My dog is one of the best "people" I know. She's discerning; she won't just befriend anybody, human or canine. She's intelligent; she "herds" me in the right direction when I lose focus. She's intuitive; she's great at "telling" me when I need to stop blubbering and "get on with it" (a la Monty Python). She's Zen; she helps me breathe, meditate, and be mindful. All in all, she's one amazing dog.
The other night, I had some students over; I no longer teach, but I still actively keep in touch with about 350 or so previous students each week and about 600 or so more on an annual basis. I hadn't seen any of my previous students since my last book signing in October. It was nice to sit with the dozen or so young people, laughing, talking, philosophizing...and there was my dog, in the middle of it all--the star of the show, ingratiating herself by giving special attention to individuals, especially those who were more shy. Amazing, isn't it? I've learned so much from my dog. And I know I'm not alone in how I feel about her.
Look at books like Marley & Me, which recently became a popular, if not heartbreaking movie, about what means to have good dog in your life. Anna Quindlen, one of the best writers of our times, also wrote about her experience in a 2007 short book. Stephen King...well, maybe he doesn't have a warm, fuzzy Fido story to share...Cujo, need I say more???
In all seriousness, dogs have been warming the hearts and minds of audiences, and artists, for a very long time. Lady with Lap Dog, not only a famous painting, but a famous story by Chekhov! We love our canine comrades! So, when considering how you can kick start any life goal, start with a good dog. Motivated (mostly by food), attentive to details (particularly if there's a squirrel in the vicinity), and highly focused individuals (especially when a biscuit is pending), dogs have a lot to teach us. And we humans have a lot to learn.
If you're not a dog lover or don't live in a place you feel is appropriate for a dog, don't despair. Head to your local ASPCA or shelter; volunteer to help feed the animals and give them attention. With the Haiti tragedy looming so large these days, and a very worthy loom it is, other charitable organizations, like animal shelters, will be a bit neglected. Please do support the efforts to help the victims of Haiti--see my Home page on how you can do just that. But if you're like me and can't go to Haiti to help, send your donations to places like the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders, then, go visit your local animal shelter and find ways you can donate your time to help some of the most worthy "people" on the planet.
Charles Dickens said, "Let sleeping dogs lie..." but while that's good advice when dealing with people or social issues, it's not the best advice when dealing with our furrier friends. Get out there and give a little time to those less celebrated but hardest working members of society: Dogs.
Until next time....