Sure, adopting a dog is tons of fun. Many of us do it for all of the right reasons: for companionship, for unconditional love, and most importantly, to give a dog in need a home that they wouldn’t otherwise have. But what many people don’t realize is just how much we learn from the adoption experience. That's why we have taken the liberty to compile a list of life lessons you’ll learn from adopting a dog.1. Our past does not define us.
One of the most valuable lessons we can learn from adopting a dog is that life can change for any of us, at any given moment. The dog you adopt may never have thought they would find themselves as part of a new family and likely, they assumed they would live with their previous owner for the rest of their lives. But sometimes, life as we know it gets uprooted. Winds of change occur without our permission and we are forced to go with the flow.
The reality is, the difference between adopting an adult dog, as opposed to purchasing a puppy from a breeder is that more often than not, the dog you take home has already lived an entire lifetime of adventures, experiences and ordeals. They have experienced their own highs, lows, and mediocre moments with their previous owners, extended families, strangers, and of course, other dogs. The dogs you will find in rescues come from a variety of different backgrounds, under their belts are stories of joy, some of sorrow, and some that would downright scare you.
But what we can take away from adopting these dogs and making them such a big part of our lives, is the importance of forgiveness. They teach us to trust, despite everything they have been through. Leading by example, they teach us to love, unreservedly, and wholeheartedly. To start fresh regardless of how unprepared they are to do so, to give second chances to people who may not deserve it. They teach us not to judge or persecute the people we meet based on those we have encountered in the past.
Most importantly, they teach us that everyone is capable of change. The same dog that may have shown up at your house a recluse, terrified of even the slightest sounds can show you over time that wounds heal, that confidence can be gained and that life, though doesn’t always go as planned can turn over a new leaf - but that you have to want to make the change in order for it to happen.
2. To appreciate nothingness.
The world today is a busy place. It seems that more than ever, people are on the go, constantly rushing to be somewhere, meet someone, make a deadline, or accomplish a goal. In the midst of all the hustle and bustle of daily life, rarely is time set aside to just sit and relax. To do nothing, or more specifically, to appreciate nothingness.
Sure, some of us try. But even attending a yoga class these days can be a source of stress as opposed to a way to unwind. Even if you do manage to leave the office at 4 p.m. like you anticipated, you hope that you don’t get stopped in the hall to chat about your co-workers weekend plans. If you don’t, you should be able to make it to the subway station by 5 p.m., but what if there is a delay?
Of course you remembered to bring your mat and a change of clothes, but you forgot to fill up your water bottle and misplaced your sweatband. And when you do make it to your class, are you really able to clear your mind and let go of the day's troubles and concerns like your instructor has so sweetly asked of you, or are you still thinking about that darn report you forgot to submit to your boss last Thursday? And is the girl laying next to you really all that more flexible than you are?
Wiping your proverbial slate clean can often times be more of a challenge than expected and some of us definitely need a little more help than others. However, adopting a dog, especially a young dog, can prove to us that sometimes nothing is the easiest thing in the world to do. It’s easy to convince ourselves that we all have a slight case of ADD from time to time. The urge to look at our phones, or any screen out of boredom is inevitable in this day and age. However fortunately for us, although puppies can have their moments of absolute mayhem, they are also known to be some of the best slackers around.
When the world is spinning and our minds are a mess, sometimes all it takes is a hyperactive pup sitting still on a porch, taking in the sights and sounds to prove to us that if they can settle down, so can we. Taking a moment every day to look around, to appreciate the wind, to take in a sunset, and even follow a trail of ants with your newly adopted pup is a truly effective way to calm ourselves in the face of everything going on around us.
Sure, going on a walk and playing in the yard is still a great way to spend time with your dog, but knowing that a puppy can appreciate nothingness, and be totally zen can too be a great source of calm in our otherwise busy lives. Taking that time you previously spent goofing around on a computer, or obsessively cleaning your house to do nothing but enjoy the quiet, teaches us to let go of our worries and just live in the moment. A great dog will allow us to be comfortable in silence, to stroke a fluffy ear in the most therapeutic way, and be grateful for all the little things that make us and them, happy.
3. To give without asking for anything in return.
They say that to the world, you are only one person but to your dog, you are the world. As one of the most well known and appreciated quotes that mentions dogs, it could not be more true. Even more true, is the knowledge that when adopting a dog, one of the first things everyone quickly learns is just how easy it is to give without expecting anything in return.
Whether it is picking up an extra toy while at the supermarket even though your dog already has 20, or spending a little extra on high quality food when what you had for lunch was a knock off version of mac n’ cheese, we all tend to give without hesitation when it comes to our dogs.
And why wouldn’t we? Adopted dogs prove to us time and again that no matter how rough our day was at work, when you come home to the one little being in your life that loves you more than anything in the world, who is absolutely ecstatic that you even exist, never mind came home to them (yes, them!), well, life with a dog is just plain awesome.
And in no time, the dogs in our lives quickly become something bigger than ourselves. To a dedicated dog owner, our canines aren’t just pets, they are family. We put them first like we would a child, and though we don’t ever expect them to understand, they seem to reciprocate these feelings in their own ways. Their loyalty proves to us that we are loved and respected. Their excitable nature when we get home proves to us that we are missed.
From putting a little extra time into playing with your dog on an early Saturday morning when you could be sleeping in for the first time that week, to coming home a little earlier from the function you attended on a Sunday night in order to let your dog out for a pee, we all make little sacrifices here and there for our dogs that we may not even realize in the moment.
And that is truly what is so special about dogs. Maybe it’s the puppy eyes they practice in the mirror, or maybe it’s knowing that their lives revolve around us. But whether it is giving them our time, or our last dime - dogs make us want to be better people, most times without our knowledge.
They teach us to put others first, to be less selfish. They teach us about reliability, and generosity. They teach us to be kind and warm, loving and appreciative and most of all, they show us the best versions of ourselves, looking right back at us.
4. To wake up every morning with intention.
When it comes to mornings, there are two types of people. There are those who are morning people, and those who aren’t.
Morning people are often go-getters, using their sheer will power to get out of the house a few hours early on weekdays, sometimes even making it to the gym before devouring a homemade organic smoothie, accompanied by the latest sudoku puzzle found in the morning paper.
You know the type, these are people we see in suits on bicycles every morning, happily riding to work with their favorite iTunes playlist plugged into their ears, smiling at passers by, and occasionally stopping to pick flowers from bushes for their secretary who has just come back from maternity leave and needs a little encouragement. In their neat little briefcases are not only this week's reports filed and organized to a tee, but also next week’s, because it’s much easier to get a jump start on what the future has in store if it means being given the chance to leave early on Friday and head up to the cottage. These self-proclaimed morning people maximize their time in order to get what they want out of life, and more often than not you will find that these people are also dog owners.
That said, not everyone is a morning person, and that’s okay. It takes all kinds in order for the world to turn, after all. Some of these non-morning people wake up when they can, hitting the snooze button more times than they wish to admit, after sleeping through what seems to be an endless amount of alarms set in 10 minute increments beginning at 5 a.m. all the way through 7:30 a.m. Non-morning people stumble out of bed, groggily look at themselves in the mirror, unsure of what the day has in store. They brush their teeth, trying to remember if they have an important meeting waiting for them at the office. They move through the motions, no plan in place, taking it one step at a time.
Of course, this works for them in their own weird way, or at least that’s what they tell themselves. They are set in this non-routine sort of routine often described to their friends and family as “organized chaos.” Their belongings are where they want them to be, though no one would be able to find them if they tried. Non-morning people are the type to freestyle their outfits for the day while often running late for work, as opposed to setting out their wardrobe the night before. They often skip breakfast, because well, they’re too busy looking for the partner to their matching shoe that they swear was just here a second ago!
For these people however, adopting a dog is often a reality check. While a type B personality will enjoy all of the fun aspects of dog ownership; like snuggling on the couch or throwing a frisbee for hours at the park, one of the biggest things they will learn from adopting a dog is to wake up with intention. Not having a dedicated routine in place prior to owning a dog will mean that their current schedules will be altered, and change is not always easy.
A non-morning person will need to set aside some time every morning to tend to their dog, make sure that it is fed and walked in any kind of weather (or at the very least, let out in the yard) and they will quickly discover that this means putting another living being’s needs before their own, even if it means losing an extra half hour of sleep everyday.
However as only dogs can prove to us, what begins as a chore will soon turn into something more organic that brings them joy. Waking up alongside a newly adopted pup will teach even the grumpiest and most stubborn morning-haters to wake up with positivity over time. Trust us. From the moment your alarm goes off and your dog's sleepy eyes make contact with yours, you greet each other with a “good morning” and he springs out of bed, joyfully bouncing around the hall with a toy in his mouth ready to seize the day, well it’s hard to say no to energy like that.
As soon as you see your dog race to the door, excited to start the day off with a nice walk around the block, it’s difficult not to appreciate that every day is a new opportunity to start fresh. Dogs seem to have this ability to wake up with positivity in their hearts, no matter what else is going on around them. Despite the ice and snow outside, the slush and rain, dogs are eager and willing to go on an adventure. They don’t let the little things get to them, and that is some kind of refreshing to say the least.
So if you’ve ever shown up at the office, and wanted to bite the head off of every morning person you encounter, or if you're a teenager who just can’t manage to pull themselves together and out of bed in the morning, adopting a dog may just be the one of the most rewarding and fun ways to make a change. Putting your morning-issues into perspective will never become more obvious than when you have a sorry set of puppy dog eyes staring back at you after all!
Having a dog reminds us that life is short, and that it is important to make memories everyday. Sometimes, you just have to let go of what it means to be human, to let go of reservations, of judgement, to be more like your pets. You never know, what you learn may just surprise you!