Protect your stuff

Today Cooper has found something amazing under one of his favourite bushes. This bush makes up part of an alleyway on his usual walk and it is an absolute goldmine for discarded rubbish. He is deeply pleased that people abandon their sandwich wrappers and chip containers down here for him to investigate. Strangely, this often draws exasperated tuts from his owner, who wrestles some of them away from him to put into in a bin. No fair! Today, he’s going to need to be quick.

His owner is distracted ambling along, fiddling and staring deeply into his portable rectangle, so Cooper makes his move. A speedy double back causes a ricochet on his lead and gives him precious seconds to retrieve the most beautiful thing he has ever smelt. This isn’t food, it is something more. Something perhaps that has been around since the beginning of time. The aromas are complex: some are old and musky and others have more eye watering nuances. The colours range from grey to dark grey, not that he is that interested in the colours of things but he notes that it is interesting that a lot of things he likes the smell of are grey or black or brown. He stuffs his prize into his mouth and rushes off ahead so his owner can’t get it.

Protect your stuffBut his owner is jolted into activity and does seem to want to take this away from him! Lots of shouty words are bandied towards poor Cooper, which he obviously ignores, he will not give this up. This is his! He found it fair and square! If his owner wanted to find something like this, he should smell around the place a bit instead of shuffling absently along.

You snooze you lose.

What can you learn from your dog?

You love your iPhone? You covert your eye wateringly expensive shiny red patent heels? Those are yours! Be careful who you let borrow them, touch them or even look at them sideways. It’s definitely okay to be protective of the things that you love and make you happy.

Enjoy your exercise

Cooper has two speeds: dawdle or Olympic sprinter. He is either idling along, keeping his nose to the ground and on alert for interesting smells, or he is running at 100% capacity towards something… or away from something… or, in fact, round in a big old loop, just because.

Enjoy your exercise

He has noticed that there are these humans who are not walking and not properly running, just sort of going at a strange lackadaisical pace. Cooper finds joggers bizarre. He rushes up to them to try and encourage them to move a bit faster. He jumps up to try and inspire them to go for it, get to that place they want to get to. They don’t seem to like his motivational style, which is odd on their part as he is just trying to help, and they really do need help. What is the point of ambling along? And where are they going? He sees them go all the way down the path and then turn around and shuffle back again. They were literally going to some random, arbitrary location on the path and then turning around and coming back. Why were they in a hurry to get there then? And are they happy? Their faces are red and scrunched up concentrating and they really don’t seem to want to be out here.

These humans, seriously, their goals are odd.

When it comes to exercise, Cooper doesn’t have a plan of what pace he should be aiming for or when he should be exercising different muscles in his body. His routine is stretching with a spot of dog yoga (doga) after a nap and then pelting across grass as fast as is dogly possible. He runs because he wants to run. His body wants to move and he wants to feel his long ears flapping in the wind as he zooms around. He runs because it’s awesome.

 

What can you learn from your dog?

We know our health is important and we know we should be exercising. But sometimes we get caught up in our exercise routines that we just have to do, and it’s not fun anymore. Forget all the shoulds. Do you feel like getting out there and moving? You don’t need the perfect wicking top, an app to tell you your lap time or loud tunes to pump you up and distract you. Your ears may not flap in the breeze but run through nature for the simple pleasure of feeling your heart pumping faster and seeing what your body can do.

Don’t hold a grudge

Life is short. Life is even shorter when you’re a dog so some of the things humans fill their time with have to go by the wayside. With a lifetime being a nudge over ten years there’s no time to learn quadratic equations, spend time finding oneself or for working one’s way to the top of a career selling out to The Man.

Don't hold a grudgeCooper lives in a world where he doesn’t always get what he wants. It’s a hellish world, that much is true. Sometimes he wants the wonderfully smelling food his owners prepare, cook and ladle onto shiny crockery. He tries to explain his feelings towards wanting to share this food with them through his intense stares, but they selfishly ignore him. I mean where is the justice? Brown mush, that’s not even properly seasoned, served in a plastic bowl on the floor versus their lovingly-plated gourmet creations that smell amazing? If this just happened the one time it would be bad enough, but this happens Every. Single. Day! It’s bordering on being deeply offensive. Elitist. Cooper isn’t happy with the situation, oh no, but he can’t do much about it. It is what it is. He could hold a grudge against his owners for not including him in his favourite pastime, for taunting him with those wafting steak smells. But he chooses to be a little put out, and then move on.

The brown mush aint so bad.
What can you learn from your dog?

So much of life is unfair. The good people don’t always win and the bad people don’t always get what they deserve… at least in this life. It can be frustrating to be overlooked for a promotion you are simply perfect for. It can make you angry to know that a supposed friend has been saying things behind your back. Holding a grudge against people sadly doesn’t do much to anyone else. They might not even care or notice and the gentle rage just sits in you. Sitting like acid in your stomach. Your dog doesn’t have time for that: he shrugs his metaphorical shoulders and let’s others crack on with whatever they need to do. He will take the high road. He will instantly forget about it. He doesn’t have enough of an attention span to be resentful, and he’s all the better for it.

Love your best friend

Man is a dog’s best friend. Now, who came up with that? Cooper thinks that his owners no doubt want him as their best friend – he’s pretty awesome – but they don’t always totally get him.

Cooper thinks that his best friend is Joey. Joey is a local cockerpoo who every now and again ends up on the same schedule as him with the dog walker.

Joey is amazing.

Joey is insane.

Love your best friendFrom the split second they first met they knew this was something different. Joey gets him. Running around and chasing is so important and it’s non stop with Joey. Oh and wrestling, wow. They tumble over and over through the freshly mown grass. Joey’s cream curly coat getting stained with spring green. Cooper doesn’t mind a play of course, but he is a hound and his sniffing is an important part of the walk. But with Joey around there’s no opportunity to investigate bushes. The energy of this crazy dog is contagious and Cooper is energised into a long barking tirade as he merrily sprints the length of the field to attempt to catch up.

After a walk where Cooper has seen Joey he is more tired than usual. It was nice to put his usual sniffing business on hold and just roll around having fun instead. Falling into a happy slumber, he dreams about the bouncy adventures they have together.

There is nothing more satisfying and perfect than having a catch up with a best friend. It can be days, weeks or months, but when they’re united again it feels like it’s been no time at all.

He hopes he will see him again soon.

What can you learn from your dog?

Do you have someone who you can hang out with and it’s just easy to be with them? You know when you’ve found them because being with them is effortless. You don’t have to be something you’re not or to have hoovered the lounge, be looking your best or pretend to be on top of life. They become a part of you and mustn’t be taken for granted. They like you for you. And you know what, you like them for them too.

Lick the bowl clean

For Cooper, there are so many best parts of the day but surely the best, BEST part of the day is food time. For some reason though this happens a staggeringly seldom amount of times throughout his waking hours. It feels like millennia between each time Cooper’s bowl is set on the ground full of brown mush. Oh, but what brown mush! And it’s all his. Maybe his owners lick the spoon when they’re serving the mush from can to dish, but he’s never spotted them doing this and he would bark in outrage if ever he did. The special Cooper food is stored in a small mystery room at the back of the house with the ever-closed door. He suspects that it is full of food, floor to ceiling. Now, if he could just work out door handles…

Lick the bowl cleanDinnertime is probably the best food time as there’s been a whole day of anticipation and hours of calories burning to replenish – finally. “What’s for dinner tonight”, he wonders sarcastically, as he is greeted with a bowl full of, oh, brown mush. Again. Now even though it’s brown mush (again) he is pretty happy. As brown mush goes, it’s not shabby. There’s definitely some meat in there somewhere. Probably. He scoffs it all down in seconds as if there were a lion approaching to steal it from him.

Cooper will never understand why he’s given such an extremely small portion of food. He could absolutely eat ten times the quantity and, frankly, this sort of treatment is tantamount to dog abuse. But his indignation aside, he takes good care to lick the bowl clean. Partly as a very pointed message to his owners that there simply wasn’t enough and that he must resort to getting every last scrap, but also because he sees no sense in wasting anything.

What can you learn from your dog?

Take a moment to value your food. I am sure we have all been guilty of buying lovely fresh things and then forgetting them in the fridge to spoil. Your dog would be appalled. We can learn that there is value in respecting our food and appreciating what we have and not wasting it.

But let’s not take a life lesson from dogs on how they eat. We will all end up being round balls, unable to move.

Beware of the rectangles

The simplicity of Cooper’s existence is why he is so happy.

Things that make Cooper happy:

  • A cardboard box – good for investigating and then destroying
  • A straw – tastes of something food-like, a bit chewy
  • A bone – so much fun to gnaw and an opportunity to be sneaky and hide it in an excellent place
  • A pile of laundry – really warm, moveable items, easy to push around to create the perfect resting place (downside – often leads to being shouted at for no reason and shooed away)
  • Sleep – this is excellent
  • Walks – much investigation, socialising and hopefully abandoned scraps
  • Cats – They’re just so intriguing; what’s their bag?
  • Fox poo – glorious smell
  • Food – all food is excellent
  • Baths – ha, psych, these suck
  • Belly strokes – pleasant experience all round for everyone
  • A really good scratch – it’s almost worth having that annoying itch just for the relief of scratching the hell out of it
  • Dogs – obviously they’re excellent (except the big, scary ones. Could totally take them on, he just chooses not to)
  • Lions – he hasn’t met one yet but suspects he can take on a whole bunch of them. Easy

Beware of the rectangles

And that’s it. He doesn’t worry about mortgage payments or whether his belt matches his trousers. He doesn’t care if so-and-so said something mean about him behind his back or that the weighing scales shamed him. What he wants is to be constantly fed and to be taken out to investigate the outside world.

Cooper finds our world bewildering. He’s right here in front of you, why on earth are you looking so intently at a small handheld rectangular box rather than stroking him? How can you sit at your desk staring blankly into yet another rectangular box for hours, looking so miserable, when you could be feeding him? Why do you spend the evening looking at a large rectangular box on the wall when there’s so much to be explored out there in nature? It makes no sense. The rectangles don’t smell or taste of anything good. He thinks they are obscuring what’s important from your world.

What can you learn from your dog?

There’s a place for our rectangles, but they can quickly take over our lives. Sometimes we are reading about the latest thing about someone we don’t even know when, right in front of us, there’s a dog that loves us wagging his tail, longing for a cheeky play. Put down the rectangle. Turn off the one on the wall. Engage with life in front of you.

Beware of the rectangles.

Oxytocins are crucial

Cooper likes to sleep in the Firefox position. Have you seen the logo for the Firefox internet browser? It has a fox lying in a tight circle, and that’s how this little beagle likes to curl up to sleep. He’s in such a compact round shape he could be mistaken for a colourful, bumpy cushion… but that definitely doesn’t want to be sat on.

Oxytocins are crucialIt’s good to sleep like this as it maximises warmth as well as comforting Cooper that all of his body parts are still intact since he has close contact with them. This saves him having to constantly check whether his ears or tail are still connected to his body. Very helpful.

But being in the Firefox position is lonely. He is a pack animal and really he would prefer to be in a tower of curled up beagles or even a disorganised pile of assorted furry bodies and legs. Thank goodness his owners definitely want to lie in a heap with him too. He’s pretty sure they do.

It’s a lazy Sunday morning and his owners are lying in bed. This is better than in the week when they grumpily pull themselves around the house, cleaning themselves, dressing and eating boring dry food in bowls with that tasteless white water. Sunday morning is about toast crumbs and big pieces of large folded sheets of black and white squiggle-printed paper scattered across the eiderdown. As soon as Cooper leaps onto the bed everyone seems to re-arrange themselves. Bits of the paper get folded up hastily and toast (sadly) moved out of reach. But he is not here for toast (though he might try and swipe a piece later when they’re a bit more relaxed and unawares). No, he is here for oxytocins. He needs to feel bodily warmth and comfort.

His owners seem to be indicating a spot at the end of the bed. They are patting the duvet, saying his name and some other nonsense words that are not part of his extensive food lexicon. He looks at the spot they are indicating. Are they insane? The corner of the bed? The most arctic region of the bedding? They must be confused. He wags his tail at them. They do try but they don’t often understand what’s going on.

Cooper knows where he needs to be. At the head of the bed, in the middle of both of them (the warmest spot). He pads up the middle between them, tail swaying and tongue hanging out happily. He stomps over the rest of the paper, which they seem to take issue with, and he ignores their flailing arms. They sure are saying that pointless “no” word a lot. They can’t be directing that at him, so he pushes on through and slumps suddenly as he gets to the pillow end. Comfy! His centre of gravity is pretty low now, so whilst they think pushing him will do something, mostly he is a bit bemused. He raises an eyebrow and looks at his male owner sideways. Then with a small sigh he puts his head down on the pillow and settles his deadweight fully into the bed. So cosy. Such lovely warm bodies. He makes one last adjustment to his position, stretching out to maximise bodily contact and closes his eyes. Ahhhhhh.

What can you learn from your dog?

Oxytocin – the hug hormone – is something your dog knows about instinctively. If he curls up with you, he feels relaxed and happy. It raises his spirits and makes him feel loved. Do you like to hug people? Enjoy the benefit of feeling someone else’s body warmth and feel comforted. But maybe start with people you know, and not with strangers on the train.

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