Sunday, February 3, 2013

What Do Dogs Know?

In his novel Lila philosopher Robert Pirsig* tells the story of a Native American elder, a university professor, and a Bureau of Indian Affairs agent walking along a dirt road on a Montana Reservation. The agent spots a mongrel crossing in front of them and asks “What kind of dog is that?” The Indian pauses a moment to consider and then replies, “That’s a good dog.”

You can learn a lot from a good dog. Thirteen years ago I had one. She was the first dog I really paid attention to and the first that responded in kind. It broke my heart when she died. She was such a great teacher and I didn’t want the lessons to end. Here are twelve things Rita taught me. I’m still trying to apply them.

1. Leadership (being the alpha) comes with responsibility. Don’t abuse it.

2. Be patient and tolerant, especially when accidents happen.

3. Take long walks but not in straight lines - wander around and see what's off the path.

4. Don't let anyone get in your face without your permission.

5. Counter angry outbursts from loved ones with sympathy and quiet understanding.

6. Enjoy simple things: chasing tennis balls, sunlight to lie in, something good to chew, soap bubbles, flashlight beams, belly rubs, and hayfields to play in.

7. Take joy in the physical - the body is to be lived in and used.

8. Defend family first and ask questions later.

9. Discipline and routine give structure to the day.

10. Welcome every member of the household when they return home.

11. Showing your teeth can be just as effective as using them, especially if you throw in a warning growl.

12. Keeping quiet is sometimes the best thing to say.

*Pirsig is probably best known for his 1974 philosophical novel, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.


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