Learning from the Dogs

First of all, happy birthday to my amazing husband, who is turning 32 today! Happy birthday, L! 🙂 XOXO — may 32 be your best year yet!

So this weekend we had his birthday/citizenship party, which was a blast.

Sure, party-prepping and hostessing are exhausting, but I love to do it and it just makes us so happy to have our friends over — especially since neither of us have family less than a plane ride away.

Truly, our friends here in Michigan have become our family … and we are very blessed.

Then yesterday we went to brunch with friends and took our dogs to the new dog park that recently opened. It never ceases to amaze me what you can learn in the most unexpected of places.

Dogs are like humans in so many ways. Dogs are so easily satisfied with the simple things in life: sun, shade, water, food, treats, and above all … attention/affection. Like us, they ultimately just want to be loved.

[If you’re a dog fan and haven’t already read it, I highly recommend The Art of Racing in the Rain, which is told from the perspective of a dog throughout his life. I read it on a flight from Michigan to New Jersey in May and literally couldn’t put it down.]

Observing the dogs run, sniff, chase, play … one thing was obvious: dogs, like humans, crave acceptance … but unlike us, they don’t just want it … they expect it from their fellow dogs.

It was so interesting to watch dogs of all shapes, sizes, colors and breeds not only mingle, but play together while their owners watched them bond.

There was one Great Dane puppy (a year old) named Phantom (love the name!) who literally towered over all the other dogs in the park (as seen in this pic — Rocco is the little thing next to him).

By a landslide, Phantom was the largest breed … but his size and shape didn’t deter him from playing with Rocco or even smaller dogs. He carried himself with pride and was gentle as can be with the other dogs.

Among the other dogs, his size really didn’t matter. All that mattered was finding playmates to race after or splash in the fountain — and just like that, he was accepted.

Another observation from the park: unlike the high school cafeteria where the “cool” kids sat here and the “nerds” sat there and the “jocks” sat over there, the dogs making rounds in the dog park had no shame going over to another “table” (ok, pack — work with me here) and making a new friend or two.

They didn’t appear to worry about rejection; unlike humans, they expected acceptance FIRST and then scurried away if they got a “leave me alone”  yelp or woof from another pooch … whereas all too often we humans over-analyze social situations and prepare for the “worst” before entering the scene.

(Anyone, anyone? For as sociable as I am, I hate walking into parties/events alone and am often paralyzed by social anxiety–really, not kidding!)

I’ve watched Rocco experience rejection on many of our nightly walks … and it’s hard, as a puppy-mama, to watch.  As a human, I can sense “rejection” from a mile away and try to tug him away sometimes, but really, he’s better off learning on his own. What he doesn’t understand at four months of age is that not all dogs (or dog-owners) love puppies (the horror!). And sometimes he just flat-out get rejected. But unlike humans — who might go on a social blackout after repeated rejections —  he never stops trying to go up to new people or dogs. And you have to admire that!

It was a wonderful weekend and I can’t believe it’s Monday already — sigh!

Those were just some observations I made this weekend at the dog park that I wanted to share here. I think if there’s a lesson to be learned it’s this: be mindful and aware of your surroundings. You never know what you might learn in the most unassuming of situations!

How about you? What have you recently observed in an unexpected place?

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6 thoughts on “Learning from the Dogs

  1. neat lissa. dogs are amazing.

    this is totally not what you are meaning i know…but a friend shared with me that she found a stick in her cleavage in the middle of our outside yoga practice. we couldn’t stop laughing! unexpected observation for sure. ha!

  2. I just came across your blog, and this post. The Art of Racing in the Rain is my favorite book, even though I cry every time I read it. It’s being made into a movie with Patrick Dempsey, scheduled to be out in 2012!

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