I didn’t grow up with a family dog (though I begged my parents every day for one), my cousins who I was very close to had dogs which is where I got my fix. When I was 20 I made my childhood dream a reality, much to my Dad’s disappointment. Little did I know that little fluffy butt would change my life forever with four paws and a never-ending appetite would change. From small life lessons to how to prioritize this is what my dog, Gatsby for those of you who are new around here, taught me.
Meaningful Life Lessons I Learned From my Dog
Don’t be too easy to trust
Throughout my life, I’ve always been easy to trust, to give people the benefit of the doubt, believe that most people are good with good intentions, etc which has led to people taking advantage of that (ya live and ya learn, right?) And don’t get me wrong, he’s a Golden Retriever so he trusts pretty easily, like Mom, like a dog.
Something that Gatsby does, which hasn’t led him wrong is to be a little hesitant with (lack of a better word) sketchy people. Whether that be people on the street asking for money, random people walking by, or people that I’ve brought into my life. He believes you should garner the people’s trust before jumping in.
As someone in my late twenties, I value getting to know people before spending all my time and energy on them. The small group of good friends at the park is a lot better than playing with everyone.
Forgiveness is necessary
Sometimes it’s hard to let things go, to not be so stubborn, and to close your eyes and open them to a whole new moment. Gatsby has this down to a tee.
If Gatsby gets in trouble for pulling on his leash, for not listening, or for doing something he’s not supposed to do. He immediately flips over, belly up, and won’t give eye contact (letting me know how deeply sorry he is) until I forgive him. Then once he gets his belly rubs and some lovin’, he’s back to his normal business.
It’s so much easier to forgive him and get on with our day than to question why he was so bad or didn’t listen when he 100% knows better. Let’s pick our battles and let things slide.
Being outdoors is key
If Gatsby is cooped up inside all day, by the afternoon he goes a little nuts. Completely understandable. And me, being the busy body that I am, get too into cleaning, or work, or whatever I’m doing at the time that I’ll forget to take a break, to get some fresh air, but Gatsby is right there to remind me.
He’s continually taught me that it’s so important to go outside to get fresh air and some vitamin D to give you that natural mood boost that you’ll never get from staying inside all day. Thanks to my pup, we’re taking afternoon walks through the neighborhood, finding new trails, or strolling along the beach daily.
Don’t forget to play
My days are pretty structured. I thrive on being productive at all times. I don’t know how to relax. This is me.
Gatsby on the other hand always tries new things and is looking for something exciting. From sticking his head in every bush to try and find a lizard, to going shopping in his toy box to find his new favorite toy that he hasn’t touched in 6 months, tail wagging the WHOLE time. His life is full of new and exciting moments. As cheesy as it sounds, he’s reminded me to have a little fun. And take a snooze after. Whether we’re wrestling, playing tug-o-war, or playing chase no one should be above having a little fun while playing.
There’s nothing more important than connection
Gatsby is the neediest dog I have ever met in my life, or that I thought was even possible. He loves to cuddle, likes to be exactly where I am at all times and has more FOMO than any human. Is there anything better in a dog? Even if I’m in a bad mood or had a bad day, he’s still there showing me attention, wanting to lay his head on my legs on the couch, and reminding me that he’s there for me.
Even in our society that is go go go, it’s important to remember the importance of touch and interaction. It’s the perfect reminder that spending time with friends (hug included), or a cuddle sesh with your significant other could be all you need from unwinding from a stressful day. Though dogs are different, they still need love and connection with someone.
Everything will always be OK
Obviously, dogs don’t deal with our daily stress – like paying rent, going to a full-time job, not getting enough sleep, or whatever commitment life throws at us. But they do deal with stress like their human leaving them for the day, or not getting another treat when they still have their paw up to shake, or their best friend not being at the park when they go. They’re always there to remind us that everything will turn out okay – even when you’re in a really stressful or busy time.
Gatsby doesn’t care if the house is messy or he eats the same thing for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He constantly reminds me that life doesn’t have to be perfect 24/7 for you to be happy.
Persistence pays off
Gatsby sits and stares at bushes to wait for lizards to move or sits and stares up at trees for when the squirrels may come out. He will chase a ball until he finds it, and if he really wants to play he will win every staring contest, whining, with a toy in his mouth until you play with him. Or at the very least give him some pets.
While you can’t have a staring contest with people in the real world, his persistence is undeniable. It’s the perfect reminder to keep working for what you want, to hustle, and to never give up.
It’s not always just about you
I got Gatsby when I was 20, no kids, just me and my life. I was able to be selfish (in a very non-bratty way). But more so in the sense that I didn’t have anyone to worry about or take care of, other than myself.
With Gatsby’s life, health, and well-being in my control, it’s a slap in the face that there’s more than just yourself in this world.
Give the people you love attention
Have you ever been in a new relationship where you always kiss them before you leave and when you first see them? You text them randomly throughout the day when you’re thinking of them. Fast forward to years later, you may not act the same. This doesn’t mean you don’t love them anymore, you are just forgetting to give them the attention they deserve and need. Which is completely awful (and in my mind, unacceptable).
Gatsby, on the flip side, is ecstatic when anyone walks through the door, even if you dropped something off at the neighbors. He will drop everything, even a really important lizard hunt to run to that person. He will give that person every ounce of his attention, probably for longer than they’d like, but the attention is what is important and key.
In a time, where we’re all glued to our phones, not unplugging from work, trying to manage a side hustle after work. I love how he’s always reminding me how much I love the attention and how people I love need it just as much.
I’ve never understood the concept of unconditional love until I got Gatsby. I obviously don’t have kids yet so I wouldn’t know it from that, but I feel like this is exactly what it would be like. And yes, I know this makes me sound like a crazy dog mom which I have absolutely no shame for.
Feeling the unconditional love not only from me to him but from him to me is unlike something I’ve ever felt. It’s knowing that I can lose my temper with him, and he will always forgive me and want my love. If he’s hurt (like when he had his knee surgery) it literally broke my heart to see him like that. When I am physically upset, he’s jumping on me to kiss me to try and make me feel better.
Love just feels good, doesn’t it?
What has owning a dog taught you? About life? About yourself?
~ XOXO, the crazy dog Mom, Amanda // Blonde out of Water