With much trepidation, the Smith Family recently adopted a puppy. To understand why I’ve spent the last two years claiming I was a “cat person” who would never own another dog, you need to know about Siddha Pup.
Siddha was a mutt David and I adopted from the Clark County Animal Shelter in 1998. She loved barking, eating expensive shoes, chasing squirrels, ear rubs, and long walks on Quisenberry Lane. She hated rainy days, fireworks, the vacuum cleaner, and anytime we pulled out a suitcase for a trip. Siddha failed Obedience School twice and never, to our knowledge, followed a single human directive. She was the worst behaved dog ever; she destroyed our furniture, obstinately refused to be potty trained, and barked loudly at anything that moved for twenty straight years. I read John Grogan’s book Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog soon after Siddha’s adoption. I remember closing the book and rolling my eyes. Marley had nothing on Siddha Pup.
Siddha lived to be twenty, mostly because she was just too stubborn to cross that rainbow bridge. For the last few years of her life, she was deaf, mostly blind, and easily confused. We loved her and miss her still, but she was a lot of work and we haven’t missed having a dog. When we look back on those two decades, it’s clear that we didn’t own a dog. She owned us.
Since Siddha’s death, Izzie has lobbied hard for a puppy. After two years of begging, her father and I finally felt ready.
Enter Barkley the Wonder Pup, an 8-pound cockapoo that was destined to be a part of our family. He has awakened a long-dormant love of dogs in me. My life is suddenly filled with more joy, face licks, and puppy breath than I could have imagined.
In our short time together, Barkley has helped me practice being a more decent human being. Here are just a few of the lessons his presence has taught me.
We’re Here To Connect.
Barkley doesn’t know a stranger. If you have hands willing to rub his tummy, then you’re already his best friend. He doesn’t care what color, age, gender, or size you are. Things like whom you voted for or how you pray are inconsequential. He will approach you with the sincere desire to connect, showering you with unconditional love and his deep understanding that all souls are basically the same and his job as a dog is to bring out our humanity.
Whether we’ve been gone for an hour or all day, no one misses us or is as happy to see us as Barkley. He’s thrilled to go visit people at the yoga studio, but his happy place is the backyard, all the Smiths present. Barkley even adores Cat Stevens; our haughty cat tolerates him, which is more than we had hoped for. Our puppy understands that life is about being together; the rest is just window dressing.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.
Muddy paw prints on the freshly-mopped floor or a little doggy stink on your clothes? Small stuff. There are plenty of things that truly matter in this life, a never-ending litany of things that could legitimately raise your blood pressure. Dogs remind us that staying even-keeled means letting go of the tiny annoyances and setbacks. Most of our worries are inconsequential and temporary and we’re happier when we remember that.
Nature programmed puppies to be curious; their sense of smell is extremely acute, and they use their noses to derive as much information about their environment as possible. Barkley is as equally fascinated by a rock as he is another puppy. In his eyes, everything and everyone he encounters is enthralling; his focus is on what is present, not on what is missing. When we open our eyes to the wonder around us, life becomes unendingly interesting.
Be Here Now.
Barkley reminds me to be present to each moment. The human mind is always wrapped up in rehashing past experiences or worrying about future occurrences. This is to the detriment of our peace and joy, as those emotions can only be experienced in the present moment. Dogs are masters of mindfulness. Look at this stick! It is excellent! Look at that squirrel! I shall chase it! Oh my gosh, here is food in my bowl! I had forgotten all about this incredible thing called eating! This water is delicious! My people are home! My people are home! My people are home! It would do us all some good to become as enamored with our world.
My deepest desire is to be the person Barkley thinks I am.