Platonic love

Cooper doesn’t appreciate being teased. Now, there are exceptions to this rule, if, for example, you have a rope toy and you waggle it and quickly move it around, that is fine. Obviously he could absolutely take it at any time but he is humouring you by allowing you to play with him and enjoy yourself. People sure do like wiggling toys at him.

But Cooper does not like being teased about Amelie.

Platonic love

Who is Amelie? Well, Amelie is a FRIEND. That’s right, a friend. Not some girlfriend and it’s super annoying when people saying “oooo, is Amelie your giiiiiirrrrlfriiieeeeeeend?” in a mocking way. He feels simply quite cross. He gets it, he knows Amelie has been gifted with luxurious snow white curls, a perfect black wet button nose and eyelashes that go on for days. HE KNOWS. But he just really likes that they both like chasing sticks. What’s wrong with that? There doesn’t have to be some ulterior motive behind him wanting to spend time with her and there definitely doesn’t need to be the insinuation that they might make little beagle/poodle hybrid offspring together. Though, he does agree, they would obviously look adorable because Cooper is well aware of what a handsome spread of genes he has.

Cooper likes that it’s easy to spend time with Amelie. They can lie in the sun together in silence and just enjoy the presence of the each other close by. It’s comforting and familiar and peaceful. Isn’t that a nice version of love?

What can you learn from your dog?

There are so many permutations of love. We might love our parents and children and childhood best friend. We might lust from afar after Hollywood’s latest leading A-lister. And how about that friendly guy on the tills at the supermarket who so carefully packs our shopping? We like to pigeon hole our complexity as humans, whereas our dogs just tend to love indiscriminately around them. It might be their default emotion. What would happen if it were ours?

Rich dog

There’s a new beagle in town. Now, Cooper is happily breed neutral and likes to meet all sorts of types of dogs, but he does love to particularly bond with a fellow beagle. And this particular beagle seems to be somewhat special. There has been a murmur on the street that Guy is royalty.

As Cooper muses how it might be just wonderful to have multiple servants bring him a constant service throughout the day of delicious sausages in gold plated bowls, he wonders how his luck has landed on this side of the coin. He only gets the very occasional sausage!

Rich dog

Do some dogs just have a wonderful charmed life? But maybe that’s not the whole story…

It’s no fun being in an animal shelter. Guy the beagle is a truly affectionate sort and these metal bars keep him from snuggling up to those many humans who walk past. He wags his tail at them but no one seems to want to interact.

All these disappointments fade away when That Day arrives. A smiling dark-haired girl stares through the bars at him. He wags hopefully; she seems lovely. She grins more broadly and puts her hand tentatively through the bars to stroke him. He blissfully closes his eyes and revels in having his fur stroked. It’s been so long.

From that day onwards his life is a whirlwind. He soon forgets about his experience at the shelter and settles into a life of being loved and loving hard back. There is delicious food, lots of playtime and another dog to play with. Happiness is his whole world.

Then there’s packing boxes everywhere (ideal to poke his nose into) and a constant flurry of activity of comings and goings. Some mysterious tablet and then a hazy journey in a cozy crate which feels like an age. And then the trip is over… he sniffs new air. Something fresh and different. Cooler but somehow tingling and welcoming. More bumps and movement; he peers out wondering where this adventure is taking him. His cheery owner idly strokes him and whispers excitedly into his fur. He wags to show he understands what she is saying, but he doesn’t. However, he’s happy to go along with whatever is going on. It seems like a new beginning.

What can you learn from your dog?
When we meet people, we see who they are today. We don’t see the hardships and journey they have made to get there and we can make, sometimes maybe negative, assumptions about them. Maybe we are a bit jealous or disgruntled at our lot. That’s okay. But there’s space in the world for everyone to do well, we just need to take our own journey to get there.

Perfection is boring

Cooper is very happy to be himself. He knows he is the embodiment of absolute excellence and he would never fret concerning himself with someone else’s negative views. They’re simply incorrect.

Occasionally, Cooper has a trip to the vet. He enjoys these visits as it’s where a white-coated stranger strokes and inspects his body and gives him snacks for the privilege. He is bemused that someone wants to give him treats to look inside his ears and put a cold, metal device on his torso, but who is he to judge someone’s natural interest in him? Of course they’re fascinated to see how he ticks.

Perfection is boring

What he doesn’t like about the vets is being asked to stand on a large platform in the corner. There is some sort of output screen to the side which everyone stares at (rather than at him, which is unusual in itself) and when it settles onto a constant result the stranger has a sharp intake of breath and shakes her head. His owner looks shame facedat the floor. What? What’s the problem? The vet then points at his belly, his beautiful belly, and starts giving instructions to his owner. Errr, that’s *his* belly, and it’s exactly how he likes it. Of course, it’s a little bigger than it once was, but that is because he has every intention of hoovering up any food he likes the look of and why would he deny himself that wonderful pleasure in life? Cooper doesn’t appreciate this fat-shaming nonsense.

Cooper feels he is healthy just as he is. He has two excellent walks a day, and some of that is spent rushing around in dizzying circles. Could he do more, sure. His ambling along sniffing bushes isn’t the most calorie burning activity and eating discarded sausage rolls from the pavement doesn’t help his waistline. He admires other dogs who have sleek outlines and is impressed at the efforts of long legged energetic friends dashing and leaping around his field. I mean… he could join in…

But whatever. He is his own – slightly chubby – authentic self.

What can you learn from your dog?

Your flaws are what make you unique. Your dog doesn’t waste time thinking about his wonky tail or too long ears, they are part of who he is and that’s that. The people who love you don’t love you because you are a particular dress size and they don’t care that you don’t measure up to airbrushed pictures of models in magazines. They like you just as you are. And so should you.

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.

Life doesn't always go as planned

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.

Live until you die

Cooper’s seaside holiday buddy is a springer labrador cross called Chester. Cooper is a young dog and Chester was his first friend who was just that bit older. He didn’t like to ask, being a super polite fella, but Cooper could see that Chester had grey bits around his muzzle and his eyebrows were a bit wild with sprouting hairs. When they played, Chester would give it his all but his legs didn’t seem to want to go as fast as he wanted them to and he couldn’t always keep up with spritely Cooper. But that was fine, there are all sorts of speeds in the world, and it was just a matter of slowing down so Chester could catch up.

Now, Cooper can’t really be bothered with balls, he doesn’t see the point at all, but Chester’s absolute favourite game has always been playing fetch with a tennis ball. He would calculate incredible mathematics of projection and run at full speed towards where it was beginning to fall. Obstacles were a total inconvenience: mounds to be leapt over and bushes to push through the middle of. He could barely feel the bumps on his intense pursuit.

With the years, he still wanted that ball, but he started to be a little more measured in his quest. Going around rather than leaping over or pushing through things became the way.

Live until you die

His owners were particularly clumsy, they were always hurling endless balls far away. But he didn’t question their strange human foibles, he would just get on with bringing those balls back. His idea of the best day ever would be to get onto a tennis court and dart around to help collect all those lazily-dropped balls, bringing them back into a tidy central place.

Recently, Chester was out on his usual walk with his owner. He ran after his ball in his favourite field, excited and happy, his little heart dancing with glee. He grabbed it in his mouth, tasting the familiar rubber and furry cotton and turned to rush back. He saw his owner, waiting happily to receive his ball. This was the best! But as he made his journey back, he noticed his legs were slowing down a bit and his heart was aching in his chest. Was he imagining it, but did it seem like everything was clouding a little in his field of vision? Could he get back? Everything felt so heavy. Could he have a lie down? Just for a little bit?

Chester didn’t make it back that day, but he did get that ball. He always got the ball.

What can you learn from your dog?

Live.

Keep going. Hang onto life with all your might. How marvellous to die doing the very thing we love the most. So keep doing what you love: climb mountains, eat your favourite crisps on the sofa with friends or create the largest crochet blanket in the world. Then, one day, at the age of 104, you’ll be smiling – while really living – and you’ll pass on.

Live your life until your very last moment.

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.

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.

Cherish contentment

When you are a dog, the past, present and future are strange concepts to get your head around.

The past, well, that’s made up of memories of smells and meeting other dogs and people and sure, Cooper learns from them, but that time has gone away. There is no dog sitting around wishing they had done something differently in a scenario from their past.

The present, well, that’s literally right now. If Cooper sits, he gets the treat he’s cruelly being taunted with. Easy. The present is a pretty straight-forward idea as it’s going on in front of his shiny hazel eyes.

The future, well now, that truly is abstract. Cooper knows it’s out there. He buries bones for a future version of himself. He anticipates, based on past events, that he is going to be fed dinner at a certain time and that a night-time walk is likely to be on the cards when it just starts getting dark. His routine gives him a little security on what might happen in the coming hours.

Cherish contentmentSo with the past gone and the future just based on hopes due to previous patterns, Cooper is stuck with the now as the only place he has control over. Cooper living in the now means that he doesn’t have worry lines on his furry forehead. He doesn’t lament into a diary about how heavy his heart is of lost love. He doesn’t worry about the big 5 birthday and where that means he should be in his life. His very serious undertaking as investigator of the local field is what he does now and hopes to do always, there’s no need to consider thinking about some sort of promotion.

Cooper just doesn’t have the capacity to have a good old worry. Worry can be about expecting things to go wrong and he doesn’t think they will. All these past and future tenses are all a bit confounding, and truly it’s just best to not think too deeply about them. He chooses contentment and decides that he might as well be happy and he shares his life philosophy with us with a lot of cheeky tail wagging. Happiness comes from his food, his owners, his field and the occasional daddy-long-leg snack flying through the air into this open mouth. He just simply chooses his own happy path despite what’s happening around him that he can’t influence.

And what a fantastic and freeing choice.
What can you learn from your dog?

There will always be things in our world that happen to us. A redundancy, a burglary or an election that goes a different way. We cannot change what’s just happened. We can only change our own reaction to it.

Let’s try and look for opportunities to let the stuff you can’t affect slide off from your (non furry) back.

Let go and choose contentment.