Chaikhana: Life lessons from a dog’s lens
Jul 25 2014
There’s a lot we can learn from our furry best friend to lead a fulfilling life
Barking a lot gets you nowhere
My dog Lanie is four years old, with fur as black as night and as white as snow. She was trained as a puppy and we were taught a whole bunch of commands along with firm instructions on being strict. We followed a few, then let our instincts take over.
What Lanie figured out early on was that it is not necessary to talk a lot or make a lot of noise. She barks once when she wants to go out, and she will bark once when she wants to come back inside. She has us trained. So I am trying to see how I can imitate that by becoming more articulate. It hasn’t worked so far but repetition, loud voice and anger don’t work as effectively as being able to state something and stick by it.
Lanie is a beautiful dog. But what draws people to her is not her looks, but her friendly nature. She will go up to strangers and greet them. She sits on the driveway and sunbathes. Yes it is a dog’s life; full of hardship with all that sunbathing, eating, sleeping and snoring.
But Lanie does something more. She waits for folks to walk past and then goes up to them and greets them. She makes the first move and there have been times when the gesture has been rejected. Lanie also knows to stay away from those people as well. But she doesn’t let rejection rule her basic love of people. She now has regular friends (humans and furry ones) who will come by with treats for her. Last Christmas, Lanie got little treat bags from our neighbours.
It is interesting how many of us are too shy or too intimidated to make the first move. Our fear of rejection almost always prevents us from expressing what is on our mind. Being stingy with compliments is one form, while being reticent to say thanks is another. In both cases, it doesn’t cost anything but the returns are multifold. I am always surprised how we also judge others by their appearance alone and come to definitive conclusions.
Saying sorry like you mean it
Oh that dog knows how to apologise and when she does it, she makes sure you know how sorry she is. Of course, that doesn’t mean she is not going to chew your favourite shoe again. Dogs can’t talk back which is probably why we love them even more. When Lanie is contrite, she makes us feel like making amends immediately and then feeling guilty that we reprimanded her in the first place.
Sadly, we don’t like that word too much. We associate an apology with the loss of power. Many times we don’t accept the error. Many times we accept it but will not admit it. Many times we say it half-heartedly just as protocol so we can move on and out of the deep ditch. Few are the times when we apologise like we mean it, take full accountability, and hopefully, try to make sure we don’t make the same mistake again.
Happiness is chasing a squirrel
Sometimes when I work from home, I look out of my window and see Lanie playing with the gorgeous Labrador next door. They run around, play, fight, argue over a toy and sometimes just sit down exhausted, content to just be in each other’s company. This applies to all animals. I wouldn’t state the overstated “live in the present” mantra, but will say that they enjoy being in their skin.
Happiness is where you find it. If you actively seek it in your everyday life, even when there are dark clouds hovering above, it is the torch you carry inside you that tells you that our moments flee all too fast.
There is only
one of you
Lanie doesn’t worry that she is not a Chihuahua or a mountain lion. She leaves the neurosis to the human kind. She doesn’t compare herself with other dogs or worry that they live in bigger houses or have designer collars. Lanie does what she does best. She wakes up, goes out, greets people, puts a smile on our face, eats her food, and sleeps wherever she wants. She knows how to show you how much she loves you. She might have nightmares and she snores like an old man, but she is not worried about wrinkles or diets.
Being very clear
Dogs know what they want and go after it with a single-minded focus. Caroline Knapp says, “The dog’s agenda is simple, fathomable, overt: I want. “I want to go out, come in, eat something, lie here, play with that, kiss you. There are no ulterior motives with a dog, no mind games, no second-guessing, no complicated negotiations or bargains, and no guilt trips or grudges if a request is denied.”
(Shaku Selvakumar is a US-based marketing and digital communications expert; and founder of Coeuredge, a digital experience company)