The many things we can learn from dogs…

Since leaving full time employment, just over three years ago, one of the main things I’ve realised is, as your own boss, you really are free to do as you see fit. Any place, any time, any how. It’s an incredibly liberating realisation.

From November 2011, till now, I’ve started countless projects, some of which have grown and flown, become really popular (Ignite, CardiffRead, Instagramers Cardiff/Wales/Cymru), others have fallen to the wayside (Midweek Film Club, #whereinthediff) and more still are just starting out (Old Faithful, plus another few that I can’t yet mention!).

I was pondering this whilst out walking our dog Loti recently.

Loti’s a pocket-rocket, collected from the Cardiff Dog’s Home way back in 2004. A Heinz 57, she’s a mongrel; some ungodly hybrid. Part whippet, part terrier, part dinosaur. I’ll explain that last bit; when she gets into a tussle, she bristles so much that her hackles fan upwards like a Dimetrodon’s spine.

Needless to say then, Loti’s a little quirky. But, over the last decade, one constant has remained amongst the chaos that inevitably ensues when Loti’s in situ. She loves chasing squirrels. It’s her raison d’être. Each and every time we head up our street, to Thompson’s Park, she’s off like a rocket, tracking a well worn path that encircles the trees the grey squirrels call home. Come rain or shine; day or night; spring, summer, autumn or winter; she sets about this task with unerring, unwavering and unfailing vigour.

Because of it’s daily repetition, this has become the norm. For years I’ve seen nothing of note, but then, over the last winter, I started to realise something. Loti’s passion for what she does best never fades. Never. Even now, as with old age she struggles to rise from her bed, Loti soon pushes through the pain barrier, gets her joints moving and starts hurtling endlessly around the park. I’d estimate for each mile I walk, she sprints five. Just think about that for a second. Now, think about the fact that in mid-winter whilst the squirrels don’t actually hibernate, they are known to sleep for days at a time. So, all of that pain, all that exertion is invariably for nothing.

In the last eleven years, Loti’s caught four squirrels.

That’s one for every thousand or so walks we’ve been on. It sounds like a poor return, eh? But you should see her when she collars one; her eyes glistening, her tail a wagging blur, looking up with the now limp rodent in her mouth, pride etched all over her face. You can see it; she would gladly run five thousand times, a hundred thousand times, to feel this good.

It’s her raison d’être.

Some say the thrill is in the chase, but seeing Loti like this, reminded me that reaching your goals, snaring your own targets, it’s important to enjoy the moment and savour all the hard work that’s gone into getting you there.

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I started to wonder then, what else I could learn from Loti and her canine counterparts. What’s been coached, taught, parented, peer pressured, mentored out of me. What, if I was a bit more dog, might still be there.

I reached out on twitter and got a great response from my followers, some of whose replies helped shape the list below:

Get excited about stuff

As stressed above, love each day like it’s your last. Do what you love. Maybe don’t go out wearing nothing but a dog-collar.

It’s OK to go crazy once in a while

Every once in a while, just do something silly, new, dangerous, odd, scary, whatever… just try something new. Maybe, bound around in the snow for the first time.

See food… eat food

Nowadays, there’s more diets than food choices it seems. If you put food in front of a dog, more often than not it will gulp it down. Life’s too short to deny yourself the pleasure of dessert when you’re out for a meal.

Loyalty

For anyone who owns, or has owned, a dog this one will ring true. What would all of us give for friends, family, clients, colleagues and so on who are half as loyal as our pet dog. Try not to lick your colleagues face, but do remember to say thanks a little more regularly.

Always be pleased to meet new people

How many people do you know that say they *hate* networking events. Go to your local park this lunchtime; there’ll be the regulars who are there each and every day and sure they may have the odd snarl at each other, but there’s (albeit a sometimes begrudging) respect there too. There’ll also be newbies with tails waggling ten to the dozen and the boundless energy of puppies (think of those as graduate recruits) bouncing around excitably. None of these dogs hate being there. They’re chuffed to make new contacts. Like a dip in the sea, once you take the deep breath and plunge in, it’s usually more enjoyable than you’d expected.

Don’t give up

Sometimes the battle you’re in can seem insurmountable. But, quitting’s for quitters. There’s endless examples of success stories where a bloody minded resolution to be the best, no matter what, was the sole reason that success was achieved. No matter how long it took. There’ll always be fears, competition, doubts, doubters, uncertainties, Goliaths.

In the end, it’s not the dog in the fight, but the fight in the dog that counts.

Work hard, sleep hard

Dogs outdo us so well at this. They can sleep on anything, through anything, despite anything. And they sleep lots. Recharge your batteries; listen to your batteries. Napping’s for winners.

and finally….

Always get someone else to deal with your sh*t

OK, so this one’s said in jest, but as our Creative Director, Marc enthused at an Ignite talk a while back: just get your colleagues to do the work that they have delegated to you. Also, delete all your emails. Regularly. If someone really needs you, they’ll call, or send you another email.

So, there you have it. Dogs can teach us so much; if only we’d remove our own tethers and follow their leads.

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What did I miss? Comment below with your thoughts on what we can learn from dogs, or ping me a tweet @thedimmick.

P.S. Before you go there, Jonny already did.