Dip a toe into independence

Cooper’s life, until this point, has been largely steered by his owners. Obviously, he made the decision to chose to live with them in the first place, there’s no disputing that, but he’s been happy enough passively going along with (far too infrequent) mealtimes on their schedule, walks when they want and if he wanted to survey his domain around the garden outside, he would have to wait till they let him out. It was mildly annoying sometimes, but Cooper is a patient dog and generally happy with his lot.
 
A tall cheery man was recently invited into the house, smelling of sawdust and sweat. Delicious. Cooper was shooed away (as always, pretty rude), and when he returned later to investigate what had gone on, there was Something Different about the back door: there was a small Cooper size door within it. He cocked his head and eyed it up a bit suspiciously. Huh. Strange. He poked it with his nose and it moved, so he stepped back in alarm watching the opaque perspex clatter back and forth. A gorgeous smell of the outdoor world curled in through the gaps and headed for his nostrils and he breathed in the complex smell of the garden, fascinated how it had reached inside his home. Summoning up his courage and sense of adventure, he poked his head through the flap and it was true – there was the outside and he could move into it freely. He bounded out, ran around gleefully, and then back into the house. And then back out. And then back in. It looked like he could move between his home and his outside domain whenever he decided!
 
Dip a toe into independenceFor Cooper there will always be the time Before the Door (BD) and After the Door (AD). Before, he was happy enough feeling passive in his place in the world, but after, he realised he was now in charge of his movements in the day. He could make his own choice on whether it was the right time to go for a sniff. In fact, he could decide to investigate the garden smells all day long or not at all (which would be ludicrous, but it had become his choice). He could even traipse around in the middle of the night, under his own steam, with no one to tell him what to do. This freedom of having his own destiny was exciting and slightly scary. Nothing was as pinned down and certain anymore because he could now rely on himself to make this decision. But for Cooper, he felt that he had grown in this moment, swelling out his furry chest, and become a more self-assured and self-possessed animal. He liked it.
 
Now… how could he control meal times?
 
What can you learn from your dog?
 
We start off in life having little control over what happens and when: our parents steer us around and that’s the end of that. Then school and employment… we might still feel we are passively moving through our lives and are controlled by someone else. It feels safe but it can also feel like we are trapped. Our dogs happily put up with being told what to do, and so can we, in fact it can be nice not to have to think about it, but when we actively make our own choices, we can make changes, our own mistakes and explore different directions entirely. That’s when it’s our own life. All ours.

CHARM GETS YOU A LONG WAY

Cooper gets bored. He can’t just be entertaining himself the whole time, that is the whole point of owners. Whether it’s walks or pulling on a rope toy, they surely revel in the joy he brings into their previously dog-less lives.

Sometimes they incredibly rudely go out without him. He sadly imagines them walking over wonderful hills and through forests on their own. What else could they be doing? Now he’s a bit put out and bored. This combo can lead to DESTRUCTION MANIA.

Destruction mania doesn’t start as a bad bad thing. Just having a look around and seeing something on a table that could probably do better being on the floor. A cushion that he wanted to see inside of. And then checking if other cushions also have the same interior fluff. Then there are piles of interesting things in reach that he wonders what they might feel like being chewed a bit.

Uh oh, he pauses mid blanket tear, and his ears prick up to hear the car coming onto the drive. Uh oh. And once again it’s a familiar tirade of shouting and pointing, almost as if this is a well-trod road they should all be used to. But there was no malice in his actions and he is sorry. What Cooper has in buckets is charm. He has charisma glowing throughout his little torso and his big brown eyes mean he conveys this very well.

Charm gets Cooper out of all sorts of debacles. He doesn’t understand why they didn’t want him to make lots of lovely holes to enhance their lawn. Why were they cross when he took that pizza off the kitchen counter when it had clearly been abandoned?

You can’t be angry with a charmer.

*What can you learn from your dog?*

A cheeky disposition can get you out of all sorts of trouble. Who do you know who seems to get away with doing something they shouldn’t have done, but they smile, apologise and with a twinkle in their eye you can’t help but forgive them. People love to be charmed. Try it out yourself.

It’s about being happy, easy going and accepting of yourself and other people. It’s about shrugging your shoulders at your mistakes, being okay that you’re flawed. Being okay with everyone else being flawed. Charm makes people smile, and who wouldn’t want to make the people around you smile?

OVERCOME DECISION PARALYSIS

Dave the Irish Wolfhound has a choice this morning. A box was hurriedly put away and some of the contents had spilled onto the kitchen floor. He’s a curious fellow so he padded over, his lithe frame swaying side to side, and he was delighted to see that this particular box was the one containing his snacks. Four lovely bonio have made their way into his life. As it happens, he feels peckish and is quite keen on a biscuit. He is not greedy though, one will do. But which one?

Biscuit 1 – this one is okay, nothing special but nothing against it
Biscuit 2 – well, this one has a chunk missing from the corner, that’s less available deliciousness, but the scratchy edge might be satisfying against his gums
Biscuit 3 – the colour is slightly lighter but he thinks this one might be a bit bigger than the others
Biscuit 4 – there’s a big crack along the centre of this one which might make it easier to eat in two bites

His eyes scan each one in turn, again and again, thinking about the pros and cons. He considers which might be the best one. Why is it so hard to choose? A good few minutes in now, he feels he is just nearing in on making his final decision when his ever-smiling owner comes back to the kitchen. She exclaims at the debris on her kitchen floor and hastily picks up the biscuits with a mutter. She turns to look at him, cocks her head to one side, smiles and throws him one, putting the other three back in the box.

He chomps it down.

It was not the one he would have chosen.

*What can you learn from your dog?*

Ahhh, the paralysis of indecision. We are often lucky enough to have several options open to us and we can get stuck weighing up each one, sometimes to the point of inertia. We think that if we don’t make a choice then it can’t be the wrong one! But we just have to move forwards, even if it’s the wrong choice. No action gets us nowhere. It may seem easier if someone else ends up choosing for us, but was their decision really what we wanted?

Big breath. Decide. And do.

Protect Your Own

Tye the Husky tentatively unwraps his gift from his owners. Out tumbles a brown fuzzy bear, with a cute embroidered nose, from the shiny wrapping. And he’s just perfect.

Tye is a gentle soul: he knows he maybe looks a bit scary, but he’s really not. He likes to spend his time on his own, contemplating, but he is also passionately protective about his pack. And today his pack has grown by one. His pack is mostly a higgledy-piggledy mix of humans, and boy do these people need protecting. They are an interesting sort. His male owner is pretty hairy, not as hairy as Tye of course, but as humans go, certainly up there. They share their love for deep contemplation, unlike his other owner and Weimaraner. Those two scamper around the house in a blur. Harder to protect when they keep moving, but he does his best. Extra pack members turn up sometimes, he then has to expand his circle to protect these people too. If they could all just sit still in one place it would be infinitely easier.

Every dog has a life purpose, and Tye’s is to protect. It’s about ensuring these entities you love, whoever they are – dogs, people, furry toys – feel safe. Tye gently picks up the teddy by the ear in his mouth and moves him to a refuge under an upstairs bed. He can join a couple of other fellow fluffy types in the pack. Tye lies down next to them all, keeping a watchful eye out in case of interlopers.

What can you learn from your dog?

Just as a pack dog is concerned about the welfare of his fellow dogs, love and protect your own family. Your family doesn’t have to be through blood, it’s the people, or animals, who you love and love you. Make them feel safe.

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.

When 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.

Protest what’s important to you

Cooper has a lot of things to be vocal about. “Where is his dinner?”, “Isn’t it about time for a walk?” and “How dare that cat come into my garden?”. But what about the bigger issues? Things that go way beyond the world of a small dog living a simple life in a house? What does he feel an actual Protest about?

Cooper doesn’t know about his animal kingdom buddies stuck in laboratories, enduring animal testing. He just wouldn’t be able to fathom how that sort of situation could come about. He doesn’t love being stuck in a house or restricted by a lead but he really wouldn’t like the idea of being caged or tethered in a medical facility. He would be absolutely affronted.

Sometimes one of his owners wears makeup and Cooper finds the idea quite bewildering. Animals have no interest in painting their faces strange colours. He can’t imagine why these products would be tested on his fellow furry friends to check if they were safe, it really seems a bit unfair. Something inside him decides that he needs to make a point and the best way is to make a proper visual Protest.

Protest animal testingAh, his foolish owner who leaves her possessions just close enough to the edge of high up places. Oh, she thinks she is being clever, stacking them a bit further back, but he has such reach. And with a long tongue added into the mix, he has an extra few inches to be able to get to things. He leaps up to see what’s up here. His tongue inches the first item, a long black shape, to the edge. It smells weird, but the container looks quite fun to chew so he grabs it and takes it to the nice beige rug to give it a munch. As he mangles the object, the black viscous contents start to spill from the container and he ponders that the colour definitely adds a little something to the boring floor covering. Right, what’s next? He sees some shiny tubes which seem to come in an infinite variety of shades of red. Surely just one of these would do? But no time to question insane human logic, he chews each one up and adds bright vibrant shades to his artistic masterpiece. Beige powder and pink powder are next. These tickle his nose as he chews the boxes open and make him sneeze, so he tosses them about his portrait to add depth and atmosphere. He gets up to survey his work. Impressive. Big improvement to the carpet and an important Protest message.

Now destruction is not a clean way of protesting but he thinks it gets his point across well. He Does Not Approve. His owner won’t be happy, but you can’t make an omelette without cracking some eggs (and then throw away the omelette and just have sausages instead). She will look at her broken possessions and she will need to make the choice as to how she replaces them.

He hopes she will choose with some thought to his fellow creature-kind.

What can you learn from your dog?

Do you feel strongly about something? Your dog would protest an injustice, so use your own bark to join others and see what actual changes you can make to the world. Whether it’s international women’s rights, issues with the local tip or animal testing – if it touches you in a personal way, you could do something. You know indignant social media rants only go so far: what could you do that was real?

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.

Greet people when they come home

It’s been a relaxing day. The sun has streamed intermittently through various windows (why it moves throughout the day, Cooper will never understand) and these have been good spots to curl up in. The sun is now fading and this means he must keep a vigilant ear out for any tell-tale sounds that someone is returning home.

Who arrives home first varies. The sounds are distinctive and unique for the coming home routine. First there’s the noise of tyres slowly turning onto the driveway outside of the front window. A low humming, vibrating noise gets louder as it comes nearer and then the crackle of gravel. This already gives away who it is, the sounds are different for each of them.

Next there’s an achingly long moment with the idly, throbbing, resonating noise. And then it stops. The silence is the time to leap up. Cooper knows it is such a short distance between driveway and front door, but it seems to take them a maddeningly long time to walk it. How hard is it to get into the house from a few feet away?! He would have made it in a split second. He expresses his distaste at all this waiting by leaping on the sofa, and off, and rushing in a half circle before bounding across the room. He can’t contain his frenetic energy!

The next sound is the best sound: key in door. The metal clanks into the keyhole, pauses, and then hesitantly turns. If he hadn’t already worked out who it was going to be from the other sounds, this identifying noise would confirm definitively the identity of the returning owner. With a sharp twist of the handle – there he is!

Greet peopleOMG OMG OMG! The excitement is so overwhelming Cooper doesn’t know what to do first. Should he greet with a leap? Bark a hello? Bark an admonishment for being left alone so long (but only a gentle one)? Show his owner one of his toys? Rotate in a circle with giddiness? Run off into another room and back just because? There’s so many things to do and only a split second in which to convey all those feelings across! Does he get it?! Cooper is totally and completely happy! He’s home, he’s home, he’s home! YAY! This is the best! “He can feed me dinner! Walk me! Play with me! Stroke my tummy!” It’s going to be so much fun!

His owner puts down his bag to give him some attention. Ooooo; bag. As usual, Cooper suspects any bag is full to the brim with treats, sausages and huge steaks, so he takes a pause in the greeting ceremony to investigate the contents of the bag. For some reason his owner is swishing him away. Maybe the bag isn’t full of treats, sausages and huge steaks for him? Bit odd, but okay. Back to greeting! Yay! Jumpity jump! Awooowwoooowoooowooowooo!

What can you learn from your dog?

We soon get used to each other in relationships. That frisson of excitement when we see one another begins to dampen over time. But it is truly nice to feel greeted and appreciated. Who doesn’t love a “Hi, honey, I’m home!” moment on the threshold? Stop browsing social media on that phone, pause that TV rerun, and come say hello to your returning partner at the doorway with a big smile, hug and a kiss. Yay, they’re home!

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Smell good

Cooper enjoys his morning walks. Overnight there have been all sorts of mysterious wildlife creatures scampering across the fields and pushing their way through bushes, leaving their intriguing scent behind. Being a hound, this is Cooper’s job: investigating all the smells.

With his nose to the ground, he scoots along narrating his findings to no one in particular: “ahh yes, that’s nice… I recognise that one… ooo, what’s this one… backtrack, backtrack, yes, yes, that’s a good one… seems to go over there, and then back round here… OH! This smell is much better here… I will follow it round and about, over here… lovely”. His snuffling sounds like a piglet hunting for truffles and he has lost all real world connection to his owner and whatever else is going on around him. He takes these sniffing expeditions very seriously. But suddenly he stops in his tracks, nose tingling. “WHAT IS THIS?! This is AMAZING. Wowie, this smell is like what Heaven must smell like”. All thought of following a night-time rabbit’s excursion have disappeared from his agenda. This smell consumes him. It is the most incredible thing.

Cooper has found some fox poo.

Smell goodNow what should you do if you find fox poo? Being such an wondrous and delightful smell, wouldn’t it be excellent to have it all over one’s body? Then the smell can be carried around, wafting its gorgeous scent to everyone. It would improve their day and maybe make them a little jealous of his luck in finding it. This is an excellent idea. Cooper backs up and then takes a small running leap, flips at the last moment and smears his back, zig-zagging on the ground. The back is the best place, there’s a good amount of surface area and you can really get a big trail down the spine. Out of the corner of his eye, as he continues to wiggle across the ground, smearing more all over, he can see his owner sprinting towards him yelling his name, over and over. What’s her problem? There’s more than enough for them both.

What can you learn from your dog?

Cover yourself in fox poo. Wait, no…

The right smell is an amazingly evocative sense both enticing good memories and uplifting your mood. Spray your favourite perfume and cologne liberally to enjoy throughout your day. If you don’t want to douse yourself in your favourite scent, keep fresh and clean-smelling. It feels marvellous to smell good.

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