By Kasia Manolas
My dog, Remy, is a 28-pound (and growing) mini goldendoodle. She’s seven months old, and although she is small and young, she is smart. I’m constantly focused on what I need to teach her, but in many ways she is teaching me something.
1. Keep Life Simple
Remy reminds me how complex humans make things. We are human beings and at some basic level, we just need to survive. For instance, it’s important to have shelter, food, water, and a place to go to the bathroom. We often forget to be grateful for having our basic needs fulfilled. Another basic need is love and attention. We frequently hear people say “I just hate people” or “I’m not a people person” but life would be insanely boring, not to mention, lonely without our network of family, friends, and coworkers.
2. Go Outside and Play!
Having a dog is such a good way to reconnect with nature. Not only does walking Remy ensure that I spend more time outdoors, but it also reminds me of how the inner animal in all of us functions. To Remy, being outside means she gets to play, exercise, roam, and enjoy the sun (even in January). Being outdoors offers her a healthy dose of sensory stimulation. This is true and beneficial for humans, as well.
3. Be a Force of Positivity
Saying “Good girl!” to Remy makes her entire day better. She’s rapidly growing and learning, so she often needs to be guided in the right direction. Instead of yelling at her when she messes up, I choose to congratulate her for good behavior. Instead of nagging on people when they mess up, why don’t we focus on all the things people do right? Being positive, supportive, and complimenting your friends is such a virtue.
4. Be Resilient
Remy is naturally joyful, but when something makes her unhappy, she reveals an incredible inner resilience. When she was spayed last month, she was in pain, but she hardly complained. And when I took her back to the vet, she didn’t shake or whine. She even greeted everyone in the office with the same level of joy as she always did before. She is friendly, and open to meeting new dogs and people, even though she occasionally has come across mean dogs and people. She easily forgives and forgets.
5. Love Fiercely and Be Social
Dogs love unconditionally. Remy depends on me to take care of her, but that’s not why she loves me. She just does. (Although, it probably helps that I walk her, rub her belly, and give her treats). I often wonder if people are as pack-oriented as dogs. Or are we more like lone wolves? I think most people are like Remy: Our happiest moments are ones we share with other people.
6. Be Curious and Explore
Most dogs are insatiably curious. I’ve learned how integral curiosity is to being intelligent. Remy’s curiosity is often linked to physical exploration. She is very curious to find new corners of our house. And when I take her to a new park, she is astonished to learn of a new place. Exploring new things and places is mentally stimulating and it fulfills her curiosities. Maybe you’re curious what Brazil looks like? Or what rock climbing is like? Remy has taught me to explore new horizons, and that doing so makes us more intelligent.
7. Have a Routine…
When I first got Remy as a puppy, I read in many books about ‘establishing your dog’s routine.’ Giving Remy a routine allows her to feel safe. She knows she can expect to eat twice a day, get one walk a day, and she’ll have ample time to nap and play in between these things. Routine wards off anxiety. Once a week, I go downtown for a night and my parents watch Remy for me. At first, Remy was anxious when I left her. But she now understands this is a part of the routine.
8. …But Also Keep Things Fresh
I try to give Remy a good combination of routine and unexpected fun. For instance, I mix up what parks we go to or take her on a car ride to a new pet store. She’s also used to different people coming into our house, like my sisters and friends. These visits give Remy new people to play with, which she enjoys. The balance between routine and freshness is sometimes hard to achieve, especially for humans. But the work-week to weekend ratio is a good rule of thumb to live by. Remy has a solid routine Monday through Friday, but lives a tad more exciting life on the weekends, just like humans.
The last thing Remy has taught me is to take a chill pill. Her activities are peaceful: playing on the ground, sleeping, exercising, and exploring. I think humans would benefit from hobbies that make us feel more relaxed. Of course, Remy doesn’t have to stress about the complex things that humans do, but simply being with Remy makes me realize my problems are not that big of a deal. She helps me relax and enjoy the moment, which therefore makes my everyday existence happier. After all, how bad can life be if you have a dog by your side?
Kasia recently moved back to her hometown in Chicago after graduating from University of Wisconsin-Madison. She majored in Economics and English—partly because she’s multi-talented, and partly because she’s multi-can’t-choose-her-career. Her two older sisters both like to call her a hippie. She would protest and tell them she’s not, but her love of all things natural, her obsession with yoga, and her long wavy hair all say otherwise. Her place of peace is either her home or the library, and she recently started to dabble with the idea of minimalism. If you find jibberish typed on her laptop, it’s probably her new mini goldendoodle (named Rémy) who likes to climb onto her laptop while she’s working—Rémy might be trying to become a writer like her mommy. Ultimately, she’d like to finish writing a novel in the next year, all while exploring the elusive concepts of “adult” and “real world.”