What owning a dog teaches you about life, balance, and happiness

I love Big Dog and Little Dog. I love the feeling of coming home every day to two super-excited, loving furballs who are so thrilled to see me that whatever happened that day at work just melts away.

But, owning a dog is not for the weak of heart. I grew up with dogs, but The Hubby was a newbie pet owner when we got Big Dog (our first of the two). And sometimes when I see things through his eyes (Why is Little Dog eating grass, again?”), I realize just how much there is to learn about owning a dog…and how much you can learn from it.

We don’t have kids yet, and I’m sure someone could write a great post on things you learn from being a parent. (Anyone want to be my first-ever guest poster on B&B?) But, since the pups are what I’ve got right now, that’s what my list is about.

Things I’ve learned from being a dog owner

Sometimes you have to roll with the punches. When Big Dog decides to lick the entire contents of the grease tray from our George Foreman grill and then gets sick at 1 a.m. (and 3 a.m., and 4 a.m.), there’s not much I can do except get up, let her outside, and make “I hope you’re feeling better” cooing noises over her when she comes in. It’s not her fault. She’s a dog. She doesn’t know any better. (Check out that video—The Hubby and I reference it all the time! It’s too funny.)

Live in the moment. Easier said than done, especially for a worrywart like me. But my dogs never fail to remind me that there is nothing like living in the moment. If I could learn to be half as “present” and joyful as Little Dog is when she’s tearing the living fluff out of her favorite Chewy Man, I would be a happy person indeed.

Always be kind and patient. It’s so easy to take a bad mood out on the people around you, or to feel lazy and decide you’re going to let a chore slide. But no matter how bad a day I’ve had, the pups still need to be walked, and they deserve for me to be kind and patient and cheerful with them, even if they’re pulling every which way because they’re especially excited today. They’re so innocent and trusting and forgiving, they deserve for me to be the nicest doggie mom I can be. (A good lesson, I’m sure, for when we do have children.)

Stuff doesn’t really matter all that much. For the most part, both pups are pretty good about not being destructive. But every once in a while, they’ll take a weird freak and go after something they’d been ignoring for years. My ultra-comfy fluffy slippers. The Hubby’s iPhone case. The edges of each of the books on our coffee table. But I can’t really get mad at them, any more than I could if I had a kid and she accidentally broke a vase. I can always replace my slippers, and they didn’t do it out of spite. (At least, I don’t think so!)

You don’t have to be perfect. I am definitely not. I snap at the pups sometimes, in spite of my “be kind and patient” philosophy. I sometimes flake on our daily walk if it’s particularly yucky outside. But Big Dog and Little Dog never hold it against me. They are always eager to be petted, thrilled to curl up on the couch with The Hubby and myself, and they will always be waiting at the door when I come to home, ready to tell me how incredibly excited they are to see me. If we could all be as forgiving and loving as our pets are, the world would be a much better place.

Are you a pet owner?  What have you learned from your pets (whether they’re dogs, cats, iguanas, or whatever)?





photo credit:  Lukje


  • Ha ha, I have a dog AND a child, and the two of them are always vying for who is getting in the most trouble. Or they team up on me, and then I’ve really got problems. One time I caught my toddler feeding the dogs crayons right out of the box. I’m sure that has happend before, but that was the first time I bore witness to the crime 😉

    I’ve been finding myself getting annoyed with my dog’s antics recently, so I appreciated this post. You’re right…she’s just a dog! I’m pretty sure she didn’t premeditate snatching that entire loaf of garlic bread off my table last night 😉

  • We don’t have pets – yet – but I have loved and learned from family pets. They bring out people’s silly side and bring us a lot of joy. Life can get stressful and it’s so important to take the time to laugh. We like to make up voices for the dogs and cats and it is hilarious (does anyone else do that? No?). 😉

    Pets are like little kids in that they can’t help but be 100% themselves – with the good, the bad and the smelly – and you can’t help but love that!

    • You’re definitely not the only one making up voices for your animals. (http://youtu.be/nGeKSiCQkPw) 🙂

      I like that quote–“dogs (and kids) can’t help but be 100% themselves.” That’s a lesson we could all learn from (although with a TAD more self-control and discipline…but not TOO much.) 🙂

  • Our dogs have taught me the value of the big greeting. When hubby comes home I make it a point to join the dogs and rush to the door and make a big deal about “Daddy” being home. He loves it, I love it, and the dogs love it. What a nice ritual.

    • Such a great ritual! Gretchen Rubin in her new book “Happier at Home” (I’m a tad obsessed with her) makes a point of giving heartfelt greetings and goodbyes whenever a member of her family leaves the house or comes home.

      The Hubby and I kiss/hug hello and goodbye, but I’m definitely guilty of not being as exuberant as Big Dog and Little Dog. I think I’m going to try that next time–I bet we’ll all love it, too!

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