Help your friends feel comfortable

Cooper just adores to meet new dogs on his walks. He bounds over to canine strangers and wants to say hello, engage them and hopefully play. He knows he is a bit bolshy with his intentions and – over time – he has learnt that not everyone appreciates his forceful approach.

Jasper isn’t like feisty Cooper. He likes the quiet. He likes peace. Noise makes him agitated and he gets jumpy if something happens unexpectedly. He sees other dogs proudly wearing their colourful collars and wonders why, when he has to wear his, he finds it so itchy and uncomfortable.

Help your friends feel comfortableSometimes all his senses become overloaded and he can’t deal very well with how he is feeling. He barks or lashes out because he’s confused and scared. Luckily his owner understands how he feels and gently helps him with soothing words, removing noises and turning off bright lights. He also enjoys and feels calmed by getting stroked nice and firmly because being lightly stroked feels tickly and unpleasant.

This is who Jasper is, so he seeks out a calmer world and avoids things that make him feel stressed.

But just because Cooper and Jasper have different preferences with interaction, doesn’t mean they can’t be friends. Cooper understands he needs to be less barky and full on, so as not to make Jasper uncomfortable. They spend time together not playing the active and loud Chase Me game, but in more sedate pursuits. They like to amble through the sides of the large field hunting out woodland smells and debris. Nothing wrong with that.

In fact, Cooper thinks it’s quite nice to have a change of pace.

What can you learn from your dog?

We are all different and it’s great to have a variety of friends. If you’re the sort who loves loud, busy gigs with loads of buddies, keep a beady eye out for those who turned down the invite. Would they appreciate a one-on-one lunch time meet up instead? We have more than one gear, so move up or down to meet your friends’ level and enrich your life with those varied experiences.

Endorphins make you glow

Cooper is snuggled up in his bed. Inside its depths, as well as a half chewed cushion spilling its white fluffy contents, there’s a beige tatty blanket covered in lots of his hair. It’s a pretty classy affair. It’s cold in the house and he knows he has to curl in the tightest circle simply to keep alive. It was dark when he was stirred for breakfast and he doesn’t understand why he’s suddenly being fed in the middle of the night. But, well, it’s food, so it’s sort of okay. He starts to nod off, his belly nicely full, when he hears his name being called.

Endorphins make you glowSeriously? They want to go for a walk now? He pops his black, shiny nose into the arctic conditions of his home and thinks about how much colder it would be outside. He loves a walk, of course, but does it have to be when he’s barely awake and cold? His name is called again and he considers his dilemma. He is very cosy where he is but these humans are irritatingly persistent once they get started with one of their absurd ideas. He’d love to just stay where he is, it took simply ages to get into this perfect resting position. But… those outdoor smells… and it is his calling to investigate them… he really should check on them. If he doesn’t, then who will? They would go un-smelled. And his tubby body, already at the very peak of physical perfection, could do with a few dashes across the field to keep those leg muscles in tip top condition. He slightly grimaces thinking of how cold the grass would be on his delicate paws, but he is not one to shy away from a bit of discomfort. He unravels his body and slowly gets up, ignoring his name being called more and more insistently. He’s coming, wow, seriously chill out.

Back in his bed again, post walk, he is happy to concede he was glad he went out for exercise even though he really didn’t want to. He stretches his limbs out in four directions and yawns widely. He feels a faint hum throughout his body, the after effects of all that dashing about. He quickly drifts off, feeling warm and tingly

What can you learn from you dog?

Sometimes it’s cold out there and sometimes you’re not feeling it, but if you can coax yourself to pull yourself to the gym or out for a run, you’ll tap into those wonderful endorphins. We all know it’s easier to be motivated when it’s a gorgeous day and we wake up rested, but where it counts is those gloomy days when it’s harder. The more yeses you can manage when you want to say no, the more of those wonderful energising endorphins you can collect.

And you can always go back to bed afterwards.

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?

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.

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.

Different is good

Cooper has a guest over for dinner. He loves Sundays as there always seems to be a wonderful meat-based centrepiece and, oh, the many trays that need help being cleaned with his efficient tongue. He feels needed and his belly gets full. Perfect! And there’s definitely enough to go round for a dog buddy, especially when they are on the smaller side with a smaller appetite.

Different is good

Stella is a miniature pinscher. She’s pretty small. Yes, she knows she could fit in a handbag, but that doesn’t mean she wants to sit amongst your discarded tissues and half used lipsticks. No, she doesn’t necessarily want to be constantly told how cute she is (she knows already, of course she is, that’s not up for debate). She may also be young, but that doesn’t mean she appreciates the cutesy baby talk.

Being smaller than other dogs and – in fact – most things (though not spiders, she can boss those around) she’s found that there are certain assumptions about what she’s like. But she doesn’t want to be defined by her size. She does need help getting onto sofas and up flights of stairs sometimes, but she is not helpless.

Cooper is three times as big and, well, she wouldn’t say he was a bit scary, but, three times is three times. He could squish her if he wasn’t looking where he was sitting. Sometimes bigger dogs try to play with her as if she’s the same size as them. They bat her with a paw playfully and she ends up halfway across the room. Thank goodness she has her bark; she needs to use her voice to stand up for herself. She needs to explain – yet again – that people and dogs should be mindful of her stature. She is there! She may take up a smaller footprint, but do not dismiss her! She cannot make herself physically bigger (and she wouldn’t want to, she can get into all sorts of interesting gaps that other dogs can’t) but she can convey herself as larger by projecting her personality, speaking up when there is injustice based on her smallness and giving those around her some well-placed attitude.

She may be small but you will respect her.

What can you learn from your dog?

Some of us are born a little either side of the average. We may be small like Stella, or imposing like Cooper’s neighbour, Millie the great dane. When you don’t fit the physical norm, sometimes people make assumptions or jokes that you have heard many times before. Leverage that difference and tell them to knock it off.

And you know what? Average is average whereas you are wonderfully different.

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.

Respect the paw of ownership

Cooper refers to the people who live in his house as “owners”. This does not mean that they own him. What an absolutely laughable idea! Imagine the concept of owning a dog? How completely unfathomable. But he heard the word a few times when he first arrived into the world and he likes to use it in an ironic way. Ironic because they don’t even realise that he actually owns them.

Respect the paw of ownershipSometimes when Cooper is out having a formal dining experience – under the table in a local pub – other dogs will come over to say hello. This is obviously totally fine and he loves a good dog-based meeting. Occasionally, this dog stranger will then turn their attention to one of his owners. They might sniff them, jump up to get closer or investigate their pockets for Cooper’s treats. Now, this is not okay. They are his people and more importantly those snacks are earmarked for his belly only.

There are certain ways that a dog can mark his territory. From experience, he recalls that his owners use lots of shouty words and wild confusing gesticulation if he pees on things to signal that they are his. He suspects that they wouldn’t welcome being peed onto, even if he were doing it for their own good. Keeping solid eye contact with an interloper, Cooper gently puts his paw onto his owner’s foot. Yes. That’s right. This one is mine. Not yours. Mine.

What can you learn from your dog?

Did that waitress have a bit too much of a lingering look at your dining partner? Oh, hell no. It’s about boundaries. You’re not saying you own your beau, but… it’s good to remind them and everyone else that he is taken. A casual hand draped around the shoulder of someone you care about shows the world that this person is off limits. It’s lightly territorial, sure, but what you can learn from your dog is that it might be better than peeing on them.

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.