It’s Mental Health Awareness Week so I wanted to share a story with you about the time I spent over the recent bank holiday with a small dog who I was asked to look after by a relative. I was feeling lonely and she felt like the ideal companion. She’s aptly named after the beautiful Hollywood star Hedy Lamarr. All the images I can find of her (the actress) are in black and white, which is befitting, as so too is my little furry companion, as you can see from the picture above.
I offered to look after Hedy without knowing too much about her. Then she arrived on my doorstep along with her little bed, a snuggly blanket and a couple of fluffy toys. She’s turned out to be a bit of an enigma actually. I didn’t even know what breed she was, or how old, and so when people stopped to ask me about her, thinking she was a puppy, I fumbled through a few cross-breeds and age guesses, feeling a little ashamed that I was doing my new companion rather a disservice with my lack of knowledge. It turns out Hedy has just turned 9, so not a puppy at all. I hope to look that good when I’m 63.
Her first owner, who had her from birth recently died, and I felt at times that little Hedy suffers from some mild depression. So, during her stay, I gave her heaps of love and attention. Whilst I may not know too much about her, what I can say with all my heart, is that I’ve fallen head over heels in love with her. I didn’t want to give her back! We had so many adventures together in the village and beyond and it feels like there are more to come.
This week I spent with her was precious and the timing couldn’t have been better. She’s been the exact tonic I’ve needed, bringing with her a sort of calmness that made me forget my troubles and to-do lists and instead allowed me to sink into the warm(ish) shingle of West Beach and watch the waves crashing along the shoreline. It felt right that we were together on the beach to share our company.
In my view, life is a series of valuable lessons and this little dog has given me them in abundance. Here are 5 thus far that I wanted to share with you:
Lesson #1 Curiosity
When shown something new, something not even remotely remarkable such as a new room, or a new person, the outdoors, a shoe, a pebble with a new smell, the sea, a new route, or even a new flavour meal, dogs embrace these with total delight. In fact, they embrace everything with total delight as if seeing it for the very first time. A bit like small children do before we start moulding them into responsible adults. If we could all adopt this outlook then life would take on far greater meaning and we would cherish more and take less for granted.
Lesson #2 Always give fully
Dogs seem able to tell when you’re only half or even quarter present and like to remind you of it. With a little nudge of the nose or a jump onto your lap, they instantly bring you back to the present moment and reward you with love and gratitude. This is akin to the new buzzword (although it’s not very new at all) called Mindfulness. Whilst we seem to have forgotten this powerful way of being, dogs have never strayed far from the mindfulness path. We can all learn a thing or two from their approach in this crazy, hectic modern world of worries we live in.
Lesson #3 Give with no expectation of receiving
When we give without expectation of receiving, it’s the purest form of giving you can make. Most of us find it extremely difficult to give without some form of expectation in return. Dogs, however, live in this pure giving space, permanently.
Lesson #4 Go with the flow
When have you ever seen a dog stressed about a decision you’ve taken on their behalf? Dogs go with the flow. They just are, permanently. That’s not to say, of course, that we shouldn’t have boundaries, of course we should, but accepting difficult situations can be powerfully empowering. It’s when we resist something we cannot change, that we suffer the most.
Lesson #5 Knowing who to trust and who’s good for you
Dogs seem to know who the bad eggs are. They pick up on energy, wagging their tails when they feel good about something and growling when they sense something isn’t right. Dogs follow their intuition and we’d do well to develop the same senses ourselves. We’re all capable, but most of us have just forgotten or ignore our ability to be intuitive in modern life.
Lesson #7 Excited about life
A dog gets excited at the simplest of things. Their curiosity generally leads them to this – looking here and there for something to enjoy. Imagine if we were that excited all the time by new things? As we get older, we generally hide or dampen our excitement because we think it’s the grown-up thing to do. Why is that?
So, if you happen to be in Selsey, near Chichester and see me about town with a little black and white dog, do stop and say hello, but do it with excitement and curiosity!