10 Zen (ish) Lessons I’ve Learned from my Dog

My dog Rumpole has taught me so much, he’s been by my side in times of great joy, sadness and helped me weather every shade of life in between. While I’m pretty sure the lessons he’s taught me aren’t word for word in the Dao or Zen handbook, here are 10 (+1) lessons he teaches me everyday that could have come straight from the latest book on how to find happiness and inner peace.

1. Stay in the moment – Dogs are experts at this. When they are at the park they’re not thinking, “pretty soon we’ll have to go and that’s gonna suck,” they stay engaged in the activity they are in until the second it’s over, thus getting the maximum out of their activities. 

2. Move on – Dogs (unlike many cats I’ve known) don’t hold a grudge. If you’ve been unable to give them your usual 45 minute walk for a whole week, they won’t bring it up later in an argument. They let go of things, and we should too. 

3. Forgive easily – The times that I’ve inadvertently hurt my dog (the time I stepped on his ear with my high heel, or the times I’ve stepped on his paws by accident), he never gets mad at me. He understands intuitively that it was an accident and never cops an attitude or tells me “he’s fine” when he isn’t. 

4. Love hard – Do you get the love bomb when you walk in the door at night? More importantly, do you give the love bomb to anyone? Dogs teach us to love the same people hard, every day, they are intrepid on this point and we should aspire to be the same. 

5. When it’s itchy, scratch it – now I’m not suggesting you correct a wedgie at your daughters piano recital or do something unseemly in a crowded elevator but let your guard down just a little. We are human, and lest we forget, our 4 legged friends will remind us we are much more than the image of correctness. 

6. Enjoy your food – Gusto, excitement, unabashed enthusiasm, the joie du vivre for the joys of life that come in everyday, small packages; a beautiful salad, fresh fruit in season, a hot cup of tea, a smooth glass of wine. Take the time to enjoy it. 

7. Play is important – Rumpole can bring his A game to a 45 second wrestling match or a 30 minute park date with other furry friends. He’s invested, short term or long, he goes all out and I love that! 

8. Smell everything – pay attention to your surroundings, to both the small and large elements of your life. Everything can tell you something, everything is a clue. 

9. Getting older isn’t a bad thing, it’s just a thing – dogs age so stoically, they don’t stress about it, they go with it and when agility, ability and other aspects of their youth fall away, they adapt, and they do it gracefully. 

10. Pain is just pain - this one’s about anticipation, a dog that is in pain, because they live in the moment, has only the moments of pain he is experiencing, not an additional 2 days, 3 weeks, countless sleepless nights anticipating it. 
Big Bonus Tip: 
11. Be excited to see the same person, everyday – a riff on #4. Rumpole has never looked bored by my return home, he’s never forgotten or been too busy to stop what he was doing (sleeping, scratching, eating, playing…) to give me a big hello when I’ve come home. He’s excited to see me and that feels amazing, every time. Imagine, if we practiced that same level of enthusiasm with our human loved ones!