Animals as Teachers
By: Marie T. Russell
Life surrounds us with teachers, if we are but willing to learn.
Actually, everyone and everything in our life is our teacher.
They teach by example of something we'd like to attain or
something we'd like to abandon.
One of my greatest teachers these days is my dog, Angel. He
appeared on our doorstep a year ago -- a tiny wet black bundle of
fur. It had been raining all week and he was huddled by the
doorstep trying to stay dry and get warm. I brought him in and
put a sign up on the street to let his human family know he had
been found. No one claimed him -- which was just as well since
after a few hours I was definitely in love.
Part lab and part chow he was cute, affectionate, and a joy to
have around. He was named Angel since I felt he had been brought
to my doorstep by angels to serve as my teacher, my friend, my
playmate, and my guardian angel.
In the year that he's been with us he has taught me many things.
He reminds me to take time to play, to go out in the fresh air
and walk (or in his case, run like the wind). He demonstrates
exuberance for life, he has a great capacity for joy, for
excitement, for pleasure. He reminds me when I've been working
too many hours in a row that it's time to take a break. He shows
me by example that one must drink a lot -- and I mean a lot -- of
water. He eats only when hungry, a few mouthfuls at a time and
then goes on to something else. He gets so excited, and I mean
so excited, when something wonderful is coming his way. Even the
routine of a morning walk gets him so excited he jumps for joy.
He's given new meaning to that expression -- he jumps, twirls,
and is so excited to go for a morning walk -- while I, am barely
awake, and going for a walk not only because I "should" but
because I "have to" take the dog out. What a difference in
attitude. He jumps excitedly -- I drag my feet.
He has demonstrated to me, day after day, the importance of
loving life and living life to the fullest. When we go out on the
paths -- me to walk, him to run -- to watch him run back and
forth is such a pleasure to see as he puts "his all" into it.
He runs for the pure joy of it -- not because he needs the
exercise, or because his doctor told him he "should". He runs for
the pleasure of running, for the sense of freedom, and the sense
of adrenaline that fills his body. He runs to discover new
trails, and he runs with abandon on the old trails as well. He
doesn't care whether it's the same old same old, he's excited to
be alive and enjoying "being".
And he knows how to ask for love and how to accept it. When he
rolls over to be petted, he simply lays there and enjoys. He
accepts the love in the moment and then doesn't hesitate to come
back and ask for more whenever he wants more love and attention.
Many times when I'm working, he'll walk up beside me and stand
quietly. If I'm busy and don't notice him, he'll simply walk away
-- talk about respecting someone else's space. At other times,
he'll bring in his toys one at a time -- and when I've broken my
concentration on what I'm doing, I'll notice that I'm surrounded
by his toys. a silent invitation to come and play. He reminds me
that there is always time to play -- and the opportunities are
always there. He reminds me that I need to take short play
breaks during the day -- just to get up and stretch (he always
stretches when he gets up), to go say hello to the person in the
next room, to take a drink of water, or just to say "hey, I'm
here if you need me".
What a teacher! He has reminded me of the importance of taking
time -- for myself, to play, to laugh, to go out into nature and
enjoy the moment. He has reminded me of the importance of being
loyal to friends, curious and interested in strangers, and always
willing to explore new territories and adventures.
He reminds me to greet each day with a wagging tail (or a smile
in my case), to always be happy to see family and friends, to get
excited about going for a walk, about seeing a rabbit or a cat --
to be so delighted (and to show it exuberantly) when a friend
comes to visit, to enjoy life to the fullest, and yet also know
when and how to rest and relax to the fullest.
Angel Dog (his full name) is only a year and a month old
(approximately) and he is one of the best teachers I've ever had.
Since he's been in my life, I've rediscovered the beauty of a
free spirit. I now laugh a lot more. I take more time for me (and
for him). I take time to play, to go out in nature, to remember
to take short play breaks and short naps. He reminds me to stop
and smell the flowers, to always be interested in exploring life,
to start each day excited about going "out into the world" and
checking it all out, once again.
Whether you have a dog as a teacher or not, there are many other
opportunities to learn all these lessons -- perhaps you have
children who are great master teachers. They also are willing and
able to demonstrate all these lessons on how to live in the
moment and to enjoy life no matter what -- rain or shine.
Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul by Jack Canfield (Editor),
(Stories About Pets As Teachers, Healers, Heroes, and Friends)
Marie T. Russell is the publisher of InnerSelf Magazine and The
Natural Yellow Pages. She produced a weekly South Florida radio
broadcast, Inner Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes
such as self-esteem, personal growth, and well-being. Her
articles focus on transformation and reconnecting with our own
inner source of joy and creativity.
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