Lisa Ferentz LCSW-C, DAPA

Healing Trauma’s Wounds

What I Keep Learning From My Cockapoo

Life Lessons to Live By

Posted Jul 09, 2015

 Lisa Ferentz
Source: Photo: Lisa Ferentz

I never had a dog growing up.  In fact, I’ve only had a dog in my life for the past two years.  Although Lucy, our cockapoo, was a present for my husband who grew up with and loves dogs, he is the first to say that Lucy never leaves my side and the connection we have is quite special!  I continue to be amazed by how unconditional her love is and how much joy she brings to our family.  I’ve come to realize that the simplicity of a “dog’s life” is misleading.  In actuality, she is remarkably wise and the way in which she approaches each day offers all of us powerful lessons that can profoundly impact the quality of our lives. What follows is 'the world according to Lucy':

Be Loyal to Those Who’ve Earned it
Our dog is so well taken care of, shown an abundance of love, and knows that her needs will always be met.  In response, she is incredibly loyal to all of us. When anyone in the family is sick, she will not leave their side. Wherever we sit around the house, she sits, either at our feet or in a lap.  Sometimes, it’s a loving look that she gives us, sometimes it’s a lot of licking!  In her own way, she lets us know how much she loves us and how connected she feels to us.

Protect the Ones You Love
When Lucy senses that a stranger is at the door, or we encounter a larger dog while walking outside, her protective bark is relentless and strong!  She’s less than 25 pounds, but she defends us with all her might. She’ll stand between us and strangers, letting them know that they’ll have to go through her to get to us. The slightest outside noise sends her running to the door, alerting us with her protective bark.  Her instinctive desire to watch over us and keep us safe is powerful and clear.

Stay Curious, You Never Know What You Will Discover
What should be a 15 minute walk is often a 45 minute one because Lucy is never content to simply walk in the street.  Instead, she is constantly stopping to sniff the grass, a mailbox post, the base of a streetlamp, or just the air.  Her curiosity always seems to yield a wonderful new scent, something in the grass to play with, or some other underground goody.  Although Lucy has walked the same route countless times, she never takes it for granted, and always seems to be rewarded with a new and exciting discovery.

Be in the Present Moment
Lucy reminds me of this everyday.  She gives us endless opportunities to stop whatever we’re doing to sit on the floor and just pet her soft fur, chase her around the dining room table or throw and fetch her favorite balls.  It doesn't matter to her that we were busy with some project or need to get back to surfing the Internet, what does matter is the here and now moment of either connection, rest, or play.  She often forces us to slow down our walks when she finds the perfect piece of shade to lie down in and relish.  In our crazy busy lives, it’s a blessing to have this daily reminder of being in and enjoying the present moment.

Get Support When You’re Frightened
Lucy is not a big fan of car rides, especially when they lead to the vet or the groomer. She also isn't crazy about big noises made by things like fireworks or lighting. During those times, she jumps into a lap and stays there.  She welcomes our soothing words and close hugs.  Although she likes to be the protector, she also instinctively knows when to turn to us for comfort.  It’s a great reminder that sometimes we need to lean on other people.  We don't have to go through the scary stuff in life alone.

Stay Grateful
One of the great pleasures of having a dog is how they greet you when you come home at the end of the day, or even when you’ve come back inside from getting the mail.  Lucy is overcome with joy!  She races to get you one of her toys and always offers it as a “welcome back” gift. Her gratitude is palpable and it makes us feel loved.  It makes us feel like we matter to her. She never takes our return for granted.

Dogs can teach us about connection, attachment, loyalty, the need to rest, the need to explore, the importance of protecting the things we love, and the value of finding joy in simple pleasures. If you don't have a dog, try to spend a little time observing one.  You will understand why they are not only our “best friends” but our wisest teachers, too!

What 'life lessons' have you learned from your pet?