The Mindfulness of a Dog: An Attitude of Gratitude

What I learned from my dog.

Posted Jan 18, 2021

Continued From Part 2.

  • Express Yourself: I do believe if Freya took any inspiration from stopping to smell the flowers, it was about being true to her authentic self. Most dogs follow a predictable action path; especially when it comes to executing the SBD. Anyone who has had a dog, or even been around them, has experienced this at least one time or another—but for the majority, it has no doubt manifested in multiple episodes. I am, of course, referring to the silent but deadly (SBD) dog fart.

We’ve all been there. A cocktail, a relaxing glass of wine, the lights are low—maybe the fireplace is on or perhaps even some romantic music bubbling like a soft brook in the background—and it is a perfect amorous atmosphere for you and your partner. Then you smell it. From out of nowhere comes sulfur and brimstone so pungent that it is as if a portal opened billowing fumes directly from Satan’s anus. You look in the direction of this eruption only to find the face of denial.

Copyright Red Tail Productions
Freya says, "Always be yourself, especially if you're a Princess!"
Source: Copyright Red Tail Productions

Freya would have no parts of this. In a renunciation of all things demeaningly canine, she eschewed the SBD. I have never heard in all my years another dog or even very many people, fart like she did. It was like her superpower. None of them were quiet. And everyone was accompanied by a defiant smile and subtle grin as if by the very act of expelling noxious fumes she proclaimed to the world “I am Farticus!"

If she happened to be asleep at the time, even in the middle of the night, her lack of volume control would wake herself up. Many a time it was as if she entertained herself by playing a solo version of the fart game. She’d let one rip, then whirl around to where her backside had been, and commit to an audible inhale. Incredulous at what she had been able to accomplish, she went all in for secondary validation. Once she was satisfied that she was the site of confirmed origination of the auditory and odiferous explosion; she would look at you and grin the grin, as proud as if she had just birthed a litter of pups.

It was such an extraordinary aberration, to this day I can’t really explain it. The dog just loved to fart and then make sure everybody knew about it. It was a part of who she was, and she made no apologies for it. It was a simple, authentic, and real—if not sometimes a bit noxious—unrestrained expression of who she was. And I loved her for it.

  • Love: Perhaps more than anything else, Freya was about unconditional love. Before she was adopted, she must’ve had a traumatic injury to her tail. It was well healed at the time I met her, but it left her with just a little nubbin. Given her breed and build, the end result made her look like a little miniature bear.

Whenever she would greet me, whether it was when I stepped out of bed after she woke me up in the morning or if I returned home late at night after work on-call, that stump of a tail was working overtime. It was a nubbin of lovin’.

I would dare say that the very essence of her being was a simple proposition. She lived to be loved and give love. She did so freely, unconditionally, and with abandon. That of course, made her the worst guard dog ever. If a stranger approached, they were greeted with kindness and the nubbin of lovin’. And such magnanimous treatment was not reserved just for humans, she extended that greeting to other dogs and even cats. She had simple joy, kindness, and compassion for all living beings. She was the canine Dalai Lama.

And because she conducted herself with such authenticity, grace, and dignity I got to see and experience first-hand the result of such a lightness of being. She received love in return. Not from every person she encountered, not from every dog that crossed her path, and certainly not from every cat because many of them still suffer a delusional disorder from when they were worshiped as gods. But certainly from all of those in her pack; most certainly from me. There wasn’t a time that she wouldn’t waddle over for a pet or scratch. You could not hug her enough, and she loved to lay down and flop over any exposed body part; many times ending in awkward extrication as she was totally comfortable snoozing right on top of you.

She taught me about what we can find in the life of love. The Harvard happiness study collected the data that reached the conclusion that our health, happiness, longevity, and well-being are direct results of the quality of the relationships in our lives. As the lead researcher, Dr. Vaillant concluded, “Happiness equals love—full stop.” Freya didn’t need a study, she taught me by living it.

The Beatles sang in The End:

And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make.

If that is true, and I believe it is, then my little girl shone like a supernova.

It’s not about reading and recirculating empty memes. It’s not about hollow sermons. It is most definitely not about congratulating ourselves on our achievements and how enlightened we have become. It is about a life lived. As Dr. Siegel has noted, “Many people mistake mindfulness for mindfulness meditation ... mindfulness itself is an attitude toward moment-to-moment experience.” And Freya was all attitude all in the moment.

 Copyright Red Tail Productions, used with permission
Freya
Source: Copyright Red Tail Productions, used with permission

These are just a few of the many lessons I learned from my best friend, my teacher, my companion, my dog. And because of her, I find that past the jagged edges of sorrow and pain that accompany the death, loss, and impermanence which are a requisite part of any life—is the gratitude. Modern science tells us that of all the approaches and techniques of positive psychology, none is more powerful than gratitude. In that arena, she was a most formidable teacher. And as she took point on our walks, leading me to sunbeams and flowers; she now leaves me in a meadow of gratitude with joy in my heart for having the pleasure to know her and to love her. There is no more to say.

It is time to be.

“Thank you, Freya.”