We have two dogs. Actually, our kids have two dogs that they left at our house when they went off to college and life away from our home. Roscoe and Dixie are both rescued dogs and have somewhat undeterminable lineages, but they are sweet, and both have the defining characteristic of dogs: they love us unquestioningly.
Most mornings (unless I’m out of town or one of the kids is home), I get up early and go into the dog room. They are rhapsodic to see me because I have thumbs. Thumbs, it turns out, are necessary to open the dog food container and serve breakfast. However, once they are fed and have gone outside to do what dogs do, they often come and sit with me.
Sitting with dogs is a pretty great way to start a day (or end it for that matter).
What I realized sitting with the dogs in the morning is that they often are better humans than people are. At least they are better than I am. At the risk of committing anthropomorphistic errors or offending either dog lovers or dog not so lovers, I would like to point out some things I am reminded of by our dogs.
Dogs are always present in the moment. Dogs don’t multitask. Of course, people don’t multitask either. People just switch back and forth between multiple things, alternating between ignoring and paying attention to each thing. Not dogs. If you are throwing a ball for a dog that likes to fetch, there is nothing else in the universe except that ball.
If you are sitting with dogs, they are with you in mind, body, and spirit. We would do well to take a cue here and learn to focus. When we focus, we notice things we would otherwise miss. We are able to fully experience and process the world around us. Most importantly, we communicate to others that they are valuable and that we care about them.
Dogs are always there for us. Regardless of what they are doing, when I get home, come into the room, or just come around the corner, they immediately come to me. They are really excited to see me, and it shows. If I was always kind and attentive and generous to them, then maybe that behavior would be earned. But it is not earned; it is a gift.
People seem to struggle to disconnect how they are treated by people from how they treat those people. Dogs just let yesterday (or 5 minutes ago) go and get on with loving you. If you want to know who loves you more, your dog or a person, put them both in the trunk of your car, drive around for an hour, and see which one is happy to see you when you open the trunk! Our communities would be better places for everyone if we were more like the dog when the trunk opens.
Maybe the most important thing I realized sitting with dogs is that our dogs love me more than they love themselves. In the 1800’s Henry Wheeler Shaw wrote “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself.” Dogs demonstrate their selfless love in very tangible and physical ways, which is the most effective way to communicate love. Through licks and tail wags and sitting more on you than next to you, dogs show you they love you.
While I am not suggesting that you start licking the people in your life, we would all benefit from more tangible and physical communication of our care for each other. In this age of social media and synchronous virtual communication, it is easy to believe we have “connected” with the people in our lives when we really haven’t. Connection requires physical presence and tangible action.
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that sitting with dogs can be messy. Their single-minded focus and exuberant behavior sometimes result in spills and breaks. Humans are complex and messy too, and when we get close to them, things may get spilled or broken. The rewards, however, far outweigh the risks. Deeper connection with the people we care about (and we should care about everyone) creates the moments where magic occurs. Turns out, the only thing better than sitting with dogs is connecting with people. I love our dogs, but I love people more. Sitting with my dogs helps me remember the kind of human I want to be and the way I want to treat the people around me. Being present and there for people and loving them more than I love myself is the path to my best life, and it is The Kimray Way.