What I’m Learning from Puppy Love

(or: Things My Dog Eats)

A puppy has brought chaos, learning and unconditional love into our home, and we have been adjusting our household culture to include the doggie way of being.  Ollie (aka the Hairy Hooligan, with a nod to author Cressida Cowell) is a thief at heart but he doesn’t want to get away with it.  If you don’t immediately notice that he has a contraband sock, he will come and wiggle it in your face, showing off his ‘find’ and daring you to retrieve it.  He is not motivated by food so much as mischief, which has made encouraging ‘polite-by-human-standards’ behavior a bit of a challenge. But if you think his preference for fun over food indicates he has a refined palate or discerning tastes… you would be wrong.

Like most dogs, he enjoys a good bone. Sticks. He is thrilled to dismantle pens, TV remotes, balls and boxes; on any given day there are likely to be cardboard bits lying about on the floor.  He turns his nose up at food in his dish: too easy. The other day he actually swallowed a small sock because he didn’t want to drop it for anything. I’m quite sure it didn’t taste good.  We have had to start protecting the laundry like it is a dangerous secret, hidden away and constantly guarded.

We are lucky to live in a semi-rural area, with all sorts of multi-use trails nearby.  There are some trails we now avoid – turns out horse poop turns him into a dog on a mission to EAT IT ALL.  Eww, but kind of like me with cake. So he and I avoid bakeries as well.

Trying to plant the vegetable garden has been challenging.  If we show any interest in a plant – by which I mean planting, weeding, smelling or watering it – he will too.  The type of interest HE shows will not promote a bountiful harvest.  It was a blow when he discovered (and, of course, ingested) the green strawberries, but I guess he saw me peeking at them.  My fault?

We’ve noticed he learns fastest by observing us.  Whatever we focus on must be important, and if it is important to us it must be important to him.  And food is important too; therefore anything important is food.  At least I think this is the way his mind works??

All of this gently and regularly reminds me to notice what I’m focusing on in my head and outside of it, and consider whether it (like Ollie) might be discouraging healthy growth, or if it is even aimed at what is really important to me. I’ve become a much more conscious eater, for example, as I can’t help but notice when I’m mindlessly looking for a snack, because my doggie shadow notices, and tries to join me in the process.

But there’s no explanation for the horse poop addiction, or his newest favorite snack: SLUGS.  Why slugs, Ollie??? Why?!? Does he know something we don’t? I’m a curious person, but not sure this is something I want to know. There should be a few mysteries in life, right?

And we love him anyways! Maybe even more so, for his doggie full-body enthusiasm for life is infectious. Wouldn’t it be marvelous to regularly find delight in such a simple thing as a sock? I wish humans could/would wag their tails too. The sight of a wagging tail never fails to lift my heart.

Animal friends teach us so much about mindfulness and other things, but perhaps the deepest lesson has been to remind me how it feels to give and receive unconditional love. It is a wondrous experience, and means that I don’t mind too much when I get to clean thrown-up slugs from the kitchen floor.