Different is good

Cooper has a guest over for dinner. He loves Sundays as there always seems to be a wonderful meat-based centrepiece and, oh, the many trays that need help being cleaned with his efficient tongue. He feels needed and his belly gets full. Perfect! And there’s definitely enough to go round for a dog buddy, especially when they are on the smaller side with a smaller appetite.

Different is good

Stella is a miniature pinscher. She’s pretty small. Yes, she knows she could fit in a handbag, but that doesn’t mean she wants to sit amongst your discarded tissues and half used lipsticks. No, she doesn’t necessarily want to be constantly told how cute she is (she knows already, of course she is, that’s not up for debate). She may also be young, but that doesn’t mean she appreciates the cutesy baby talk.

Being smaller than other dogs and – in fact – most things (though not spiders, she can boss those around) she’s found that there are certain assumptions about what she’s like. But she doesn’t want to be defined by her size. She does need help getting onto sofas and up flights of stairs sometimes, but she is not helpless.

Cooper is three times as big and, well, she wouldn’t say he was a bit scary, but, three times is three times. He could squish her if he wasn’t looking where he was sitting. Sometimes bigger dogs try to play with her as if she’s the same size as them. They bat her with a paw playfully and she ends up halfway across the room. Thank goodness she has her bark; she needs to use her voice to stand up for herself. She needs to explain – yet again – that people and dogs should be mindful of her stature. She is there! She may take up a smaller footprint, but do not dismiss her! She cannot make herself physically bigger (and she wouldn’t want to, she can get into all sorts of interesting gaps that other dogs can’t) but she can convey herself as larger by projecting her personality, speaking up when there is injustice based on her smallness and giving those around her some well-placed attitude.

She may be small but you will respect her.

What can you learn from your dog?

Some of us are born a little either side of the average. We may be small like Stella, or imposing like Cooper’s neighbour, Millie the great dane. When you don’t fit the physical norm, sometimes people make assumptions or jokes that you have heard many times before. Leverage that difference and tell them to knock it off.

And you know what? Average is average whereas you are wonderfully different.

Drink water

Cooper and Joey are united again. It feels like it’s been a hundred years, but also like it was just yesterday that they saw each other. That’s the strange time confusion when you meet up with your best friend again.

Catching up involves a good sniff around the back, always interesting to find out the latest. And then… full speed rough and tumble wrestling. Cooper’s tri-colour tones and Joey’s mud-flecked white intermingle as they roll around over and over and then dash about in abstract circles and haphazard squiggles. Their little moans of play and happiness became one joint voice of joy. Onlookers seem bemused that this scene is consensual and fun as it seems like they could be fighting to the death. Of course not. This is how best mates enjoy each other’s company.

They are coaxed along by their owners in a sort of circuit of the field, but neither are interested in the usual walking routine. They dart about and then back into their tumble of joined furry bodies, in the best friend bubble where the outside world can’t join in. It is mesmerising and tiring to watch. And, unsurprisingly, also quite exhausting to be part of.

Drink waterAfter maybe two hours – or is it two minutes? – of this frenzied play date, the dogs stand panting happily. Joey looks around and locates a medium sized puddle in a dip in the field. He trots towards it, Cooper in tow. You don’t need to ask him twice, how nice to go for a drink with a friend. He slurps up the puddle water and it is deliciously tepid with debris floating in it. Cooper’s water bowl at home always seems so sterile and boring. The cooler temperature is fine, but the taste is a bit too… clean? Now, puddle water… mmmm, that’s the good stuff, they should put this in their convenient taps. The earthy tang, the flecks of twig and if they’re lucky, the odd protein kick from a dead bug or two. Delicious. They drink and drink, side by side, replenishing their energy and tickling their insides.

The excellent water gives them a second wind and after a conspiratorial glance they scamper off at top speed to continue their game.

What can you learn from your dog?

Drink water. You know you could drink more, it lubricates your body and feeds your cells. Whether you prefer clinically filtered uber clean water or you like yours with a tang of nature, cloudy with debris, drink it down and benefit from this gorgeous, life-giving, organic refreshment.

Respect the paw of ownership

Cooper refers to the people who live in his house as “owners”. This does not mean that they own him. What an absolutely laughable idea! Imagine the concept of owning a dog? How completely unfathomable. But he heard the word a few times when he first arrived into the world and he likes to use it in an ironic way. Ironic because they don’t even realise that he actually owns them.

Respect the paw of ownershipSometimes when Cooper is out having a formal dining experience – under the table in a local pub – other dogs will come over to say hello. This is obviously totally fine and he loves a good dog-based meeting. Occasionally, this dog stranger will then turn their attention to one of his owners. They might sniff them, jump up to get closer or investigate their pockets for Cooper’s treats. Now, this is not okay. They are his people and more importantly those snacks are earmarked for his belly only.

There are certain ways that a dog can mark his territory. From experience, he recalls that his owners use lots of shouty words and wild confusing gesticulation if he pees on things to signal that they are his. He suspects that they wouldn’t welcome being peed onto, even if he were doing it for their own good. Keeping solid eye contact with an interloper, Cooper gently puts his paw onto his owner’s foot. Yes. That’s right. This one is mine. Not yours. Mine.

What can you learn from your dog?

Did that waitress have a bit too much of a lingering look at your dining partner? Oh, hell no. It’s about boundaries. You’re not saying you own your beau, but… it’s good to remind them and everyone else that he is taken. A casual hand draped around the shoulder of someone you care about shows the world that this person is off limits. It’s lightly territorial, sure, but what you can learn from your dog is that it might be better than peeing on them.

Family is who’s there for you

Cooper is a pre-owned beagle.

He lives in his home with a couple, but he didn’t always live there. There was a time when he lived far away in another place. But, he had to move on. Yes, he came to the decision – all on his own – that this previous home was becoming too crowded with a new baby on the way, so he chose a new, unfortunately dog-less couple, to be his new family. He’s pretty sure that’s what happened.

These new owners, wow, they really needed him. For a start, they just had too many cushions. He could help them with that. And the female owner… she had a lot of shoes and he wanted to help her see a world beyond material possessions. They initially seemed a bit put out by his considerate actions, but he had so much more help to give.

Beagle Welfare beaglesTheir health. Honestly, sitting around and eating all that food? He helped them by grabbing things from unguarded plates and kitchen counters. You’re welcome. And more walks were needed too, they needed the exercise as well as social interactions with other owners. He was excited to show them all the new places they could explore together.

And oh such entertainment! He serenaded them with squeaky toys whilst they watch their large rectangle on the wall. The tone of their words seemed like they wanted him to stop but why would they want to stare at a rectangle when they could watch and hear him play? The squealing ball is surely music to their ears?

He took on the role of greeter for the household, making sure guests always felt welcome (and shoving his little face into their bags to check for foodstuffs to save his owners the trouble). He also helped them feel less lonely. What they needed was a dog to push his way into the middle of them on the sofa. All cosy and comforting for them.

When his owner comes home from work, looking deflated, Cooper is so happy to see him and wags his tail so joyfully, his owner can’t help but perk up and relax. When his other owner has water coming out of her eyes and her face is all scrunched up, he doesn’t get it, but he sits right next to her and lets her soak his fur.

The owners, a twosome, expanded their love outwards to someone new. And Cooper found somewhere he could be himself and look after them. That’s what family is. People – and dogs – who are there for each other.

What can you learn from your dog?

Some of us were lucky to be born into a loving family who wanted us and helped us become the best version of ourselves. Some of us… we weren’t quite so fortunate. Family is a word we connect with who we were born to, but families can be created. Family is about finding a group of loving beings who like you just as you are. And family is there for you.

If you’re thinking about taking on a pre-owned dog, you should know that this dog wants to be your family and love you unconditionally. That’s just who he is. He may have had some challenges from his previous life, and he might need some time, patience and a lot of love, but wow, when your commitment is paid back you have the newest most loyal family member.