Don’t hold a grudge

Life is short. Life is even shorter when you’re a dog so some of the things humans fill their time with have to go by the wayside. With a lifetime being a nudge over ten years there’s no time to learn quadratic equations, spend time finding oneself or for working one’s way to the top of a career selling out to The Man.

Don't hold a grudgeCooper lives in a world where he doesn’t always get what he wants. It’s a hellish world, that much is true. Sometimes he wants the wonderfully smelling food his owners prepare, cook and ladle onto shiny crockery. He tries to explain his feelings towards wanting to share this food with them through his intense stares, but they selfishly ignore him. I mean where is the justice? Brown mush, that’s not even properly seasoned, served in a plastic bowl on the floor versus their lovingly-plated gourmet creations that smell amazing? If this just happened the one time it would be bad enough, but this happens Every. Single. Day! It’s bordering on being deeply offensive. Elitist. Cooper isn’t happy with the situation, oh no, but he can’t do much about it. It is what it is. He could hold a grudge against his owners for not including him in his favourite pastime, for taunting him with those wafting steak smells. But he chooses to be a little put out, and then move on.

The brown mush aint so bad.
What can you learn from your dog?

So much of life is unfair. The good people don’t always win and the bad people don’t always get what they deserve… at least in this life. It can be frustrating to be overlooked for a promotion you are simply perfect for. It can make you angry to know that a supposed friend has been saying things behind your back. Holding a grudge against people sadly doesn’t do much to anyone else. They might not even care or notice and the gentle rage just sits in you. Sitting like acid in your stomach. Your dog doesn’t have time for that: he shrugs his metaphorical shoulders and let’s others crack on with whatever they need to do. He will take the high road. He will instantly forget about it. He doesn’t have enough of an attention span to be resentful, and he’s all the better for it.

Get on with it

There’s a certain amount of song and dance involved before announcing an interesting thing and the interesting thing happening. It drives Cooper just bonkers. This is how it typically goes:

1. Owner says the “walk” word – woohoo!
2. Owner then thinks he will go to the toilet for simply ages
3. Owner looks for a hat
4. Owner looks out the window to see what the weather is like and then selects an appropriate coat
5. Owner ponders which shoes to wear
6. Owner finally puts the shoes on
7. They have laces, whatever the point in those are, so this takes an excruciatingly long amount of time
8. Owner changes the hat for another one
Get on with it9. Owner rummages through pockets to check for poo bags and dog treats (this latter part is an acceptable delay, but only just)
10. Owner takes keys from the hook, puts them in one pocket, then puts them into the other while muttering to himself
11. Owner decides that maybe he will just have a quick glass of water. This is out of an extremely inefficient glass rather than a bowl so takes a ridiculously unnecessary amount of time
12. Next is the lead, which is clipped onto his collar. This always takes a few goes and is nothing to do with the fact that he won’t sit still
13. Owner calls up the stairs a string of boring walk-less words to the other owner
14. They go out for a walk

This is how it should go:

1. Owner says the “walk” word
2. They go out for a walk

When Cooper wants to do something, he just gets on and does it. He doesn’t understand what all this procrastination is at all. Decide and do. No wonder humans need to live 90 years, they take nine times as long to do anything.

What can you learn from your dog?

Whether it’s preparing to go out, or sitting at a desk spinning a pen around in your fingers as you ponder beginning that big report, there is an argument to be made for just getting on with it. Procrastination and wasting time before you do the thing you need to do is just pointless filler time. Take a leaf out of your dog’s book: decide and then immediately do. Get on with it.

Own your mistakes and apologise

Every dog owner, I’m sure, has come home to a scene out of a disaster movie. That is if the disaster movie was about destroyed couch cushions, up-ended bins, ransacked cupboards and broken shards of vases.You open the front door. Dog is suspiciously absent. You walk into the front room to find yourself rooted to the spot in slack jawed amazement, transfixed at what’s been done to your property. You look around at the destruction and notice more and more things that your dog has decided are his to play with.Oh, and here he comes.

Cooper walks quietly down the stairs. He stays out of reach in case this turns ugly and he needs to run away to hide under a bed. There’s words… lots of words thrown in his direction. Wild gesticulation too (this is never good) and the words are getting louder and more annoyed. What can one do? He was left alone for a hundred years. Is he supposed to just go into standby mode until someone returns to keep him company? He had decided to express his distaste to the management of his home. Of course, what seemed like a good idea then, suddenly doesn’t seem the best right now. But what’s done is done.

Own your mistakes and apologiseHe slowly moves closer to the hallway, just beyond reach. He knows she likes it when he sits (she’s always banging on about how he should) and he wants to make her happy again, so he gently sits. He waves his tail sadly. This is his sorry tail wag. The words hurled in his direction become a little less loud and the hand waving eases off. She begins to move some of his creative destruction around. Time for the final part of his apology which takes the form of a pleading and intense stare. He channels all of his charisma into looking as pitiful and – honestly – as pretty darn cute as he can. Can she resist this combo? He turns up the tempo of his tail wagging, just a little. The words have stopped and she stares at him. She sighs. Oh, this is a good sign, he knows it’s okay now, and he approaches her to apologise properly. She strokes his head and whispers words and he knows he is forgiven. Phew.

He has learnt his lesson and will definitely never do this again.

 

What can you learn from your dog?

Dogs have apologies down to an art form and are happy enough to own up to a mistake and take what’s coming if it will make us happy again. It can be hard for us humans to own up to messing something up and apologising. Yes, we did leave the kitchen in an absolute tip. No, we didn’t get that essay in on time. Your dog would own his mistake. Apologise. Don’t make excuses: this was on you. Do you know, you might just get a bunch of respect for it, and if you’re lucky have your hair ruffled in forgiveness.

Learn from your nemesis

As well as having a best friend, Cooper has a nemesis. Here’s how it went down.

There he was, minding his own business on his usual walk, rounding the corner to the front of the local shop. That’s when Cooper saw a dog tied to the railings outside, waiting for his owner. Obviously, being the friendly fella that he is, Cooper bounded over to say hello and sniff some butt. This dog, though, was a big dog. Maybe Cooper didn’t twig because this dog was sitting down hiding his true height, or maybe he just wanted to say hello so badly and share butt sniffing he forgot his own cautious approach rules. The other dog didn’t like being approached by an over-exuberant dog and took it pretty badly having his personal space infringed. He nipped our hero on his side. A surprised shriek and Cooper was running back to hide behind his owner’s (metaphorical) skirts.

Cooper had meant so well. He was being friendly and was properly wagging away to show his good nature. This was a completely unfair and unprovoked assault! Cooper had found his nemesis.

Learn from your nemesisHaving a best friend means finding someone who builds you up, has the same sense of fun and makes you happy in yourself.. Finding your nemesis reminds you that not everyone is worthy of your time: they hurt you, don’t have the same values and are unpleasant to be around. It’s a lesson to be learnt, for sure, and Cooper has sworn to follow the official cautious approaching-a-strange-dog process to the letter from now on.

Now, each time Cooper turns that corner round by the shop, he rushes to the spot where he was outrageously attacked and where a little piece of his innocence was taken. He wants to meet that dog again. Very badly. He has a lot to say.

What can you learn from your dog?

Sherlock Holmes had Moriarty, Harry Potter had Voldemort and like it or not, these relationship shaped them. It would be pretty hard to get through life getting on with absolutely everyone and there will always be those who take issue with our fundamental selves. What can you do about that? Sometimes it’s someone we are related to who seems to always rain on our parade, or maybe it’s a colleague who continually undermines our efforts.

Whoever it is, rise to the challenge. Don’t change yourself: become an even better version of yourself.

Love your best friend

Man is a dog’s best friend. Now, who came up with that? Cooper thinks that his owners no doubt want him as their best friend – he’s pretty awesome – but they don’t always totally get him.

Cooper thinks that his best friend is Joey. Joey is a local cockerpoo who every now and again ends up on the same schedule as him with the dog walker.

Joey is amazing.

Joey is insane.

Love your best friendFrom the split second they first met they knew this was something different. Joey gets him. Running around and chasing is so important and it’s non stop with Joey. Oh and wrestling, wow. They tumble over and over through the freshly mown grass. Joey’s cream curly coat getting stained with spring green. Cooper doesn’t mind a play of course, but he is a hound and his sniffing is an important part of the walk. But with Joey around there’s no opportunity to investigate bushes. The energy of this crazy dog is contagious and Cooper is energised into a long barking tirade as he merrily sprints the length of the field to attempt to catch up.

After a walk where Cooper has seen Joey he is more tired than usual. It was nice to put his usual sniffing business on hold and just roll around having fun instead. Falling into a happy slumber, he dreams about the bouncy adventures they have together.

There is nothing more satisfying and perfect than having a catch up with a best friend. It can be days, weeks or months, but when they’re united again it feels like it’s been no time at all.

He hopes he will see him again soon.

What can you learn from your dog?

Do you have someone who you can hang out with and it’s just easy to be with them? You know when you’ve found them because being with them is effortless. You don’t have to be something you’re not or to have hoovered the lounge, be looking your best or pretend to be on top of life. They become a part of you and mustn’t be taken for granted. They like you for you. And you know what, you like them for them too.

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.

Oxytocins are crucial

Cooper likes to sleep in the Firefox position. Have you seen the logo for the Firefox internet browser? It has a fox lying in a tight circle, and that’s how this little beagle likes to curl up to sleep. He’s in such a compact round shape he could be mistaken for a colourful, bumpy cushion… but that definitely doesn’t want to be sat on.

Oxytocins are crucialIt’s good to sleep like this as it maximises warmth as well as comforting Cooper that all of his body parts are still intact since he has close contact with them. This saves him having to constantly check whether his ears or tail are still connected to his body. Very helpful.

But being in the Firefox position is lonely. He is a pack animal and really he would prefer to be in a tower of curled up beagles or even a disorganised pile of assorted furry bodies and legs. Thank goodness his owners definitely want to lie in a heap with him too. He’s pretty sure they do.

It’s a lazy Sunday morning and his owners are lying in bed. This is better than in the week when they grumpily pull themselves around the house, cleaning themselves, dressing and eating boring dry food in bowls with that tasteless white water. Sunday morning is about toast crumbs and big pieces of large folded sheets of black and white squiggle-printed paper scattered across the eiderdown. As soon as Cooper leaps onto the bed everyone seems to re-arrange themselves. Bits of the paper get folded up hastily and toast (sadly) moved out of reach. But he is not here for toast (though he might try and swipe a piece later when they’re a bit more relaxed and unawares). No, he is here for oxytocins. He needs to feel bodily warmth and comfort.

His owners seem to be indicating a spot at the end of the bed. They are patting the duvet, saying his name and some other nonsense words that are not part of his extensive food lexicon. He looks at the spot they are indicating. Are they insane? The corner of the bed? The most arctic region of the bedding? They must be confused. He wags his tail at them. They do try but they don’t often understand what’s going on.

Cooper knows where he needs to be. At the head of the bed, in the middle of both of them (the warmest spot). He pads up the middle between them, tail swaying and tongue hanging out happily. He stomps over the rest of the paper, which they seem to take issue with, and he ignores their flailing arms. They sure are saying that pointless “no” word a lot. They can’t be directing that at him, so he pushes on through and slumps suddenly as he gets to the pillow end. Comfy! His centre of gravity is pretty low now, so whilst they think pushing him will do something, mostly he is a bit bemused. He raises an eyebrow and looks at his male owner sideways. Then with a small sigh he puts his head down on the pillow and settles his deadweight fully into the bed. So cosy. Such lovely warm bodies. He makes one last adjustment to his position, stretching out to maximise bodily contact and closes his eyes. Ahhhhhh.

What can you learn from your dog?

Oxytocin – the hug hormone – is something your dog knows about instinctively. If he curls up with you, he feels relaxed and happy. It raises his spirits and makes him feel loved. Do you like to hug people? Enjoy the benefit of feeling someone else’s body warmth and feel comforted. But maybe start with people you know, and not with strangers on the train.

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