When my sister adopted a puppy back in November, I never expected to learn from it. Let alone have those lessons be in mindfulness.
But everyone we meet in our lives has something to teach us—even if they aren’t human.
Effie, a Boston terrier-Chihuahua mix (or “Bochi,” for short), was just two months old and weighed only two pounds when we adopted her. She and the other four puppies in her litter were rescued after having been abandoned in a gas station bathroom. Now, eight months and seven pounds later, she’s healthy, happy, and bursting with energy.
At the time of the adoption, my anxiety levels had reached an all-time high. I was stuck in a day job that I no longer enjoyed and working with people whose toxic energy was depleting and at times left me feeling physically ill. Caring for a puppy, I thought, would at least help get my mind off my troubles.
But Effie inspired me to come up with new ways to cope with stress, find joy, and lead a more mindful life in spite of my hardships.
The world is a huge and exciting place for a two-pound dog. Things that I’d taken for granted—like the softness of the couch cushions or the gurgling sound of liquid sloshing around inside her water dish—aroused Effie’s curiosity. Everything was strange and new and needed to be explored.
We humans can also go through life with a puppy’s curiosity. Now instead of just plowing through my morning commute, I take a look at my surroundings whenever I’m stopped at a red light, and try to discover things I hadn’t noticed before.
When we dare to go into that new yoga studio we’ve been meaning to try, or strike up a conversation with a coworker we see every day but hardly know, it’s amazing what could happen next.
For Effie, playtime is chasing a rubber ball in the living room or playing tug-of-war with her favorite rope toy. For me, it’s going to yoga class, reading a good novel, writing fiction, and dancing with my friends (or alone in my bedroom). It’s not what we do that matters so much as throwing ourselves into it with everything we’ve got, and losing ourselves in the present moment.
My favorite part of the day is right when I get home from work and Effie is there to greet me. She’ll jump all over me, licking my face and nuzzling her head into my shoulders. Together we snuggle in the living room, and all I do is breathe, letting go of the stress of the day.
Not everyone has a dog that they can snuggle with, I know, but who said that sitting in Lotus is the only way to meditate? We can enjoy a healing and energizing “reset” in whatever way works best, like curling up with a good book or going out for a walk. And speaking of walks...
Dog owners usually go out on walks anyway, because their dogs need the exercise. But that doesn’t mean it should feel like a chore. When outside, engage your senses: Look at the trees, plants, and any other living things that you encounter on a walk. Listen to the chirping of the birds, the chatter of squirrels. Feel the crisp, cool breeze as it rustles through your jacket and hair. You get the idea.
Bringing a new puppy into your home is like having a baby in some ways. They need constant love and attention (not to mention housebreaking). Like most dogs, Effie has become fiercely loyal to us, and she’s always doing silly things to make us smile—whether she means to or not.
If Effie has taught me nothing else, it’s that unconditional love is the most soothing balm there is. We should strive to love others, and ourselves, the way dogs do: deeply, without judgmentt, and with every fiber of our beings.