There’s no doubt about it, we’re not all going to agree on what constitutes a “good life”. Some people will measure a good life in terms of good health, some in terms of their wealth, some in terms of the strength of their circle of family and friends, and some by personal accomplishments. Others will measure a good life by the fulfilment they feel from contributing to making the world a better place, however small that contribution may seem. The list is long. As has become abundantly clear recently, we’re never all going to agree on what making the world a better place means, but hopefully we can all agree that making others feel good helps us feel good, too. That’s a good starting point. In fact, in Cynthia Reyes’ excellent blog post today, she makes the point that when life brings you disappointments and you struggle to get past them, helping others is one thing that can lift you up.
It turns out that the real experts on the definition of a good life are dogs. I hate to have to admit this, because I am a lifelong cat person. However, one cannot argue with the truth. This particular truth is illustrated by a story that has been widely distributed across the Internet, whose original author appears to be unknown. It concerns a family whose family dog was dying of cancer. It had been arranged to have the beloved pet euthanized. The parents decided to take their 6-year old son with them to the vet’s, so they’d all be together at the end of their pet’s life. As the dog breathed his last and the family petted the dog for the final time, the parents and vet wondered aloud about why humans live for so long and dogs live for such a short time.
The young boy didn’t hesitate to reply. He said, ‘People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life – – like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?’ The six-year-old continued, ‘Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.’
Remember, if a dog were the teacher you would learn things like:
- When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
- Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
- Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
- Take naps.
- Stretch before rising.
- Run, romp, and play daily.
- Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
- Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
- On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
- On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
- When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
- Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
- Be loyal.
- Never pretend to be something you’re not.
- If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
- When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.
So, as our pet dogs have been showing us by example forever, defining what constitutes a good life isn’t so difficult after all! We can all take a leaf out of our dog’s book – or a friend’s dog’s book if you’re a cat person. Every single item on this list of dog lessons is worth embracing. (And to stand up for cats, they follow some of this advice … when they feel like it.) I have several favourites from this list; avoiding biting when a simple growl will do is right up there! What dog advice do you like best?
Photo credits: Flickr/Miika Silverberg, Scott Spinks/Wordpress