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.

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.

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.

Protect your stuff

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

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

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

You snooze you lose.

What can you learn from your dog?

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

Enjoy your exercise

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

Enjoy your exercise

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

These humans, seriously, their goals are odd.

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

 

What can you learn from your dog?

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