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.

Endorphins make you glow

Cooper is snuggled up in his bed. Inside its depths, as well as a half chewed cushion spilling its white fluffy contents, there’s a beige tatty blanket covered in lots of his hair. It’s a pretty classy affair. It’s cold in the house and he knows he has to curl in the tightest circle simply to keep alive. It was dark when he was stirred for breakfast and he doesn’t understand why he’s suddenly being fed in the middle of the night. But, well, it’s food, so it’s sort of okay. He starts to nod off, his belly nicely full, when he hears his name being called.

Endorphins make you glowSeriously? They want to go for a walk now? He pops his black, shiny nose into the arctic conditions of his home and thinks about how much colder it would be outside. He loves a walk, of course, but does it have to be when he’s barely awake and cold? His name is called again and he considers his dilemma. He is very cosy where he is but these humans are irritatingly persistent once they get started with one of their absurd ideas. He’d love to just stay where he is, it took simply ages to get into this perfect resting position. But… those outdoor smells… and it is his calling to investigate them… he really should check on them. If he doesn’t, then who will? They would go un-smelled. And his tubby body, already at the very peak of physical perfection, could do with a few dashes across the field to keep those leg muscles in tip top condition. He slightly grimaces thinking of how cold the grass would be on his delicate paws, but he is not one to shy away from a bit of discomfort. He unravels his body and slowly gets up, ignoring his name being called more and more insistently. He’s coming, wow, seriously chill out.

Back in his bed again, post walk, he is happy to concede he was glad he went out for exercise even though he really didn’t want to. He stretches his limbs out in four directions and yawns widely. He feels a faint hum throughout his body, the after effects of all that dashing about. He quickly drifts off, feeling warm and tingly

What can you learn from you dog?

Sometimes it’s cold out there and sometimes you’re not feeling it, but if you can coax yourself to pull yourself to the gym or out for a run, you’ll tap into those wonderful endorphins. We all know it’s easier to be motivated when it’s a gorgeous day and we wake up rested, but where it counts is those gloomy days when it’s harder. The more yeses you can manage when you want to say no, the more of those wonderful energising endorphins you can collect.

And you can always go back to bed afterwards.

Chase your tennis ball

A few years ago, Cooper went on a holiday to the seaside with his buddy Chester and their owners. Chester is a springer labrador cross and it soon turned out these two guys had quite different priorities. Cooper tried to share his deep interest of sniffing every bit of sand dune, seaweed and salty-smelling debris. But Chester had no interest. His biggest interest was the tennis balls his owners threw for him. Now, let me be clear. Chester didn’t like tennis balls. He didn’t love tennis balls. He was OBSESSED with tennis balls. He woke up in the mornings thinking about them, he would keep a beady eye out all day in case there were some lying about the place and when he snoozed he would see and chase them throughout his dreams. Cooper’s raison d’etre is to investigate all the smells, whereas Chester’s own passion and very reason for being is to chase and bring back tennis balls.

Chase your tennis ball

There is just something so special about those wonderful, bright spheres that just enchants Chester. They play with all his senses. The colour of them is a weirdly unnatural fluorescent yellow but that does mean they can be easier to track down when they are lobbed into undergrowth. Very handy. The smell of a ball, that glorious, intoxicating rubber, and the fabric covering which tickles his nose. They are sort of furry, but not fur like his own lovely black hair. He adores the fuzzy taste against his long wet tongue and especially how balls don’t fit quite perfectly in his mouth and want to escape. The not knowing whether that one wrong move – trying to get a better purchase while carrying the ball in his mouth – could mean it would tumble out and roll into the long grass. Such a tease and challenge.

When Chester didn’t have a tennis ball in his mouth he felt like something was missing. There was a hole in his life. And you would think that carrying a ball around meant that Chester couldn’t smile with happiness, but no worries there: his whole body conveyed his just absolute perfect joy.

What can you learn from your dog?

Your passion is your driver.

It’s so important and it’s who you are. If your passion is collecting tennis balls that have been abandoned – good for you. Maybe you adore to sculpt cows in bronze or you obsess about running a marathon on every continent. You can have that fire to end all wars… or to complete your vintage lego collection. Whatever it is, it’s the very essence of who you are.

Chase your tennis ball.

Zig Zag

Now Cooper is well aware there is an optimal route between A and B. If he were at position A and there were a mysterious cat at position B, he would launch like a rocket between the two points, perhaps breaking the sound barrier in the process. He knows there’s a fast way to get over there, but… is that usually the most interesting way to get there?

Zig ZagFor Cooper, he likes the scenic route. Because the world he is in has haphazard smells all over the place, it’s important to take a zigzag route to best find as many of them as possible. Does a rabbit take a direct route? No. Does a hedgehog? Nope. Foxes? Never. Well then, he has to replicate these woodland creatures’ movements to track the routes they have been and investigate their goings on. To outsiders it may seem like he is dawdling and that he has no plan. Oh, he has a plan.

Sometimes his owners get a bit frustrated with him, yanking on his lead if he is still connected to them, or calling him back to them (good luck with that). They seem to think that that the walk part of their day is a chore. Something to tick off of a list. Errr, no, it’s the whole point of the day.

The zigs and zags are the adventures. Within a zig he finds out that there wasn’t just one rabbit scurrying about earlier, but two. During a zag he found a hidden mound of squished manure that was begging for a good sniff. Imagine if he had missed out on these?!
What can you learn from your dog?

We are always rushing to our destinations. Which is the fastest choice of roads… would a train be quicker… if we leave at a certain time, can we miss the traffic. We want to blank out the travel and simple relocate ourselves to the place we are trying to get to. Could you add a little zig into your commuting routine? Could you zag on the way back from a school run?

Take the scenic route by zigging and zagging and discover something.

How to tackle a big stick

Now who doesn’t love a good stick? Cooper expects that other dogs have different favourite types, but to him a good stick needs to have certain criteria: the right length, the right girth and the right integrity. It’s no good if it’s long and wavy and it’s no good if it’s stumpy and crumbles. Today he has found the best stick he’s ever seen (though his memory is pretty poor, but it is the best stick of today at any rate). The problem with this stick is that it is connected to a whole lot more other stick.

Like Michelangelo and a block of marble, Cooper has The Vision. He can see this large fallen tree branch that’s blocked the path but he doesn’t see an obstacle or an inconvenience. Oh no, he sees potential. He sees past the dozen of mediocre sticks still attached. He sees past the laughably poor whimsical sticks on one end. He sees past the decorative leaves and he even sees past the caterpillar inching its way along a bud.

How to tackle a big stickBeyond all this distraction is The Stick. Of course, it’s still attached to everything else. How do you approach something so mammoth? How do you get past everything to get to what you want? Cooper doesn’t have time to second guess himself, or procrastinate. And he doesn’t have self doubt about his skills in stick detachment or fear of wondering that maybe this stick isn’t that great after all. If another dog made a dismissive snort about his quest to extract this stick… well he wouldn’t care. More stick for him.

He closes his eyes briefly, imagining what it will be like to own that stick, take it to task. Nibble gently at one end, gnaw wide-mouthed at the other. The wood would fall apart in his mouth like pulled pork (mmmm, pork). It would feel so good to grind his molars on the side of that bark. To slightly taste the sap and hold one end lovingly between his paws.

But enough daydreaming, it’s time to get this magical stick from the centre of this branch. There are a lot of twigs in the way, so pulling those off individually and then dragging the branch around gets off the worst of them. Cooper then gnaws at a less than optimal branch so that he can get closer to his prize. This branch tastes like sawdust and (non-tasty) bugs, but he soldiers on, his big goal high in his mind.

A black labrador bounds up to say hello. Cooper is a fan of black labs. They’ve got the right kind of energy for a good Chase Me game and are invariably friendly. But not today, he is working. He’s not rude though; he wags his tail and gives a sideways look explaining the situation. The lab sniffs a bit at the tree branch, wondering if all of Cooper’s effort is worth it for one stick. Then his owner calls him so he bounds off. Maybe she has some chicken.

Cooper finally gets through the sad excuse for a stick and dumps it on the ground. And there it is in front of him. His prize. It truly is perfect. A good length, minimal bumps and the wood is firm but gnawable. With a bit of levering technique and brute force, he extracts the stick from the branch and runs off to take it to a quiet location for maximum enjoyment. Sitting in the middle of the field, able to see 360 degrees for any interlopers, he begins to bite on one end. It was hard work but a good result. He is proud of his tenacity and (brief) forward thinking.

What can you learn from your dog?

Sometimes we have big, more ambitious goals. There are so many things that can get in our way, most of which are internal: doubt, fear, friends (well-meaning or not) and boring things we need to do along the way added to all the other distractions of life. Keep your eye on the prize. Your perfect stick.

You got this.

Chase that impossible goal

When having a quiet morning walk, Cooper loves to see another owner and dog entering the park. It’s all very well for him to sniff those fascinating smell-drenched bushes, but it’s even more fun for him to enthusiastically greet a fellow canine. Ideally, they will then want to play with him. And what’s the best game? The Chase Me game, of course, and Cooper… well, he loves to play the role of the Chaser.

This tall, curly-haired owner has a beige and white mottled greyhound. Now, despite having met multiple greyhounds before, and especially this particular greyhound called Charlie, Cooper is not deterred from initiating the Chase Me game with a bold, demanding WOOF. In response, with a blink and a blur off springs Charlie – all long legs and raw speed – as he bounds across the length of the park. It looks like absolutely no effort at all.

Greyhound being chased

Cooper doesn’t let the fact that he has never even come close to catching up with a dog this fast put him off. He doesn’t think back to the many times he hasn’t been able to match Charlie’s speed. He thinks that at some point he will catch him, and today could be that day, no? Cooper is half the size, carrying a little holiday weight and has stubby legs more suited to crawling through undergrowth for investigation… but so what? He launches off in pursuit with a loud, rally cry of barking. Cooper’s paws hardly touch the ground as he gives it his absolute all to catch his buddy.Cooper chasing

To onlookers it seems like a fruitless pursuit. The owners just stare in bemusement as their dogs run in a wide circle around them, ignoring everything but the glorious chase.

Cooper could catch him, he really could.

What can you learn from your dog?

Humans seem to be plagued with a lot more self-doubt and overthinking than our dogs. Should you enter that 10K race? What if you end up in last place? You might feel pretty demoralised setting off against the greyhound equivalent friend who is so much better than you. But what would your dog do? He would see a challenger and think it might just be fun to compete with them. He would give it a good go.

Your dog 100% goes for it and it doesn’t cross his mind that his goal might just be impossible. And who cares if it is? It’s about the chase.