What Dogs Teach Us

Could your dog be trying to tell you something important?

My dog Sydney does this, just about everyday.

Never had a dog like him.

Passersby offer guesses, “Bichon?” If they really want to know what kind of a dog he is, sometimes I answer, “He’s his own dog.” Meaning—he insists on being himself.

Sydney’s owner surrender form at the animal shelter stated his breed as a cocker spaniel and poodle mix. Despite the fact that both those breeds love water, swim happily and splash away, Sydney avoids wading in lakes, ponds and creeks.

Riding in kayak, he seems happy to soak up the sun, watch the riverbank and other boaters go by.

He had lived with a cat. We gave him Paris, a rabbit for a brother. Here they are during their first days together. Sydney doesn’t look so sure this dog-rabbit thing will work out. Surprisingly, it did.

Hey, are you really my brother?

Are you sure he’s my brother?

Each of my dogs stands out in memory as never-to-be-repeated personalities. Dogs like people possess distinct attitudes.

From a lifetime of parenting dogs, direct observations seems the best way to keep my dog healthy and happy. I learned what each dog liked, disliked and longed for.
Using less formal language, dogs tell us by the way they act what they want.
Watching a dog and you will see what he or she is drawn to. And what makes him run and hide.

Because he has lived with us for seven years, I know he makes distinct barks, yelps, yips, moans and whimpers, much the same as we use words and facial expressions.

He also shows a full range of emotion on his face. But being part poodle, his face rapidly disappears under thick-white hair. Poodles have hair that must be cut not fur.

Close friends who love and play with Sydney know that we usually have to talk him into going out at night before bedtime. Sometimes, we pick him up and put him outside on the porch. Luckily, he weighs about twelve pounds, as easy to lift as most cats.

A few nights ago, although I insisted he go out before going to sleep, he had nighttime urgent business.  A little before midnight he woke me.

Each dog brings different gifts. Sydney rates as the most emphatic dog I have ever raised. He spontaneously and repeatedly lies beside people who were weak or ill. For a young and lively dog, he surprised me with this behavior.

Even now, Sydney shows by shifting his zippy, full of running and jumping to calm, quiet and gentle loving care. For those who need tenderness, this dog readily gives it.

He has done the same when I have been ill, visiting my room to see and know my health. If dogs can sniff tumors certain they know when we are ill with a cold or flu. And when we feel sad.

Sydney has taught me he receives messages I miss. He hears people walking by our house. He knows when I don’t feel well and shows me by staying close at those times. He changes from his usual high spirits to a subdued gentle companion, to comfort friends that are frail or desperately ill.

I never would have believed the wild wound up dog we adopted from the animal shelter would have become a therapy dog. He seems to love giving quiet joy.

Dogs can teach us so much. We only need to watch and listen.

Tell us what has your dog taught you?

5 thoughts on “What Dogs Teach Us

  1. please take a week, a month, or a year to compose a response. just know that i’m waiting in the shadows to read a most emotional contribution from a most respected writer. you have inspired and comforted me today. and sydney has done so for gwendolyn. we thank you with our hearts. 🙂


  2. gwendolyn has taught me to live in the present. she has taught me how to live.

    i would very much like to read something from you about raising one dog to the next in terms of loss, in terms of learning to love again, in terms of how you viewed life and accepted the new baby into yours. the prospect of that is very difficult for me, but i am a better person with a dog, and there are so many that need homes. gwendolyn is my heart, and i can’t imagine moving on from our life together one day, but i sadly know it will happen. xxx


    1. Nicole, what a tender topic. I will think on this. So hard to think we live years beyond our beloved pets. The rabbit, Paris, in this photo helped us heal from losing our Nabisco, a keeshond and a total sweetheart dog.

      Paris, a rescued rabbit adopted from a shelter, kept our hearts open. He lived a long and healthy 12 years. And Sydney and he had a fun friendship. More later.


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