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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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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Respect your bed

Time for a mid-mid-afternoon nap. There are many places throughout the house that suit nappage, but Cooper feels in a blanket-ey kind of mood today so he makes his way into the lounge. Jumping onto the sofa he sees that his blanket is not in the right position AT ALL. Who left it like this?! Incredible.

With soft little whines, he coaxes the blanket to be flatter: over there a bit, no, more like this; he manoeuvres it into place. He surveys his work. Yes, that’s better. But how to get comfortable within its blanket-ey embrace? Making urgent little noises now (after all, nap time is now overdue and this process is eating into valuable chasing dreams time), he gets into the centre of the blanket and moves clockwise, stamping down any imperfections as he goes. Around once: creases begin to straighten. Around twice: the puffiness is squashed out. And around once more to catch any possible mid sleep irritations that aren’t visible to the naked eye. Pretty tired from his pre-sleep bed readiness exercise, he realises he’s been in a circle three times in one direction. He makes a quick, tight turn anticlockwise for luck. And… slump. Sleep may now happen. 30 seconds later and impressive snores are coming from within the perfectly curated blanket.

Respect your bedWhat can you learn from your dog?

Can there be a more wonderful feeling than slipping into a newly made bed? Crisp sheets, cool to the touch. A plump pillow. The smell of the fabric softener. Whatever else has happened that day, you have reclaimed your night because you are just going to sleep so, so well. Snore like a content blissful beagle.

 


 

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Save for a rainy day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till tomorrow.

What can you learn from your dog?

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

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Wag with your whole body

Cooper is having a little post-breakfast rest. All that gobbling up of food really takes it out of him and he welcomes a lie down on his spot in the corner of the sofa. He keeps one eye half-open towards the front door, and one ear half-cocked, just in case anything is happening in and around his domain.

Aha, there’s his owner. What’s she doing? Sitting on the bottom step of the stairs slipping on her wellington boots? She has that ugly anorak on… and in her hand is a roll of sparkly purple bags that for some reason she feels the need to fill with his poo (he’ll never understand human reasoning). But what she’s doing can only mean one thing… it’s walk time!

Wag with your whole bodyOMG, OMG, OMG! Cooper leaps up and across the room towards her in two bounds. He spins in a circle with excitement, has a joyful little bark and then stares, eyes bright, at his owner. His tail is waving merrily. The wag is on its highest setting with the tail tip a white blur in the air as it fans the surrounding area. He is so ecstatic to be going for this walk that the delight starts with his tail; the happiness continues through his torso, rocking it back and forth, before wriggling its way up to his head, which wobbles a little from side to side.

His entire body is wagging. This is a very happy dog.

What can you learn from your dog?

What makes you as happy as just the mere anticipation of a walk makes for a dog? Your boss has just offered you that promotion you have been gunning for. You are so totally stoked. It has been months of hard work and you totally deserved it. You demurely say thank you… but they pause and seem to be waiting for something more than that. Can you drop the cool act and just let people know? It’s okay to show you’re happy – seriously, seriously happy. You may find yourself connecting more with people. WOOHOO PROMOTION! Shake that body!

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