Everything Good I Learned from My Dogs

A couple hundred years or so ago (in dog years), I was a little girl growing up in a house in the woods when we finally talked my dad into letting us get a dog.  He came home with a small furry German Shepherd mix that had the sweetest face and warmest brown eyes and we were instantly smitten.  Gretel became our shadow and while she frequently made my dad twitch when she got into the all the neighbors trash or hid out under the deck in the cool of the stairs in the freshly mulched flower beds or decided to drag deer skulls into the yard from some quest in the woods, she was my favorite snuggle buddy and I would lie with my head on her big barrel chest on the deck.  She smelled like the woods and sunshine.  I loved to rub her paws and whisper in her ear what a good girl she was.  My love affair with dogs was forged with her when I learned the simple bliss and safety of lying with your dog in the sunshine.

I have had a couple of dogs since then, forcing me to learn all sorts of things about myself and them.  Recently we decided to foster a couple of Weimaraner sisters that needed a safe place to land until they find a forever home after some crummy circumstances happened.  And it's all brand new again; the craziness, the sleepless nights, the emotional bonding, the big pack energy, the learning how to be a good dog mom.  As I was walking the hounds earlier in the week and was plumbing my emotions to see what was left while being completely exhausted, I realized that I am drawn to the big pack because, honestly, I am my better self when with the dogs. I am making two trips to the park and one additional walk in the neighborhood everyday since the girls came to stay with us for a grand total of about 6 miles of human walking and 354 miles of dog running.  I am forced to get myself in check emotionally with three Weims that are literally bouncing off the walls at the most inopportune times.  I have to be centered and calm to wrangle crazy dogs that are 95 pounds, crying and shaking with excitement.  I was then kind of overwhelmed and chuckled recounting all the big life lessons I have learned from my dogs.  Not to over simplify, but...well...they force me to simplify.  What is true for the pack has proven true for me as well.  I am it's leader, after all.

~Exercise is essential to good mental health~ 

An anxious mind and body is potentially destructive (physically, emotionally, spiritually).  Regular movement helps put our mind and body at ease.  Exercised bodies are more relaxed bodies and that makes everything else just go better: training or work time, playtime, mealtime.  

~Find your place in the pack~

Boundary negotiations are ongoing.  It is important to know who is stronger, who is better at peacemaking, who is better at bringing levity and laughter to the group, etc.  We all have our place and our role is equally as valuable as everyone else's.   It is important to tell each other when our personal boundaries are crossed.  Sometimes it is uncomfortable when it happens and there are hurt feelings, but we are usually better friends after.

~Somebody has to be in charge~

If no one is in charge, there is chaos.  A good leader makes sure everyone is moving in the same direction.  They also help us feel safe when we are unsure about what is happening.  The very best leaders guide us most effectively when they are calm, kind, and consistent.

~Being quiet and at rest together is as important as playing together~

Sometimes just napping or reading while we are snuggled and quiet lets us have perspective.  Being together, hearing each other breathe, knowing all of us are near is some powerful medicine.  Comfort and peace often comes in the stroking of a soft ear or the chuff of breath when you're chasing bunnies in your dreams.

~New situations and challenges bring us more into our true selves~

Being alone is a good thing, but often it doesn't challenge us.  New situations and interactions force us to step up in ways that we never would if we were by ourselves.  Discovering skills like leadership or tolerance or learning how to follow directions help build our self confidence and contribute significantly to the overall pack dynamic.

There will, doubtless, be many, many more lessons to come from them.  These hounds have helped me when nothing else could right now.  I have been floundering in some ways that were making me highly uncomfortable.  They have given me a focus and perspective that I desperately needed.  I hope I am  able to give something back to them right now.  

September arrived without much fanfare, which, I suspect, is how September likes to enter; unassuming and easy.  It's time to start thinking about the yard turn around and what the fall planters will look like on the porch.  Pumpkin season is peeking at us.  The season is about to begin. 

The coming weeks bring more walks with the hounds, fall festivals, and some exciting new facets of the event business that I look forward to sharing when the time comes.  In the meantime, take a walk with your hounds.  Or borrow some.  

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