It’s no secret to pet lovers that our furry family members can teach us a lot. I don’t think any of my pets have taught me quite as much as our current dog, Zoey.
Zoey is a six-year-old Golden Retriever/Australian Shepherd mix we adopted a year and a half ago. Personality-wise, she’s more Australian Shepherd than Golden Retriever, with tons of smarts and energy. She’s been my faithful companion while hiking the last two summers, and she often accidentally ends up in my the photographs I’m trying to take on the trail.
On a recent hike, as I was watching Zoey bound joyfully through a meadow, I started thinking about how her approach to life could really be distilled down into a few lessons that her humans could do with learning too. Let’s see if what Zoey has taught me can apply to you too…
1. Every stick is the perfect stick
If Zoey sees a stick, no matter how big the stick, she picks it up and brings it to us to play fetch. She’s hauled sticks that are downright logs to our feet. She doesn’t have any limitations on the size of the stick she fetches with. She doesn’t skip a game of fetch because the stick is a little bit too small, or too big, waiting for the one that is just right.
Do you limit yourself, waiting for the perfect stick? Have you ever said, “When I get that stick, everything will be perfect and I’ll be happy to play fetch.” The perfect stick — having more money, losing weight, finding more time, that future moment — is never going to be out there. So pick up the stick that is there, and start playing fetch.
2. Ask for help
When Zoey knocks her ball under the couch, she comes and asks us for help. She knows she can’t do it by herself, so she won’t let us alone until she leads us to the problem and gets it resolved. With her limited communication skills, she is able to come to us, convey what she needs and get help.
How often, with all of the communication skills we have available to you, do you sit back and *hope* that someone will read your mind and figure out what you want? Do you ever hope that someone will see you struggling, and offer the perfect solution? You aren’t expected to do everything by yourself, and neither can you expect people to read your mind. Know where you need help, and be willing to ask for it. It’s amazing how often you get the help you need when you do.
3. Follow your interest
Zoey is aware of her surroundings and if something interesting catches her interest, she follows it. She might stop suddenly to sniff an interesting smell, or chase a squirrel up a tree. She is ready, alert, and there is nothing more important in that moment than what she is focused on. She experiences everything fully.
Do you know where your interest lies? Do you follow your heart when it tells you to go in a certain direction? Or do you say, “Not now, I’m busy, I’ll do that later,” only to get to later and realize things have changed; the moment is lost. Notice your interest. Be willing to change course and investigate things as they come along.
4. Always move forward
When we were at the shelter deciding to adopt Zoey, we read through the paperwork left by her previous owners. They said she was not a good traveler; she was anxious in the car. After driving with her a few times I realized she wasn’t anxious at all about being in the car or driving around. The only time she whined was when we were at a stoplight. She wanted to be moving forward.
She’s the same on the trail. She’ll stop and sniff around or chase the squirrel, but when I get past her and she realizes I’m moving ahead and she’s not, she’ll catch up and race on by. She always wants to be moving forward.
Do you ever get stuck? Maybe you followed your interest, but it ended up going nowhere. Maybe you are focused on something that happened a long time ago, and can’t get past it. You don’t get anywhere new by being stopped. There is always something else, something new, something different, up the trail or beyond the stoplight. Keep moving forward.
5. Try anything and do it with reckless enthusiasm
We have a nickname for Zoey: Gung Ho Zoe. Everything she does, she does with abandon. She does not hold anything back; she does not fear. If she sees something she wants to do, she dives right in. At the kennel where she stays when we are on vacation, one of the workers commented, “She is so willing.” It’s the perfect description. She’s willing to try anything. It might be a disaster, like the time she tried to chase some ducks across an icy half-frozen pond, but she doesn’t worry about little details of what might happen. She survived the plunge into icy water, no ducks were harmed in the process, and we had a good laugh after all was said and done. That’s our Gung Ho Zoe.
Do you ever find yourself standing at the edge of something, debating about diving in? It’s pretty easy to get wrapped up in thinking, or overthinking, about whether or not to do something new. Guess what, we are never going to succeed at 100% of the things we try, but we will succeed at nothing if we don’t try at all. Usually whatever we are worried about doing is a lot less harmful to us than diving into a pond of icy water might be. Why not try a lot of things? Dive right in and see what happens? At the very worst, you will have learned something. Maybe even gotten a laugh or two out of it. And at best? You might find something amazing is waiting for you.
I have been very lucky to have this crazy, energetic and sometimes overwhelming dog come into my life. I hope you can learn some life lessons from her too.