The Life Lessons I’ve Learned From my Retrievers
I have always been vocal about my love for animals, especially cats and dogs. And the privilege of being dog mom to Apollo, an 8-year-old brown labrador, and the late Prince, a 12-year-old golden retriever, has given me unparalleled happiness and meaningful life lessons. Apart from their adorably impressive and contrasting personalities, many of my friends are in awe of the life I, a 5-ft woman, happily share with my two big fur boys.
Prince was your typical boy next door. His seemingly smiling face; gorgeous, soft, golden coat; and warm, loving, people-pleasing personality had swiftly stolen the hearts of many. Belly rubs, doing tricks, and cuddling were his favorites, and his calmness was a vibe that anyone loved to catch. His chill demeanor taught me to embrace the quiet, breathe, and take things slow.
Apollo, on the other hand, is a different story. If you have seen the movie Marley and Me — the story of a yellow labrador and his family — you will have an idea of my brown labrador’s nature. While our 68-pound, muscular Apollo, with his shiny dark brown coat, can be intimidating at first glance, he is quite the opposite. This energy-packed dog is, in fact, a happy-go-lucky, sweet-natured, funny floof ball who’s never afraid to be himself.
Here are some life lessons from my pets and their crazy, fun, and sweet ways that shaped my outlook on life:
1If You're Happy and You Know It
Zoomies, or outbursts of energy, joy, and excitement, have always been a welcome sight from the furballs when I would come home from work. My brown labrador’s ecstatic dash around the garage and the garden, and frequent crashes into things, is coupled with cheery bouncing. Dogs’ ultimately carefree nature is a life lesson in expressing feelings and emotions. Now I embrace and express more — dance around, jump for joy, or cry my heart out.
2Doing Nothing Is Doing Something
There is pure content in doing nothing together. Before the pandemic, I made sure to get home from work before the sun would set. Prince and I loved sitting beside each other outside the garage and watching the sunset. Aside from promoting a healthier bond, immersing myself in my dogs' simple joys, like lying down on the floor, helped reduce the stress from work and commuting.
3The Indecisive Game of In and Out
It surprises me how the game of going in and then going back out never gets old. I love asking the things that make dogs happy: "do you need to come in?" and "going out again?" I can be hard on myself when I cannot easily decide or fail to get my priorities straight, but then I realize indecision is not always negative as it lends more time to weigh options. And in the end, we always just wing it.
4Walks Are Underrated
People were amazed when they saw me walking two big dogs. "Do you not get dragged?" I’m was often asked. There were times when the young brown labrador excitedly walked around and tugged at his older brother, who sat peacefully while taking in the view around him. Young Apollo had to learn to keep up with his experienced older brother. When I failed to keep up with my regular jogs, I developed a newfound satisfaction of going on long, healthy, and peaceful walks with my dogs.
My dogs loved to chase the ball. Prince had his favorite red squeaky ball and Apollo, his green one. The moment I picked up any ball to play with, their eyes would light up. The excited yelps would begin, and their bodies gave off the anticipation with tippy, tappy dog dancing feet.Their enthusiasm has always reminded me to go all out and have both feet in when getting what I want.
6Inner Peace Is Key
Dogs do not hold grudges, which can be challenging for many humans. There were times I accidentally stepped on their tail or fed them late. But after cuddling and making it up to them, they move on. Their reconciliation behaviors provided a better understanding of the importance of moving past the conflict and establishing peace within ourselves which helped me on my journey to kindness and forgiveness.
7Live Longer and Happier
The quick aging process of dogs does not stop them from embracing their inner puppy. Even before my golden retriever crossed the rainbow bridge, his young spirit proved that one of the best ways to live a happy life is never losing touch with your inner child. Despite the full-grown body that continues to age, my adult brown labrador still possesses the same curiosity and playfulness, and still delights in many happy, simple things in life. We now choose to delight in the simplicity of life.
8Family Is Not Always Blood
Dogs are the ones we choose to keep in our lives, the ones we share with unconditional love and affection, those who bring us peace and security, and who accept us as we are. One of the best life lessons I learned from my retrievers is that space and family are important and are worthy of utmost protection. My dogs have always been friendly, but are smart enough to know when to put their guards up.
9Masters of Mindfulness
We have a lot of things running through our minds — we think of tomorrow, worry about yesterday, and then miss out on today. I am often anxious. But, being around my dogs and watching them master the art of mindfulness has made me realize the importance of being present and appreciating the moment. Eventually, life happens anyway. So I am learning to worry less, take things one at a time, and move at my own pace.