Lessons From Dogs

Man’s Best Friend

Sometimes the biggest lessons can be learned from the least obvious places.  We all have people that we look up to for guidance and direction.  In my life, I have had the privilege and blessing of loving parents, teachers, and other influential people to guide me in my quest for purpose and meaning. I don’t think anyone can argue about the lessons that we learn from humanity’s oldest companion, our dogs.  


Unconditional Love


I have had numerous dogs in my life, but my latest addition is a 10 pound Cotton De Tulear who, if you don’t know her, is a little dog with a big personality.  Her name is Tilly and she loves to go for walks, ride in boats, swim in the ocean, ride on surf boards and paddle boards, and hang out with human and canine friends alike.  Tilly does not have an evil bone in her body and is the embodiment of unconditional love.  Sure, she loves my wife the best, but she is quick to flip on her back for anyone that will give her a belly rub.  Most dogs will do the same, with the right combination of genetics and training.  We can learn from a dog’s ability to love unconditionally.  




For this other characteristic, I would like to introduce you to a dog that is no longer with us, a 100 pound Great Pyrenees that used to live with us, Edou.  My family decided to name the dog using my childhood name, which was fine with me.  This was a name reversal from the popular movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the character Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, was named Indiana after the family dog.  Edou had the uncanny ability to persevere like no other dog I had even met.   At 12 weeks old, he was bitten through the snout by a vicious dog, a bite that would eventually lead to one of his canines not coming in at all from nerve damage from the bite.  Later in life, Edou almost had to get his toes amputated from a really bad infection in his foot.  Walking 3 miles a day, I did not even detect a problem until a visit to the groomers revealed that he was in fact seriously injured.  Other dogs, or humans for that matter, would have shown signs of trouble: visible limps, complaining, etc.  This dog did not even so much as skip a beat in what may have cost him his toes, or worse.  In the end, Edou died from cancer at 12 years old, which is a long time for a large breed dog.  He was perseverant all the way to the end, not wanting to let anyone of us down.  


Making Others Feel Good


Tilly has a way of making people feel good.  She brings joy into our lives by chasing her tail, jumping up to give you a lick in the face (you have to bend over for her to do this because she is barely 12 inches tall), and simply sitting next to you while you relax on the couch.  The bottom line is that people may forget about what you said, even what you did in life, but they will never forget the way you made them feel.  Dogs, more so than humans, because of their limited communication abilities, have a powerful impact on our feelings.  That is why dogs have been able to exist with us for 55, 000 years.  Not only have they been able to help us in hunting and protecting us when we sleep, but they also have made us feel good.  




Dogs have certain characteristics that we can all learn from.  The three that I outlined in this post are only a few.  Think about other characteristics that we can learn from our dogs this week and apply them in your everyday life.  What can our dogs teach us that we can immediately apply to others?  Can we learn to love others unconditionally?  Perhaps we can break down racial, cultural, and other learned stereotypes from our past?  Remember that dogs do not see humans as different, unless they are trained to do so.  Perhaps this may be the biggest lesson that we can learn from our furry friends?


“Lean into it!”

Dr. N