When I listen to this segment on NPR, This I Believe, I wonder, what exactly do I believe? What shapes my life, how do I choose how to treat others and myself? And then the thought occurs to me, I chose to behave like my beautiful dogs. I have three German Shepherd’s; Lilly is 1, Rosie is 3, and Tasha is 16. You can learn a lot from these magnificent animals; how to love, how to forgive, how to play, how to rest.
Lesson one, how to love. Being the youngest in the pack, Lilly and Rosie are clearly the best suited for play. They run for hours in our back yard, walk miles together with me, but always find the time to frequently run over to Tasha to greet her and kiss her – they make her feel so included and loved. We often forget about our older parents, grandparents, or even older neighbors – how lovely it is to remember to call them, send them a card, just check up to make sure they’re ok and ask what happened during the day. Like Lilly’s and Rosie’s playtimes, my life is so very busy, but I never forget to check on my loved ones and make them feel included and loved.
Lesson two, how to forgive. Lilly and Rosie play rough. They sprint through my back yard chasing each other for the frisbee or ball. Rosie may nip Lilly too hard. Or Lilly will cause Rosie to trip and fall. When this happens, the game will cease momentarily and the hurt dog will be kissed and nursed by the aggressor. There’s no fighting, no barking. The nursing care is accepted, as if an apology, and the hurt dog will immediately forgive. Our society is so litigious. A mistake happens and someone gets sued. There’s no forgiveness anymore. Some people will even go looking for mistakes to happen as a get rich scheme. Once a mistake happens, apologies are not accepted. Why bother? The person who made the mistake will pay in other ways, usually financially. But at the end of the day, people must live with themselves and the decisions they make. Believe me (and my dogs), it’s so much more fulfilling to forgive and forget.
Lesson three, how to play. My dogs play all the time. They play in the morning when we wake up, play at lunchtime, and in the evenings. They come barreling out of the house and are joyous to run and play. They smile all the time, they are happy. I wonder, if I take these breaks to play and devote my life to enjoyment rather than struggling through it with endless tasks and deadlines, will I be happier? I think so. And therefore, I have made a life decision to not be the most successful, the richest, the most prominent if it means no time for play – I choose instead to enjoy and be happy.
Lesson four, how to rest. After all that play, guess what my dogs are really good at? You guessed it, sleep. Playing really hard is tiring and as soon as my dogs play hard, they sleep hard. Most adults do not sleep enough, many struggle with sleeping disorders. Getting a good night’s sleep is restorative and is necessary for good physical and mental health. If you play daily, lesson four will naturally follow.
Therefore, I chose to model my life after my dog’s lives. They are beautiful, loving creatures with wonderful ideas of how to live – in This I Believe.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.