I always wanted a dog. I’m not sure where my love of animals or my deep devotion to dogs came from. No one else in my family showed any interest in having a pet. My mother is downright afraid of dogs. Maybe it was spending too much time in front of the TV watching Lassie and reruns of the Littlest Hobo. For whatever reason, I desperately wanted a dog of my own.
It took me years to talk my first husband into getting a dog. Before his final capitulation allowed me the bliss of getting my first canine companion, I talked to many dog owners about dogs. From these conversions, I garnered information on dog behavior. One insight I was given is that a dog is like goldfish. A goldfish swimming laps around its bowl and expressing surprise at seeing the same castle each and every time it sees it,.”Oh! Look a Castle!”
Like goldfish, dogs live in the moment, a trait I wish I possessed. Too often we humans get bogged down by the past. We let bad experiences weigh on our mind and color our view of the world. Often we carry the burden of the bad experiences of others. We sit glued to the TV or internet absorbing the gritty details of fresh horrors for hours each and every day. We heed the warnings of the talking heads and install another set of on locks our doors when we hear of new home invasions or robberies. We are mesmerized by images of the tragedy suffered by others. Under the heavy mantle of despair we carry, we have lost the joy of living.
Dogs do not carry this despair or burden. The exceptions, of course, are those that have been severely abused.
Dogs do have a memory and are masters at learning tricks and recognizing routines. Somehow they have been able to pair that with the joy of living in the moment. Take a dog that loves to retrieve a ball, his joy at retrieving it for the fifth time is no less than his joy at the first time. The happy expression on a dog’s face is not diminished when you give them the third treat. The turn-themselves-inside-out greeting you receive when you return home from work does not change from Monday to Friday. When our dog Moe is prancing with joy at being the fed the same food we have fed him twice a day for years, it is clear he is saying “Oh good! Dog food again.”
I think that this “living in the moment” joy dogs feel may be the reason that dogs who have been abused can be rehabilitated. They can and often find joy and happiness in new homes. Dogs do not lose hope. Dogs do not lose the ability to feel joy. We shouldn’t either.