A beloved friend of mine, someone on my short list of ‘favorite people in every category I can think of’, asked me today whether I thought that she’d get out of the house more, if she got a dog. This was a funny question for me, hard to answer.
For one thing, she gets out of the house plenty. She’s very active, mentally and physically, and involved in all kinds of goal-oriented things, including training for triathlons. She’s got advanced degrees in two widely different yet equally challenging disciplines. She’s always doing something to help her kids with their educations, and even helps other people’s kids, and helps her mother a great deal, too. Really, the list of things that get her ‘out of the house’ is too long to write about.
And I’ve been after her for years to get a dog, so why ask now? She knows the answer I’ll give. Her whole family loves their cats, and all the family members are affectionate by nature, and responsible, too. The kids definitely want a dog; dad thinks he’s opposed but will end up being the worst dog fanatic in the house, I’m guessing; and my friend’s doubts are only the kind that a woman pregnant with her first child has–will I be good enough? What if I screw this up? And then the baby is born, and years later, you remind the woman how fearful she was, and she really can’t remember, because now she’s involved in it for real, not as a concept, and life’s in the details.
So my friend was really asking something else, I think, although if she had been asking, will having a dog get one out of the house more?, the answer would be a clear, ‘yes’. I used to have that SAD thing, seasonal affective disorder, and let me tell you, dogs will help that, or any other kind of depressive condition, in a big way–at least, that’s how it worked for me. I don’t have even a trace of it anymore. Getting outdoors every day, for fun, makes all the difference in how you view the cold.
But, if you follow along with that idea and apply it a little more widely, you come to something much more important about having a dog.
Living with a dog will help you appreciate everything much more.
A dog is an animal perfectly poised to be happy, to adapt to changing circumstances, to make the best of things. Given the slightest reason to be so, a dog will be content. A dog could have written the saying, ‘If life gives you lemons, make lemonade’.
Clearly a dog did write the saying, ‘Take time to smell the roadkill’; the first human to read it thought it must be a misprint and changed it to ‘roses’. Dogs are just really, really good at appreciating, and, if you’d like to teach yourself to go through life with more gratitude, you can hire no better teacher than a dog. And there are many wise humans who feel that the secret to living a happy life, and a good life, is to get yourself to a point where you are operating from a base of gratitude.
Once you’ve learned to love a dog, deeply, with the goal of understanding how it’s similar to you and how it’s different and respecting both those things, you will look at everything around you with different eyes. And you will start to feel that you could do no better than to try to be as much like your dog as you can possibly manage.
And that, to me, is why my friend should get a dog. When you know and really understand and love a dog, the beautiful and important things in life rise to the surface and take their rightful place on some golden shelf in your soul, and all the hundreds of irksome (or worse) details just fall by the wayside, rolling off your back like water off a Newfoundland.
Does that answer your question?