From a young age, I'd always been surrounded by pets and owned dogs - albeit mainly walked and fed by us, but owned by my parents.
I'd always sought to be a dog owner myself and was fortunate enough for that dream to finally become a reality in February this year when I adopted 'Nacho' - my beautiful 5yo Red Heeler X Kelpie.
Living in Kalgoorlie, and then working in the capacity of FIFO for many years had impeded my ability to own a dog as I wouldn't want to be a part-time Dog-mum. I have learned so much about Nacho, and he, in turn, has taught me a lot about myself over the past 9 to 10months. So here are some lessons -
It doesn’t take a lot to make someone smile.
I don’t know if it’s his beautiful temperament, perky alert face and ears, and joyful kelpie smile, but Nacho brings out smiles in everyone - even strangers passing by us on our walks. Nacho is almost a mascot at our local cafe, and I take so much pride in taking him down and seeing the chef's 3.5-year-old daughter play with him. She was petrified of dogs prior to Nacho meeting her, and he isn't exactly a small dog by any stretch (27.5kg of Red floof...) and he allows her to place flowers above his ears and around his collar, ride him and lead him around without any qualms. It warms my heart...
No matter where Nacho goes, he brings out the happiness in others just by being present. He’s made me realize that sometimes in life, all we crave is connection and a small moment to get us through.
Some of the best days are spent at home.
Despite loving to be out and about, the local PetStock, shopping runs, parks, Bunnings, and our local Cafe - Nacho is also just as happy hanging on the couch (claimed a low-lying sofa), napping in the yard under the trees, and playing with his tennis balls out the back (throws it to himself, even). He’s helped me see that sometimes the best days in life are the days resting at home, in our safe little haven.
Don’t be afraid of looking like a tool and it's ok to be not ok.
Whether he’s throwing his ball and toys to himself, yipping and chasing his tail, or just zooming around the yard by himself, Nacho isn’t afraid to act a fool. He takes every moment for what it is and does what he wants - with zero fear of judgment. He doesn’t worry about looking crazy. If only we were all as willing as dogs to find our own sense of joy without worrying about what others were thinking. Everyone assumes since Nacho is a bigger dog, he’s brave and not afraid of anything. He’s actually spooked by some of the oddest things. He’s afraid of brooms, certain spots on the kitchen floor, and anything I get out of the cleaning cupboard, just to name a few. he reminds me to not sweat the small stuff, and to find the joy in life and not panic over things that really don’t matter —such as red floofy tumbleweeds throughout the house. I've often been in a state of overwhelm and he looks up at me and I just can't help but squat down to cuddle him.
And don’t be afraid to talk to people.
Nacho draws a lot of attention to himself because of his amazing temperament and wanting to greet every Tom, Dick, and Harry that we pass in the big outdoors. He actively looks for people on our walks to come and pet him, and he will try to “steal” a pet as we walk by people, by sticking his nose wherever he can place it. He loves people, and dogs of all varieties and would never shy away from a chance to meet someone new, as well as greet old friends with a cheeky Kelpie smile. As I am reclusive and a thorough introvert, I’ve learned from Nacho that connecting with others is a good thing, and because of him and going for 'walkies' and to the local park I’ve met so many great people in my neighborhood, all due to Nacho as I never would have struck up the conversations I would have avoided without him.
Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joy ride
As Nacho pushes past my legs, he nudges the car door and won't budge - he similarly greets others in this manner. And he demands car rides standing awaiting at car doors whenever and wherever possible, there is nothing better than allowing the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy. Even us humans love the joy and free-spiritedness of winding mountain and coastal drives - with the sun shining and the roof off. Also to delight, in the simple joy of a long walk.
When loved ones come home, always run to greet them. Jump up and give them a big smile and hug - be Present! Run, romp and play daily, we must find the joie de vivre daily. I will never get over how happy Nacho's Kelpie grin makes me - it snaps me out of the darkest deepest moods and I can't help but feel physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally lighter when he is playing near me. Be loyal. Dogs are the most loyal and empathetic animals and bonds with their owners, their friends, and even kind strangers are remembered and enamored with smiles and demands for pats and cuddles. When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nudge them gently. Their presence makes the hard feelings just that little bit easier to manage. And finally on Dog emotions - 'When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body. And rest - learn to take naps when needed, and stretch before rising.
Learn how to be assertive and set adequate boundaries
Dogs test boundaries and patience like all animals do but know when it’s in their best interest, to practice obedience. No matter how many times they are scolded, there is a brief acceptance of 'Sorry, I did a wrongun... but please forgive me with these puppy dog eyes don’t buy into the guilt thing and pout - but over time we learn behaviors that are and aren't acceptable. Let others know when they’ve invaded your territory, a simple growl is often better than biting. Humans often don't protect their own personal space and boundaries well enough and allow feelings to fester and lead to resenting and utter meltdown. We should take a leaf out of the Dog's book and learn to assert ourselves and move on with dignity intact.
And dogs have their 'dogs', as people have their 'people'
So many times I have been down at the local park, and Nacho automatically goes to the dogs he knows, or dogs from a similar breed - guess there is a greater propensity for understanding. Like humans, dogs appear to gravitate to similar dogs. As we build our 'tribes', dogs collect their 'packs' just the same. It's so humbling to watch how they interact, and generate order - just as in our social circles. Dog personalities are so varied, and you often don't observe them until you become a dog owner yourself - Nacho has taught me so much not only about himself, but self-reflection on who I am as his human and my place within his pack.
However, it is because of all of the above points, Nacho has taught me the greatest lesson of all. he has taught me to enjoy every single moment - and that there is always something to go home to, that is safe and secure and brings a lightness to my soul. He’s taught me to laugh, to have fun, and to relish every second because life is too short to worry about tomorrow, any judgment, or expectations. Dogs are greater than humans, and sometimes in our 'human condition,' we don't deserve dogs!