run across fields (away from an owner laughingly trying to call him back), he returns on his own agenda to his home and thinks he would fancy a nice recuperative snooze. He has his bed, of course, but he thinks it would be good to try out this nice new rug, set out in the downstairs hallway. Convenient.

Relax how you like to relaxNow Flint… he really likes to commit to relaxing. Relaxing is about letting everything go, allowing yourself to go to a place of beautiful calm. Whippets and greyhounds do this by roaching. Whereas Cooper likes to sleep in a tight, neat little circle, Flint has a different way of sleeping. He likes to lie on his back, legs splayed in every single direction. His body arcs back on itself and his head arches stretching to one side. To an outsider, it looks weird and uncomfortable, but Flint finds this position wonderfully relaxing. His body completely un-tenses and he is at one with the rug, the floor, the earth below all the way down to the core of the planet.

He is at one with the world.

 

What can you learn from your dog?

What do you do that takes away all your stresses and worries? Some people go for a long run or sweat it out piling on the weights at the gym. Maybe knitting on the sofa calms you, or fighting it out in a multiplayer computer game. Or how about literally doing nothing, staring into space and letting it all drift away. Your friend loves spa days and spending a whole day being massaged and reading magazines by a pool. This sounds horrendous to you and you’d like to cook a new recipe and share with friends.

It doesn’t matter if folding laundry is the thing that makes you at one with yourself. Relax your way.

CHARM GETS YOU A LONG WAY

Cooper gets bored. He can’t just be entertaining himself the whole time, that is the whole point of owners. Whether it’s walks or pulling on a rope toy, they surely revel in the joy he brings into their previously dog-less lives.

Sometimes they incredibly rudely go out without him. He sadly imagines them walking over wonderful hills and through forests on their own. What else could they be doing? Now he’s a bit put out and bored. This combo can lead to DESTRUCTION MANIA.

Destruction mania doesn’t start as a bad bad thing. Just having a look around and seeing something on a table that could probably do better being on the floor. A cushion that he wanted to see inside of. And then checking if other cushions also have the same interior fluff. Then there are piles of interesting things in reach that he wonders what they might feel like being chewed a bit.

Uh oh, he pauses mid blanket tear, and his ears prick up to hear the car coming onto the drive. Uh oh. And once again it’s a familiar tirade of shouting and pointing, almost as if this is a well-trod road they should all be used to. But there was no malice in his actions and he is sorry. What Cooper has in buckets is charm. He has charisma glowing throughout his little torso and his big brown eyes mean he conveys this very well.

Charm gets Cooper out of all sorts of debacles. He doesn’t understand why they didn’t want him to make lots of lovely holes to enhance their lawn. Why were they cross when he took that pizza off the kitchen counter when it had clearly been abandoned?

You can’t be angry with a charmer.

*What can you learn from your dog?*

A cheeky disposition can get you out of all sorts of trouble. Who do you know who seems to get away with doing something they shouldn’t have done, but they smile, apologise and with a twinkle in their eye you can’t help but forgive them. People love to be charmed. Try it out yourself.

It’s about being happy, easy going and accepting of yourself and other people. It’s about shrugging your shoulders at your mistakes, being okay that you’re flawed. Being okay with everyone else being flawed. Charm makes people smile, and who wouldn’t want to make the people around you smile?

OVERCOME DECISION PARALYSIS

Dave the Irish Wolfhound has a choice this morning. A box was hurriedly put away and some of the contents had spilled onto the kitchen floor. He’s a curious fellow so he padded over, his lithe frame swaying side to side, and he was delighted to see that this particular box was the one containing his snacks. Four lovely bonio have made their way into his life. As it happens, he feels peckish and is quite keen on a biscuit. He is not greedy though, one will do. But which one?

Biscuit 1 – this one is okay, nothing special but nothing against it
Biscuit 2 – well, this one has a chunk missing from the corner, that’s less available deliciousness, but the scratchy edge might be satisfying against his gums
Biscuit 3 – the colour is slightly lighter but he thinks this one might be a bit bigger than the others
Biscuit 4 – there’s a big crack along the centre of this one which might make it easier to eat in two bites

His eyes scan each one in turn, again and again, thinking about the pros and cons. He considers which might be the best one. Why is it so hard to choose? A good few minutes in now, he feels he is just nearing in on making his final decision when his ever-smiling owner comes back to the kitchen. She exclaims at the debris on her kitchen floor and hastily picks up the biscuits with a mutter. She turns to look at him, cocks her head to one side, smiles and throws him one, putting the other three back in the box.

He chomps it down.

It was not the one he would have chosen.

*What can you learn from your dog?*

Ahhh, the paralysis of indecision. We are often lucky enough to have several options open to us and we can get stuck weighing up each one, sometimes to the point of inertia. We think that if we don’t make a choice then it can’t be the wrong one! But we just have to move forwards, even if it’s the wrong choice. No action gets us nowhere. It may seem easier if someone else ends up choosing for us, but was their decision really what we wanted?

Big breath. Decide. And do.

Protect Your Own

Tye the Husky tentatively unwraps his gift from his owners. Out tumbles a brown fuzzy bear, with a cute embroidered nose, from the shiny wrapping. And he’s just perfect.

Tye is a gentle soul: he knows he maybe looks a bit scary, but he’s really not. He likes to spend his time on his own, contemplating, but he is also passionately protective about his pack. And today his pack has grown by one. His pack is mostly a higgledy-piggledy mix of humans, and boy do these people need protecting. They are an interesting sort. His male owner is pretty hairy, not as hairy as Tye of course, but as humans go, certainly up there. They share their love for deep contemplation, unlike his other owner and Weimaraner. Those two scamper around the house in a blur. Harder to protect when they keep moving, but he does his best. Extra pack members turn up sometimes, he then has to expand his circle to protect these people too. If they could all just sit still in one place it would be infinitely easier.

Every dog has a life purpose, and Tye’s is to protect. It’s about ensuring these entities you love, whoever they are – dogs, people, furry toys – feel safe. Tye gently picks up the teddy by the ear in his mouth and moves him to a refuge under an upstairs bed. He can join a couple of other fellow fluffy types in the pack. Tye lies down next to them all, keeping a watchful eye out in case of interlopers.

What can you learn from your dog?

Just as a pack dog is concerned about the welfare of his fellow dogs, love and protect your own family. Your family doesn’t have to be through blood, it’s the people, or animals, who you love and love you. Make them feel safe.

GROW OLD GRACEFULLY

Cooper has a dog neighbour called Millie who is a much larger dog; a Great Dane. But even though she towers over his smaller frame, somehow she’s not one of those Big Scary Dogs. Millie has a quiet, wise gracefulness that calms him and people around her.

Recently, Cooper had a dinner date at Millie’s and he immediately noticed her enormous bed. He thought it looked really comfy so tried it out and ended up quickly falling into a blissful nap. Millie didn’t mind. She knows it’s a nice place to take a rest and it’s good to look after her guests. Especially those younger ones who spend so much of their time dashing about.

When you’re a younger dog, your life is about investigating the world and having new experiences. Every new squeaky dog or pee-covered bush is a delight. As one’s age advances, a lot has become familiar, but that makes it wonderfully comforting. There is no need to dart around in circles to see absolutely everything immediately. It’s okay to move at a slower pace and explore more gently. A fresh new toy is fine, but it’s also nice to engage with a fluttering butterfly, wondering what it’s up to. In her younger days, Millie may have snapped at the dancing insect, but she now enjoys being mesmerised by its beautiful air aerobatics.

Her own health is key with the advancing years and Millie takes her water drinking seriously. She likes to take in big gulps and let it drain from her lips as she walks off, maybe wiping the drips onto a sofa cushion. Her owners don’t seem to agree with this method, but they don’t have her unwieldy lips to deal with, with their neat tiny mouths. They just don’t understand.

Millie sports on trend vibrant Harlequin black and white markings, but the body inside her fur doesn’t work quite as well as it once did. But that’s fine too. She doesn’t need to pelt across fields or leap up onto fences. She has noticed that because she’s bigger, sometimes when she’s out and about little dogs bark and yap at her, maybe trying to take her on. She just looks away. She doesn’t react to anyone trying to goad her, there’s just no need to engage in any sort of conflict. An easy calm life is the way. It’s perfectly lovely ambling along with her owners, gently taking in the sights. Their communal quiet reflection as they take an afternoon saunter is wonderful for the soul.

What can you learn from your dog?

Us humans, we do tend to dread getting older. But with age comes comfort and wisdom. It’s just a different time in our lives where we can slow down and be more in touch with the world that seemed a blur in our younger years.

Like our wise, older dogs: respect the additional years to your life and explore the changes with grace.

Love the winter

Cooper loves that he is covered in fur. As well as being incredibly stylish, his tri-colour branding is eye-catching and gets the lady dogs’ attention. But in winter he has noticed it has a more practical use. It’s colder at this time of year and it helps keep the chill away more than these poor naked hairless humans.

He has noticed that getting ready for a walk takes even achingly longer. He didn’t think it was possible to do yet more things before a walk began, but now there are hats and scarves and gloves and jumpers and big coats and an ongoing commentary about how cold it is and is Cooper really very sure he has to go out? Err, yes. Obviously.

Love the winterOutside there is an eerie mist in the air. He can’t see everything ahead (though obviously seeing is not the most important sense anyway) and when he inhales, there is a short sharp burst of icy air. It’s surprisingly, that’s for sure. He tastes the winter in his mouth and breathes it back out into the world as he pads on the frosty grass, making it crunch and crackle under his paws.

Now being outside in the winter is great… but… he doesn’t mind if the walks are that tad shorter and that the momentum is that little bit brisker. It’s almost as if it’s worth being outside just so he can come back into the warmth. And the best thing about winter is that actually everyone seems to be a bit too cold, and of course the best way to remedy this situation is to be in a Massive Pile. And that’s what Cooper tries to engineer. Dogs totally get it. But humans… they are all “what are you doing, stop trying to get under my blanket; stop using your big brown eyes and charm to manoeuvre into my lap; don’t put your freezing cold nose on the small of my back…” Blah blah blah. Such a strange species. He’s just trying to help them feel encompassed in warmth and comfort.

What can you learn from your dog?

Hunker down. It’s cold. Now is not the time to begin a running regime, it’s the time to curl up with loved ones and generate warmth together. You want their warmth and they want yours.

Pile on.

Do to for them

Cooper does not like being dressed up as a bee. Now, he’s not sure you quite get it, so he will re-emphasise. HE DOES NOT WANT TO LOOK LIKE A STUPID BEE.

But, wow, his owners just adore to dress him up in a dumb costume each year.

He could put up more resistance – after all he has many dreams about bravely and strongly fending off the house from an influx of evil cats and squirrels – but at the heart of it all, he loves his human cohabiters and it makes them so happy. He stands there, letting them put one leg at a time into fluffy cheap scratchy fabric as they giggle hysterically.

BeegleOf all the costumes, why a dumb bee? Bees are strange colourful flying snacks that aren’t tasty at all and hurt to eat. They seem to be followed by an impromptu trip to the vets, which is fun as he gets to have a fuss made of him (as he should), some tasty treats, but then they seem to pinch his neck for no reason at all. But then there’s another treat, so he guesses it’s okay? Bit weird though.

They finish off their dressing up antics by tying a ridiculously humiliating bow under his neck to keep a bonnet with antennae over his ears. If he could, he would roll his eyes and shake his head, but he is not a petty dog, he lets them get on with it and stands there so they can point their portable rectangles at him and flash light at him. He poses until their laughs subside and then wanders off to the garden to go roll in a seriously large amount of mud.

What can you learn from your dog?

We don’t always totally enjoy every moment with our families and people we are obligated to be with. But if your Aunt gives you a hideous jumper, smile, enthuse and throw it on. It’s an hour of your life, but it’s heartwarming for them to feel appreciated. They love you and they don’t always get that you are not on the same page as them. Sometimes their affections are misguided but, hey, suck it up.

Be loving… and do it for them.