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.

Revel in silence

Cooper sat patiently, with his head cocked at an angle, as his owner held aloft one of her rectangles and read some words from it to him. Sometimes when there are a stream of words in his direction they can be a bit loud and shouty, but, this time as she gesticulated as she read to him – creating a little bit of miniature theatre to entertain him – these seemed like soft words.

Not that he understood any of them.

Revel in silence

It’s quite relaxing being read to by a human. Dogs don’t have much of a vocabulary. I mean what is there to say? A bark has all sorts of intonation, force, volume and pitch to convey all sorts of expression and emotion. But these humans seem to constantly natter, what could they possibly be going on about? Do they just invent new and more complex things to talk about to fill the silence?

Cooper wondered whether there were other dogs out there that had their owner’s read to them. As an only dog it was quite lonely sometimes (only sometimes) and humans didn’t always totally get him and his extremely clear way of conveying his needs and wants. It would be nice to be part of some sort of club. Likeminded high thinkers like himself could consider the important matters of the world: why were there not more walks; why were food bowls filled with such insultingly small amounts and which sticks were the best sticks. Naturally he would be head of this group: his obvious candidacy as an Alpha had been shockingly overlooked in his own home. But then his owners did have insecurity issues so he only made a bid for power every evening or so. Which was hardly ever.

Cooper let his owner’s words sweep over him and settled into lying down, gently closing his eyes.

She really did go on.

What can you learn from your dog?

We humans, we sure love our drama. And then we love to talk about it. What are we even talking about half the time? Have we already told that not-even-that-exciting story to a few other people? Do we need to keep asking everyone questions? Can we just stop and be quiet and still?

The silence needn’t be so scary and it could even be comforting.

Love the autumn

Cooper loves the autumn. Towards the end of summer, he is beginning to get a bit fed up of all the endless panting and needing to detour to puddles for a mid-walk water top-up. The black parts of his fur always seem to be aglow as he pads along under the sun and he prefers to take his investigation deep into undergrowth to find some respite.

The first sign that autumn is coming is that he sees all his favourite trees start to change from bright greens into browns, golds and reds. And then, one day, leaves begin to fall off. In his garden, the big tree at the back also begins to drop those big green, not-tasty-at-all apples onto his lawn. Whilst the apples are a pointless food, they do seem to attract some interesting characters into his domain so they have their use. Though these apples are sour and difficult to eat, creatures like to take nibbles on their detour across the grass, rubbing their scent deliciously on blades.

Love the autumnWalks are quite different too. Gone is the warmth from the pavement, tickling and teasing his paws as he traipses along. Instead he likes to watch his breath puff out in front of him. It’s funny how he only sees his breath half the year and he huffs it in all directions to see it appear and then be whisked away to be mingled with all the other air, way up into the sky. His owner doesn’t seem to want to see his own breath, and hides his face in a big, warm piece of fabric. He’s missing out.

Oh and the smells! Smoke from bonfires in the distance, damp soggy wet leaves gently rotting and so many creatures darting around preparing for colder times. Squirrels are one of Cooper’s favourite curiosities. They cheat, of course, scampering up tree trunks they know he can’t follow them up. Cheeks bulging with nuts. But the chase is always glorious and one day, oh one day, he will master climbing sideways up a tree.

Now while Cooper loves walks, in this season it’s lovely to get back home and find a warm spot by a heater to curl up in for a lovely nap. His little out-of-breath body squishes deep into cushions and blankets and it’s a wonderfully satisfying way to recover and think and then dream about all the creatures he saw on his travels. His mind intermingles deep colours and complicated smells and paints beautifully comforting imagery as he drifts off.

The autumn is a wonderful time of year for an investigating dog.

 

What can you learn from your dog?

Autumn is when nature starts slowing down again. All the bright, energetic colours begin to fade and we’re surrounded by cosy warm colours to take us up to winter. Pack away your flimsy wardrobe and gather your knits from the attic. Buy yourself a soft new gorgeous scarf you can burrow your face into.

Sync up with the change in pace and love your autumn.

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.

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.

Stretchhhhhh

After a satisfying sleep that involved not only finding, running after and then catching a cat, but also being crowned the King of all cats in a surprising twist, Cooper opens his eyes and blinks a few times at the bright late morning sunshine. He does a quick recap: post breakfast sleep, quick investigate to check the perimeter, mid morning sleep, relocate to bedroom, and he has finished his third nap before midday. Excellent. All is on schedule.

Now Cooper does not belong to the medical profession (by his own choice) but he does know a little about post-nap essentials. It’s a rookie mistake to leap up and carry on about your business without consideration to the fact that your body hasn’t moved for an hour. He is a pro. First, begin with mouth exercises. A good and gentle yawn is good. No sudden movements or those muscles won’t behave. Then come out of the curled up position, slowly, vertebra by vertebra, unfurling into a less circular position. Hop down from your spot into a clear area. Now the real work begins. Years of self training would make Cooper a black belt at this next part, if there were such an accolade. There are two moves. Two moves, but oh such moves. Dog yoga – or “doga” – now begins; onlookers are welcomed but not encouraged as this is a sacred time. Cat stretch
He begins with a cat stretch. Obviously he doesn’t call it this in his mind, but this is what his owners’ call it, much to his dismay. The cat pose stretches out his spine that has been curled around for the last hour. He splays his front paws for stability (and a cheeky paw wake-up stretch while he’s there) and arches his back. It feels good to expand his spinal bones and get them back in the right place. At the same time he elongates his neck, maybe throwing in a little yawn and mouth stretch. Excellent. Back and neck done.
Downward facing dogThe second move is downward facing dog. He doesn’t mind his owners calling the move this, but it’s not exactly imaginative. This pose is an energising movement. It stretches out all his four leg muscles and builds strength, which he needs for when he’s bounding about fields with long, long grass. He makes a satisfied little grunt as he commits to the pose and stretches out his aches from his sleeping position. And done. Don’t be fooled that two positions for a short amount of time don’t give him health benefits. He is in tip top condition apart from his barrel like stomach, and that’s due to big bones. Big stomach bones. Whatever.

What can you learn from your dog?

Stretching is a great way to start the day (or post-nap). It gets your blood moving and gives your joints a chance to get used to not being still. Yoga (and doga) is energising, strength building and great for your mental health. No wonder your dog wags his tail so much.

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.

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.

Save for a rainy day

Cooper does like to live in the now. He doesn’t know or care if it’s a Tuesday, he doesn’t really know what’s going to be happening in the next ten minutes. Living in the moment is fine by him. However, he does like to save – if he can – for his future self.

His owner has just come back from the shops, laden down with lots of bags. She doesn’t seem to be completely keen on him jumping up on her. Can’t she see he’s trying to greet her? I mean, clearly he’s also trying to get a cheeky look in these interesting bags. They smell amazing! She staggers into the kitchen and Cooper follows, having a good wag. He expects that these bags are a present for him and he’ll shortly be allowed to rifle through and pick what he fancies. Hmm, though putting them all on the counter isn’t helpful, he can’t get up that high.

She’s talking to him now – about who knows what – but then she does like to communicate vocally. He gives her a wag; it’s probably about these bags and how they are for him. Ah, but she has opened a smaller paper bag, and this one smells glorious. OMG, it’s a BONE! Cooper leaps up. This is so exciting! The thing is enormous. Look at it! Two knuckles at either end, cream coloured with small bits of meat clinging to it along its length. It might just be the most beautiful thing he has ever seen. And here it comes, it’s being offered to him, laid on the kitchen floor. Well, obviously, he is up for it. He’ll take it off your hands if you don’t need it.

He grabs one end of the bone in his mouth and tries to pick it up. It’s pretty heavy and he can’t get it off the ground. This may require some dragging action. He can see that the door to the garden has been opened for him – fantastic, a good place to concentrate on owning the hell out of this bone while catching some rays. He drags it haphazardly over the linoleum, over the door stoop and carefully down the step. He has a wary eye out in case his owner tries to rudely take his present back. He drops his bone onto the middle of the patio and examines it. This is a full afternoon’s work. Worthy work. Challenging and rewarding work. He gives the middle a tentative lick and closes his eyes. That’s some good bone. Now, let’s get cracking.

Over the course of the next few hours, all that can be heard from Cooper is a constant gnawing as he systematically breaks down the bone. The meat is now gone. Then the bone is reduced by half. His jaw aches from the effort and his tummy throbs with the amount he’s consumed. He can’t carry on. It’s been a valiant effort but he doesn’t have it in him to complete this mission. He needs to sleep to recover. He needs a good, hearty intake of water. He needs to revisit this bone another day.

Save for a rainy dayHe looks around, surveying the bushes round the edges of the garden. It’s going to have to be his favourite one, the big green one with space for a small dog to crawl under. The bone is now smaller and easier to carry, so he takes it in his mouth and quietly wanders over to his hiding place. Can’t be too loud or he’ll attract attention. He lays the bone down gently and his paws slowly scrape the soil by the roots. He picks up the bone and drops it in the shallow pit. He pushes some soil roughly with his snout, covering it up a bit. That’ll do. What an amazing hiding place and what an excellently hidden bone.

Till tomorrow.

What can you learn from your dog?

You slip on a jacket you haven’t worn for a while and – what do you know – there’s a £20 note in the pocket! Is it your instinct to want to spend all of it immediately? How about buying just a small treat and then popping the rest into a piggy bank or savings account. It’s a nice feeling to help out a future you by squirrelling away the extra you don’t need right now. You know it makes sense. Save for a rainy day.

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Be energised by nature

After a while, the house can feel a bit like a prison. Cooper gets a bit stir crazy, walking from room to room and seeing that everything is exactly the same. His perimeter sweeps reveal nothing, no interlopers (lions or otherwise), not even some bugs to sniff/accidently eat. Honestly, it can get a bit boring. He sighs. He climbs on the sofa and onto the top of the back (yeah, his owners love it when they catch him up here). He can see the world out of the big windows. There’s so much going on out there. Millions of dogs to greet and butts to sniff. All those creatures who have left trails in the grass for him to follow. Bits of debris to check for eatability.

With the seasons, the environment changes too. The colours deepen and then lighten again. The trees become sparse and then grow and are full again. Everything evolves and moves. He loves it out there. A constantly changing tapestry.

Embrace nature

Being outside, Cooper feels like he can really breathe. He loves the air. He loves the sounds and cacophony of colours. This is where he belongs. He doesn’t care so much for the part between his home and the field. The pavements are dull man made greys, the hard texture isn’t kind to his paws and the dust thrown up tastes bitter. But when he gets to his field, all bets are off. There is so much going on! The green of the grass is vibrant and invigorating, sometimes it’s deliciously damp with morning dew, cool on his feet and the air tastes sweet. The trees around the edges are rustling, the leaves secretly hiding possible birds deep within. With great abandon he can run round in circles just revelling in being in nature. His tail has a constant wag of happiness; he is just so overjoyed to be there.

What can you learn from your dog?

There’s something about being in nature. Being surrounded by trees and grass and whatever wildlife might be lurking. It’s calming, eternal and truly energising. Put down the remote and get into the woods, up onto the hill or along the cliff path. Breathe in deeply. Feels pretty good doesn’t it?