10 Truths My Dog Taught Me About Gratitude

 Teddy Kelley
Teddy Kelley

Some humans don’t say “thank you” enough, but my dog, a rescued border collie, says thank you for her bowl of kibble, for a rub behind the ears, for a stranger’s knock on the door, for waking up in the morning, and for a hundred other small moments we sometimes forget are worth wagging our tails. We would all be significantly happier, and spread more happiness to others, if we modeled our behavior after our dogs and kept in mind some simple truths.

Here are ten ways my dog models perfect gratitude by knowing how to be thankful:

1. It is important to let people know that you are grateful to see them.

Whenever I come home, even if I only walked to the mailbox, her tail goes bonkers, she runs in circles at my feet, and she emits a soft, loving howl: you’re home, I missed you so much, you are the most important person I know!

2. Each morning is the start of a new, good day

As soon as I’m almost awake, I’m greeted with licks on the face, paws on the chest, and a wet nose that says good morning good morning good morning—we have a great day before us!

3. You have multiple places to be, and they are all wonderful.

As soon as I reach for the leash, a mad stampede begins, an urgent dash between the door and wherever I’m standing. My dog knows how great getting out of the house can be, how a brisk walk can refresh and regenerate us, and how delightful having a companion to enjoy the outdoors feels.

4. Food is good and should be celebrated.

Yes, the food I provide my dog is shaped like small hearts, but the variety isn’t spectacular; nevertheless, the moment she hears the ping of kibble on glass, she commences a little dance, turning in circles and pounding her padded paws on the tile. She knows having enough of any kind of food is worth celebration.

5. Touch is an important part of a relationship.

I have never reached out to my dog and had her pull away; she always wants her haunches scratched or her belly teased. She understands with every muscle how important touch can be, so she never misses an opportunity for a hug or shake and more often comes near me and waits until I reach down and stroke her ears or kiss her muzzle.

6. Generosity and affection toward strangers builds community.

Doesn’t matter if the UPS delivery person rings the bell or a young girls selling cookies knocks, my dog goes berserk with happiness, and as soon as I open the door, she is on her back, pressed against the stranger’s feet, wagging her tail and saying, you are always welcome here! You are special and important, too! Let everyone know you are grateful for them. Gratitude is reciprocal.

7. Finding friends builds character.

At the dog park or on walk when we meet other pooches, we are immediately eager to run in big circles with our new friends, jump and clash paws playfully, and race over to other dogs in hopes of finding new playmates. The world is full of wagging tails; the more we play, the happier we are—and the better we sleep at night.

8. Taking naps is much more fun with a buddy.

Pressed against my legs, the warmth of my dog, the beat of her strong, little heart makes my quick trip into afternoon la-la-land even more regenerative—and she’s always ready to curl up beside me. Even when I’m watching football, she curls beside me on the couch and is grateful for a leg upon which to rest her chin or the security of a foot to press against. Life is warmer back to back.

9. A warm bath soothes many senses.

True, the first jump into the tub can be a little tense, but once the warm water surrounds us and my fingers are pulling soap through her coat, she enters a kind of fugue happiness, her eyes slightly closed, every muscle quiet—the combined sensation of warmth and touch is almost too much to bear. We are surrounded by sensual opportunities.

10. Play catch, learn new tricks, eat treats, and be grateful for the variety of pleasures every day affords.

If a bone has lost some of the attraction or a stuffed animal toy has no more stuffing, we can play chase around the yard or fetch the soggy tennis ball or tug-of-war over socks or howl and dance to a loud song or watch dogs on the Nature Channel or dig holes or, our favorite, get a squirrel up in a tree and let him know, for at least thirty minutes, just how lucky he is we can’t climb trees. Be grateful for all the wondrous activities we can do together. TC mark

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