Meet Maddie, our 12-year-old Jack Russell. It was about two weeks before Christmas 12 years ago, late in the evening, when my husband called everyone into the family room for a pre-Christmas surprise. He then presented this tiny little puppy to me as my Christmas present. I’m still not sure why he chose a puppy as a gift, but I do know I didn’t react nicely. Upon having the squirmy little puppy put into my arms I looked up and said, “But I wanted a camera.” I did get my camera on Christmas Eve, but I now also had a new puppy. If you know anything about Jack Russells, you know they have boundless energy and can jump to unbelievable heights. They definitely have a mind of their own. I even bought the complete set of DVDs from the Dog Whisperer. However, that doesn’t work unless everyone is on board. Needless to say, the first six years had me overwhelmed at the fact that these dogs live to be 20. I’m happy to say, at 12, she has calmed considerably and is much more obedient—definitely due to her own choosing.
I’m sure almost everyone, at some point, has heard the list of benefits of owning a dog. These benefits include, but are not limited to, lowering cholesterol, lessening stress and anxiety, mood lifting, and decreased blood pressure. In addition, as dog owners we exercise more, keep more active, have someone to care for (a purpose in life), and experience physical contact—ever so important for physical and emotional health.
But none of this tells you what I learned from my dog. Recently I reread The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I’ll agree it is not necessarily an easy concept to put into practice. Basically, he says, “Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.” Easier said than done for a couple of reasons. Frequently, as humans, we have anxiety, tension, and all forms of fear because we are trying to figure out our future. And when we’re not experiencing fear, we have guilt, resentment, sadness, and bitterness from living too much in the past. The past is done and can never be changed. The future isn’t here yet, and we have no control over that. What we do have is now. I’ve been watching Maddie. She totally lives in the present. When I take her outside for a walk, she’s happy. When I give her a treat, she’s happy. When I open the back door and she goes out to lie on the deck in the sun, she’s happy. If a chipmunk happens to appear and she gets to chase it around for a while, she’s happy. None of her happiness is dependent upon any one of those situations happening. We, on the other hand, live wanting. Not a good way to be happy. When we come into the present moment, we can enjoy just being. Basically, if there is not joy in what we are doing right now, then we are allowing time to cover up the present moment.
At night when I’m sitting on the sofa, Maddie will jump into my lap to cuddle up. Observing her and noticing her change in energy, I learned another lesson. She is totally content and at peace. Sometimes she lets out a big sigh and seems to have a smile on her face. She’s obviously very content and secure in the fact that she is loved. She’s not worried about having a place to live. She’s not worried that there might not be any food left tomorrow. She’s not worried that she might never get to go for another walk. She seems to know that life is good, she is loved, and she will be taken care of. She is in my lap, and all is well with the world.
At the end of the day, if it’s been particularly busy or stressful, when I sit down with Maddie in my lap, I’m reminded—right now all is well and I am loved!