I’ve found out precisely how true these words are since becoming a dog walker. People have often said to me that the pups I care for are lucky to have me. I smile when I hear this because although I hope that to be the case, the truth is that I’m the lucky one. I get to spend my days writing and then I get to hang out with the good guys.
Here are just a few of the things my canine buddies have taught me:
1) Showing up matters. It matters an awful lot. Like tons. I never get blasé about what a difference human love and interaction make to a dog’s day.
2) Dogs are the best anti-depressant. Whatever my mood on waking, I can guarantee that I will smile that day. It’s pretty much impossible not to have your spirits lifted when you’ve got a joyful bundle of love right next to you. The next best mood enhancer is exercise so the two together are a powerful punch.
3) Dogs bring smiles from strangers. It’s true – people smile at me in the street all the time now. Ok, so maybe they start by smiling at my dog but I smile back and it feels good to give and receive genuine warmth, especially in a busy city where sometimes we forget to express friendliness in our race to get to where we need to be.
4) People reveal parts of their stories around dogs. I’ve had passers by open up to me within a few seconds of saying hello to a dog I’m walking. They often wistfully reminisce about much missed childhood pets and I get to hear a story that I would never otherwise have known if I was walking solo.
5) Dogs are great communicators. When a dog is trying to tell you something take the time to listen with more than just your ears. They may not speak our words but if they feel unwell, uneasy or upset they will try to let us know. Don’t ignore them just because their way of talking is different.
6) Wearing headphones creates a barrier between you and your dog. I often wear my headphones when I’m out and about on my own but when I’m walking one of my pups I never put them on. I feel sad when I see other walkers do this – most of us (hopefully!) wouldn’t do this when out walking with a friend so why do it with a dog? It creates an immediate disconnect and also means that we’re less likely to hear any warning sounds that may alert us to potential dangers to our pooches.
7) Dogs have open hearts. They really do. Their intuition is more finely honed than ours and if their instincts tell them it’s safe to trust someone then they are usually right. Recently I was walking Grace, a beautiful loving Maltipoo. We were in Bryant Park and we went past a man who was sitting on a low bench. At first I wasn’t sure if he was homeless as he looked a little unkempt. Without knowing his story I made a pre-judgement and was about to lead Grace away from him. She, however, had different ideas and pulled at the leash wanting to bound over to him. I let her, very cautiously at first, and then watched as this man’s face lit up whilst she playfully danced around him. I kept watching him and saw his face transform with pleasure as he stroked her head and spoke softly to her. After a while she wanted to bound off again so we said goodbye. When we walked away the man called after us. As I turned back he said ‘Thank you. Thank you for letting me pet her.’ I smiled and turned away with tears in my eyes. I felt so ashamed that I had pre-judged him yet she hadn’t. She’d simply approached him with love, expecting the same in return, and that’s what she’d gotten. And in the process she’d also given so much joy. Pretty much sums up the ridiculousness of the term ‘dumb animal.’ Damn smart if you ask me.
Special thanks to ‘the heartbeats at my feet’ Bolt, Bo and Grace for being their own wonderful, unique selves and letting me be part of their world.
Skylar Liberty Rose is a big believer in the healing power of creativity and the freedom found in living your truth. She is a writer, blogger and street photographer and believes in manifesting dreams through action and visualisation. Skylar is an advocate of stripping away layers of conditioning and instead discovering the person you are truly meant to be. She is inspired by souls with spirit and courageous hearts. Skylar grew up in London, and now lives with her husband in New York City. You can follow her on Twitter, FB, and her blog.
Images courtesy of Leon Cato.