1. Have a big ol’ stretch first thing in the morning. Hank wakes up every morning and does at least one Upward Facing Dog and one Downward Facing Dog before he ever leaves my bedroom. He does it before he pees, before he eats breakfast, and sometimes before he even leaves his little (okay, huge) dog bed. After watching him do this for years, I decided to give it a shot and it makes all the difference! It doesn’t have to be a whole yoga session, it doesn’t even have to be outside of bed! Just take a breath and stretch it out.
2. Sleep when you’re tired, wake up when you’re not. Hank does not look at the clock, never sets an alarm, and yet, he always manages to get what he needs to do done. I never see him with bags under his eyes, yawning through a meal, or slamming a cup of coffee. He listens to his own natural rhythm and, as a result, is a pretty happy boy. I now go to bed early and wake up early and I’m much better for it.
3. Always welcome your human home with excitement and joy, no matter what. It doesn’t matter if I’ve been gone for 16 minutes or 16 days, when I come home, Hank greets me as though I am the prodigal son coming home. He jumps and dances and wags his tail and shimmies and shakes and just makes a big ol’ party of it all. I have to admit, it feels damn good! It doesn’t take all that much energy and it makes all the difference. I started making a big deal when my humans come home, regardless of my current opinion of them (I’m human and marriage is hard!) Taking just a few minutes out of my day to have a welcome home party for my people sets the rest of the day or evening up for success and, besides, who doesn’t like to shimmy?
4. While it will never ever get you anywhere, sometimes you just have to chase your tail. It doesn’t make sense. That tail has been a part of his body since he’s had a body and, even though it is rare, nothing ever happens when he catches it. Nothing changes. The only thing that happens is that he gets dizzy and gets fur in his mouth. Still, there are just times when he has to do it. Life is kind of like that. Sometimes you have to do things that seem to make no sense at all. You, too, will end up dizzy and with a furry tongue, but you will do it with wild abandon. It makes no sense. It’s not supposed to. It’s just what dogs (and people) do.
5. Your belly isn’t going to scratch itself (aka Ask for what you want!) I have never met a dog who didn’t love to have his belly scratched / rubbed. I have also never met a dog who was too embarrassed, shy, or insecure enough to ask, nay demand, his belly be paid some attention. There is nothing wrong with asking for what you want. In fact, many times, it’s the only way you’re going to get it. Now, I don’t recommend that we all lay on our backs spread eagled and bare our bellies (well, maybe, but that’s a personal matter,) but speak up and ask for what you want. You deserve it.
6. Forgive easily and often. If you know me, you know that I love Hank more than is reasonable. I adore this dog and would do darn near anything for him. Still, in the nearly 4 years I’ve had him, I have: nearly cut his toe off, slammed his head in the van door, sat on him, fed him some bad chicken (we both paid for that one,) locked him in the bathroom, poked him in the eye, painted part of him purple, burned the fur off of his shoulder (okay, he did those last two, but I created the opportunity,) and terrified and tortured him millions of times with the vacuum. That’s enough for a restraining order, eh? Yet, Hank has never once held a grudge. He has forgiven me for each and every one of these transgressions and never brought them up again. I’m thrilled about this and he seems incredibly happy about it, too. There’s a lot to learn there.
7. Love those who feed you and piss on those who don’t. We have neighbors on both sides who have dogs. These dogs bark and go crazy and run around and cause a huge to-do about almost nothing on a daily basis. While they are an interesting case study in mental illness to Hank, they also annoy the living crap out of him. They don’t feed his belly or his mind. He never barks back, but he does pee on them almost daily. It’s hilarious! He doesn’t hold a grudge, he doesn’t show aggression, just whizzes and leaves. There are other dogs whom he loves and he has never lifted a leg to them. They are not crazy. They don’t demand anything from him. They don’t expect him to be a squirrel or a cheeseburger or anything that he is not. They feed his social nature and his sense of challenge. He loves them. He’s also never shown aggression or resentment or a desire to water any of the humans in my house, either, ’cause we feed his belly and pretty much all of his other needs, too. I think he’s got life figured out.
8. If you see cake, do not think twice – eat it immediately! He’s a genius.