Ten Things I’ve Learned from my Dog

I was recently stopped for speeding on a Saturday morning driving down 280. When the CHP officer approached the passenger window, he briefly hesitated and stepped back. Henry, my yellow lab, was bearing his teeth at him from the back seat. The police officer looked incredibly perplexed and concerned.

“He’s smiling,” I said. “He’s not being aggressive. He’s just kind of happy all the time.”

“Good morning. I stopped you for doing 83mph. Why were you speeding?” he asked.

“Well, if you want to know the truth, I was talking on the phone to a friend and she was sharing some good news,” I told him. “I was really excited and I guess I wasn’t watching my speed.”

My inner voice said, “You’re screwed. He’s not buying this.”

He took my paperwork and disappeared. I sat there thinking how much the ticket was going to increase my insurance and envisioning how much I hate online traffic school.

When he came back to the car, he gave me back my information, but no ticket. He simply said, “I’m giving you a verbal warning. Slow down. You have precious cargo in the back and I like your dog. He looks really happy.”

Wait, did I just get out of a ticket because of my dog?

I’ve learned a lot of things from my dog over the last six years. They say dogs choose you and come into your life for a reason. It’s true. Henry has been one of the single best things that’s happened to me. I got him soon after finding out that the guy I was dating in London was also engaged at the same time. At eight weeks old, I’d hoped he’d help heal my heart and move on.

When strangers meet Henry on our walks, they inevitably all say the same thing, “He’s so happy!” It’s true. He is always happy. He has the amazing ability to take me from a bad mood into a decent mood because I truly believe he just wants me to be happy. Lately, I’ve started thinking about how he spreads joy to so many, and while this is going to sound a little weird, I think there’s something I could learn.

10 Things I’ve Learned from my Dog:

  1. Get excited about the little things. Every morning, Henry lies by the front door at 8am whimpering because he knows the dog walker is coming. The anticipation of going outside is overwhelming to him. He can’t wait. What if I got a little more excited to start my day?
  2. Smile more. This one’s obvious. Henry smiles at everyone. He doesn’t know race, socioeconomics or gender. Sometimes, I think we could all use a friendly smile just for the sake of it.
  3. Observe. Often when I’m working at the kitchen table, Henry looks at me with long stares. He’s probably wondering why I’m not paying attention to him, but they say when a dog stares at you, it’s their way of saying, “I love you.” I like the idea of communicating with our eyes.
  4. Wiggle more. The human equivalent of this for me is car dancing. I love that feeling when a good song comes on, but it’s so rare that I just let go.
  5. Stop and smell the bushes. A dog’s sense of smell is one of their greatest assets. When we’re out walking, Henry likes to stop for everything. I often try to move us on quickly, but what if I stopped, looked around and took it in a little more?
  6. Play (even if it includes shoving a tennis ball under the sofa). Let’s face it. Being an adult is hard. Creating time to play amongst all of life’s responsibilities is a rare occasion. What if we took time to reconnect with that inner kid in us that loves to skateboard, draw or swing?
  7. Live without fear. (Just because the horse is bigger, it’s really just a larger dog with four legs, right?). Henry has no fear. He wants to know everyone and experience everything. When we used to go to the barn in England together, he had no fear about the size of the horses. To him, they were just big dogs. Sometimes, I hold myself back. Why?
  8. Cuddle. If Henry could sit in my lap all day, everyday, he would. In the beginning, he would sit near me all the time and it made me a little claustrophobic. Now, I love it when he rests his head on my foot while I’m working or leans against me when I’m standing. Cuddling is underrated.
  9. Eat treats. Henry gets a lot of sneaky treats, which make him happy. We’re not around forever, so more chocolate please.
  10. Go with it. My coworkers recently dressed Henry up while I was off in a meeting. I’m sure he would have preferred to play fetch rather than being dressed up, but he went with it. There are things we’d rather not happen in our lives, but sometimes, you just gotta go with it and smile.

I never would have guessed that getting a puppy would change my life in the way that it did. I’m lucky it didn’t work out with that guy.

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