Relish your freedom

Bramble is a chocolate Labrador with a thirst for life. Today he has been brought to his favourite beach; it’s off season, with no one around, so he has lots of space to run and investigate. This is his beach.

He pads along with his owner towards the water’s edge until she is ready to let him off his lead. He looks sideways, far into the distance, and sees the untouched wet sand ready for his paw marks to stamp his identity all over it. She fiddles with his collar and his excitement rises. He thinks he sees a fellow dog in the distance and so once released he launches off into a fast run. He’s partly running towards a potential friend, but also he just loves how his body lurches forwards, trying out his leg muscles. He does love his cosy home, but, wow, this wide open space where he can move for ages in all sorts of directions.

Relish your freedomBramble eventually slows his run, coming to a panting stop. He looks out across the sea into the misty horizon. He feels the breeze tickling his floppy ears and breathes in the acrid smell of salt into his nostrils. Up above him he sees the seagulls lazily swooping around, up and down in haphazard patterns, occasionally making squawking cries to each other and at the world. This moment on his beach is a moment of absolute freedom and peace.

He looks back at his owner. She’s fiddling with her portable rectangle, her brow is furrowed. She sighs. She is often like this. He wonders why she always seems to be thinking about these bits of paper she gets piles of and then seems to need to give away. Why does she feel she needs to worry about inanimate objects? Bramble absently scrapes the sand with his paws, enjoying the feel between his toes. He feels rich. He doesn’t need anything other than these moments.

What can you learn from your dog?

Imagine you are on Bramble’s beach. Can you find that same level of freedom and peace? It’s not easy, is it? Your thoughts about all the things you need to remember, all those worries. And that ever draining bank account.

Wouldn’t you like to be at that beach more often? But, of course, work commitments, family obligations… And endlessly attempting to build that pot of cash towards retirement and then, maybe then, you’ll let yourself finally relax and have those beach moments. What a shame.

Your dog owns… nothing. He isn’t awake at 3am thinking “what if”. How can you find that inner calm?

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.

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.

Grow old gracefullyWhen 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.