Mon 14 Dec 2009
(c) December 14, 2009
A month ago, my husband and I became the proud “parents” of a miniature dachshund, Lazarus, whom we adopted after he was rescued from the pits of neglect.
He was in tough shape, having scratched or bitten off his fur after a severe flea infestation and subsequent allergies, and his ribs stuck out after being without food in an empty home for about a month before he was discovered. Frankly, he looked pretty pitiful, but we fell in love with him anyway. And while our dog brings a very sociable and clever dynamic to the household, he also brings a litany of health problems that we are still working with our vet to treat.
What’s been particularly interesting to me over these past few weeks, though, is how much we have to learn from these little creatures—even a “sad sack on the mend” like Lazarus. (And, frankly, don’t we feel like sad sacks ourselves far too often?) No matter how rough things get, that tail still wags. So, if you are feeling the “dog days” of unemployment or career transition like so many, take a few lessons from your friendly Fido.
The more friends you make, the more treats you get. (Or, the benefits of networking.)
Ben and I have lived in our condo in D.C. for three years. In that time, we have met one neighbor, maybe two. Then we bring home a dog and suddenly everyone knows Lazarus. By name, even. They stop to greet him in the entryway, they yell “Good morning, Lazarus!” from down the hall, they come up to him on the sidewalk to give him a treat. I’ve observed that the friendlier he is to our neighbors, the more he gets from them in terms of attention, affection and treats.
Sure Lazarus is impossibly cute. But the real skill is that he enjoys making friends. The tail wags, he prances over, he makes a big fuss of saying hello. In short, he demonstrates that his friends—old and new—are important to him. In fairness, I couldn’t recall the last time I acted so interested in seeing our neighbors. Lesson learned.
When’s the last time we ever greeted a friend or new acquaintance so enthusiastically? And why haven’t we? Start today. Challenge yourself not just to say “hi” but to actually have a conversation with someone new. You never know what new doors will open or friendships built. (Just, please, no barking.
Wag more, bark less.
Lazarus is pretty happy-go-lucky. He’s in the business of being hopeful—hopeful that a treat might fall into path, hopeful that you will tickle his belly, hopeful that someone or something interesting is just around the corner. In effect, he prefers to “wag more and bark less.”
I saw this phrase on a bumper sticker over the weekend. So true. It’s easy to let the chips get you down—and in this current economy more chips seem to be down than up. But you’ll be happier, healthier and more content when you focus more on the good things in your life and dwell less on the things that are less-than-ideal right now. It’s hard to do, but it’s important to try.
Respect the boundaries (but do challenge them when necessary).
Lazarus is not allowed in the kitchen, but this doesn’t stop him from trying sometimes. Oh, sure, he’ll sit quietly on the edge of the tile where the hallway meets the kitchen most of the time, but he throws all caution to the wind if the prospect of a treat is on the horizon.
It makes me wonder how often we play by the rules when, on occasion, breaking the rules might be in our best interests. Are you sitting on an imaginary line of someone else’s creation, waiting for something that may or may not happen? Or, when the reward is right in front of you, or even hidden behind a door somewhere, are you willing to just go for it?
Never feel guilty for resting.
I am not, and never have been, a morning person. So, when we decided to get a dog, I worried that I would not be able to manage those early-morning wake-up calls. Instead, we were blessed with a dog who is clearly not a morning person, either! Lazarus would sack in until noon if he could. And he often does, waking up only long enough for a potty break and breakfast in the early morning hours, before going back to snooze for hours on end. And you know what? He feels no shame.
You shouldn’t, either. Rest is important. In fact, it’s vital to a healthy life. When you need to rest— especially in these challenging times when you are working so hard and feeling like you are getting nowhere fast—just do it. Everything else can wait…at least until your nap is done.
You are worthy.
Lazarus just expects to be loved and adored. It’s not even a question in his mind. And the more he expects it, the more it seems to happen for him. He believes he is worthy of the pat on the head, the treat, the walk—yes, even the fish fillet he snatched off my husband’s plate when he looked away for all of five seconds. With him, there are no apologies, no half measures, no “what if’s.”
Wouldn’t it be great if we felt like we are worthy of success, joy, happiness, contentment, rewards? We are, you know. So, go for it! Claim what you would like to see happen. Be bold. Just do it!