I’ll never forget the day my family got a dog. I never was a big animal lover, frankly they scared me. No idea why either. Maybe something happened to me as a child. My family moved around a lot as a child and we just were labeled, “not a dog family.” So junior year of high school when I came home to a sign on the garage door that said, ” beware of dog,” needless to say I was NOT happy. My mom had gotten my youngest brother a dog named Brooklyn. That was 15 years ago. Recently our dog, Brooklyn, had to be put down.
Over the 15 years, Brooklyn and I did grow close and I did love that little dog. She was never more than 9 pounds and she loved table food. She was a mush too. We used to joke that if a robber came in to our house we weren’t home, she’d just roll over and have the bugler pet her instead of barking. Sometimes, when my husband was out of town for a stretch of nights I’d have her come stay with me to keep me company. So a couple weeks ago when my mom informed the family that we would have to put her down, it was late at night and I remember waking up very sad. I’d describe it as a helpless sadness. In fact, I admit, I did wake up and think it was appropriate to eat chips for breakfast to soothe my sadness.
The thing about grief is that it often comes with guilt. With a pet, instead of remembering all the happiness, love and quality that little animal companion contributed to our family, we tend to be hard on ourselves. Instead of remembering that adorable little face that greeted us at the door everyday, we remember the time we were too tired for a walk. Instead of thinking fondly of the long walks we did take together, we worry about the time we yelled when she peed on the rug. I also think that sadness comes from the unknown. We aren’t sure what life will be like without this pet. We anticipate the fear of walking in the door and not seeing the little dog wagging her tail, excited to see us, even if we’re in the midst of dislocating our arms carrying in all our groceries.
To settle my sadness, and in honor of my family’s little dog, I wanted to put together a list of the things 4 that she taught me.
FIRST, WAKE UP EXCITED TO EXERCISE. A dog is pumped the minute you put him or her on their lease to hit the streets first thing in the morning. They don’t care about how many miles they walk or run, they don’t care how many calories they burn, they don’t care about the weather. They just want to be active. It’s so easy for us to hit snooze the minute the alarm goes off. We may even be hitting snooze on the workout we set our alarm early for. In that moment, the satisfaction we feel in the split second we decide to skip our workout is high. And, I know I often get caught up in the all or nothing mentality that comes with working out. I rationalize that if I can’t workout for an hour, why workout at all. I constantly question which workout I should choose based on which is going to burn the most calories. If I wakeup and workout will I be depriving myself of sleep, I question? So many questions so little movement. Let’s be like our dogs, just get up and go…even if it’s just a ten minute walk around the block, it’s always worth it. It’s always healthy.
SECOND, STAY LOYAL TO WHAT YOU LOVE. No one is more loyal than a dog. They are loyal to their people, they are loyal to their favorite activities, they are loyal to their favorite foods. In the 15 years I knew my dog, she really didn’t change too much. Among her favorites, she liked peanut butter on a spoon, she liked licking the yogurt container clean and she enjoyed scrambled eggs. And I never saw her eat something she didn’t want to. Often times we try to eat what we think we should, instead of eating what we actually like. If I had a dime for every time at breakfast I tried to eat cottage cheese or yogurt cause I thought “i should since it’s healthy” instead of just eating the banana and peanut butter like I wanted I’d be rich. We’re all constantly eating the foods we think we should, instead of the foods we like. We forget the beauty of automating our meals when it comes to eating healthy. If everyday for breakfast you want oatmeal with berries, have the oatmeal and berries. Because when force yourself to chock down the yogurt or cottage cheese, unsatisfied, an hour later, you’re knee deep in the first carb you lay your eyes on.
NEXT, ENJOY YOUR ALONE TIME. As much as our dogs love when we are around, the minute the house gets quiet, they retreat to relax. For Brooklyn, her favorite places of rest varied over the years. One of my favorites was when she would lay all day in my dad’s closet when no one was home. Us humans have such FOMO. We’re constantly scrolling social media to see what we are missing out on when we aren’t out. I think many of us are actually scared to be home alone with our own thoughts. Loneliness and boredom are two of the most popular triggers for emotional eating. We don’t let ourselves relax, we don’t even let ourselves nap. We feel the need to be “on” 24/7. We feel the need to be “in the know.” We need to remember, that just like our dogs need their down time, so do we. They wouldn’t be so happy to see us when we came home if they weren’t fully refreshed.
FINALLY, SLOW DOWN AND ENJOY EATING. I believe my dog was the happiest when she was eating. She loved food from the minute she was born. I used to watch her wag her tail anxiously waiting for food and the minute she got the go ahead, it was game over. She could finish off an egg in 4 seconds flat. I used to think to myself, slow down! Savor that food! Did you even taste that?! But that’s something I need to remind myself. I eat too fast and forget to actually enjoy my food all the time. I need to slow down and savor the flavor, just like I used to wish Brooklyn did:)
Thank you Brooklyn for teaching me these lessons and many more, I’ll miss you!