Sunday, March 13, 2011

Day 150 - Lessons Learned from Duke

March 13, 2011

Day 150 - Lessons Learned from Duke
Josh Herrington | www.bokehbooth.com

As many of you know, Duke has been my furry best friend for almost ten years.  He has spent countless hours traveling the country as I roamed from state to state.  He greets me at the front door every single day as if he hasn't seen me in months.  He barks at the mailman every single day.  He eats his dinner in 60 seconds flat every single day.  He is definitely a creature of habit who has nothing but love and protection to share with me and the rest of the world.  Sometimes this dog is the only thing that can get me through a rough day - especially these past six months.  Animals can provide significant insight about living life if you just take the time to listen to them.  I have been in an almost constant state of reflection about my life since my Dad passed in August.  Here are a few things Duke has helped me learn:

Express your love every time you leave and every time you come home.  Every time I leave, I tell Duke to be a good boy and guard the house.  In return, he greets me with a wagging tail and a goofy smile as soon as the door is open more than three inches.  Someone once told me I needed to ignore him when I walked in the door so he would stop his "nonsense" every time we came home.  I feel for this person who can't recognize this tremendous and consistent act of love and devotion.  We should all aspire to be like Duke when it comes to important people in your life.  You never know if someone will actually walk back through that door at the end of the day so use every opportunity to remind that person how much you love and appreciate them.

Sometimes you just need to stop and take it all in.  A few months ago, Duke started to lay down in a particularly sunny area of our neighborhood during our walks.  Considering his stubborn attitude and 115 pound stature, there is not much I can do when he goes down.  At first, I would just stand there slightly annoyed waiting for the opportunity to coax him home with promises of treats.  But one day I decided to just sit down next to him and see what the big deal was.  I noticed that Duke didn't particularly want to do anything except watch what was going on - cars driving by, people taking walks, breezes slightly rattling the tree leaves.  I began to realize that this is not something I tend to do.  Often I am so wrapped up in my thoughts that I don't even notice the beauty surrounding me.  Me, me, me is all I can think about.  Forty five minutes later I stood up and Duke immediately followed.  I felt a sense of calm and clarity just from sitting in the grass with my dog - nothing to accomplish or learn from it, just a need to fully be there at that moment.  Duke and I now make this a regular occurrence providing both of us time to just take it all in and be in the moment with each other.

If you want something, ask!  I often wake up to Duke shaking his collar and grunting in the morning because he is ready to go on a walk.  During the day, he walks right up to me and puts his head in my lap if he wants to be pet.  Although he can't speak to me, his actions and needs are surprisingly more clear to me than most human beings I know.  Don't beat around the bush - if something is important to you then let people know.  Don't just assume they will figure it out. 

Get plenty of sleep and exercise.  Duke is a champion sleeper (he's laying next to my desk chair as I write) and in his younger days I had to set him loose in the dog park for a few hours to exhaust him.  At least three walks a day combined with good sleeping habits (as all dogs have) has helped him stay active even though he is approaching ten years old.  Don't underestimate the importance of sleep - studies show that making up the lack of sleep during the week by sleeping late on the weekends is impossible.  You never get that missed sleep back.  And stay active if you want to continue to be mobile into your golden years. 

If you show affection to others, you will be rewarded with the same.  The only people Duke barks at are anyone who comes to our front door.  If he meets that same person out on the street (including the mailman), he acts like he just found his long lost owner.  There are many people in our neighborhood who can't get enough of him.  As a result, Duke has many people walking around with treats in their pockets at all times just in case they see him.  Smart dog.  His ridiculous affection is always rewarded with attention, love or food - the three most important things in his life.  Set a goal tomorrow of zero negativity and focus on the goal of helping others.  Pay it forward is a simple rule that can make all the difference in your life.  You may even be rewarded for it even if that is not your intention.

Focus on the present rather than worrying about what was or shall be.  The only time I see a hint of worry in Duke's face is when I drag out the suitcase.  Other than that, he seems to take every moment as it comes and does what feels right at the time.  Because we have more developed thought patterns (at least most of us), people tend to get stuck in their head playing certain thoughts over and over like a broken record.  What if.....?  I should have done.....  What do you accomplish by worrying about something that might happen?  Pretty much a waste of energy.  Instead, acknowledge your worry, allow yourself to really feel the emotion resulting from your thoughts, and then just let it go.  There is nothing you can do about it right now.  By sitting and worrying about something for a week you have not only wasted energy but also a week of time that you can never get back.  Even if the worst does end up happening, are you a better person because you sat and worried about it? Most likely not.  Try to quiet those thoughts and just get a sense of what is going on right now in this very moment.  Staring at your dog might help.

Stay tuned,
Sarah
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