The Wisdom of My Dog

Seiko stands waiting at the door.

Seconds earlier she had appeared to be in a deep coma. Our relationship is such that she knows, even from the depths of her doggy dreams, whether I’ve stood up to take her for her daily walk or if I’m just up to some boring people thing. Seiko is a year and half old female Great Dane, and I’m training her to obedience trial standards.

Through the process of Seiko’s training I am learning a greater wisdom and finding a deeper peace for myself.

A huge part of the formula for success in dog obedience has little to do with training. It is quite simply making the time everyday to walk for an hour or more with the dog. Migrating with the pack is the terminology, and it’s what a pack does.
The dog pack spends much of each day migrating with the pack leader. A daily rain-or-shine walk with the dog routine can be the greatest single factor in establishing oneself as pack leader to one’s dog. Becoming pack leader is an absolute requirement for obedience work.

For Seiko this daily schedule promotes a sense of pack, and for a dog – pack is the embodiment of rightness.

For me, the daily migration has become a time of contemplation and guilt free relaxation; after all, I am not wasting time; I’m being a responsible and caring dog owner, sacrificing my time and energy for the greater good of the pack. I can without guilt or thought to what else I should be doing surrender myself to the walk and the environment we travel through.

This freedom from human concern opens the door for learning, and this is the time when Seiko imparts her wisdom upon me.

Seiko, like all dogs, lives in the moment. She has no regrets for past decisions. She does not give thought to this morning never mind last week, and the dog is never concerned about tomorrow, or next week, or retirement. The dog lives only for the here and now. The contentment she derives from roaming the town with me, her obvious delight to stretch out into a full run, the fascination of every scent and sound that we come upon, these are the things that matter to Seiko. I watch her, vicariously absorbing the tranquility she derives from simply being alive.

Seiko walks at my side her head at my hip. Her sharp eyes focus on each movement around us; her nose tests the air, the ground, the fences and hedges we pass. Every few minutes her cool damp nose nuzzles my hand affirming that we are together we are not individuals on this migration. We are one; we are pack.

There is a forest trail around the backside of the golf course, and when we get to the head of that trail I stop. Seiko sits promptly. She does a pretty decent imitation of patience, but the energy she radiates is all puppy-has-to-run. On this trail Seiko is allowed to run off-leash, and as I reach to unlatch the leash her eyes watch my hands intently, waiting for the signal that will free her, a wave from my right hand releases her and she springs into a stretched out sprint. Her four paws contact the ground together; her powerful body stretches into the air leaving fully twelve feet between paw impressions in the damp forest ground.

Seiko doesn’t catch the crow she sprinted after, but she never does, and I don’t think she cares. She is a hundred meters in front of me when the crow lifts out of range and she wheels about and comes racing back in my direction. Participating in this activity daily gives me the confidence to calmly continue walking as a hundred- thirty-pound black projectile hurtles directly towards me. Just when it seems certain that a collision is imminent, she slips into a sedate walk at my side, butting her head against the back of my hand. I scratch behind one ear, and instantly she bends her long body around me, and sprints back down the trail. Stopping as suddenly as she started her nose pressed into the forest floor debris. I’ve no idea what she smells, but it’s obviously completely fascinating. Then just as suddenly she’s prancing along behind a yellow and black butterfly focused and intend on the study of this curious winged thing. I can feel the positive contended energy that flows from her; it’s like a warm blanket against the cold world, and I know that I can find similar ease simply be emulating my dog.

Seiko doesn’t obsess about where and when her next meal will come. When her belly is full that is good. Her belly is full now, and with her nose to the ground she’s the great black huntress hot on the trail of a vagrant deer, but the deer trail must have crossed over some other scent traveling in a different direction. She hesitates only a moment looking first in the direction she’s been traveling, and then turning to pursue this new quarry. After all, she already knows everything about the deer that a lingering scent trail can tell a dog.

Seiko splashes around in a small creek. Watching her living in her instant I cannot help but ponder the discontentment and unhappiness of humankind. How much of our dissatisfaction is related either to the burdens of regret we carry from each day our personal past, or our crazed obsession with the future? We humans have lost sight of the myriad of good and happy things that fill our lives; buried under what we believe are huge and momentously important issues from past and future. I absorb just a small amount of my dogs’ contentment each day and I begin to understand; the past is gone, and nothing changes our personal history. The future will come in its own good time, it is well to be ready for it, but silly to waste the present obsessing over things which may or may not even happen.

Seiko has taught me to smile again, and that the grass does feel delightful under running feet, and the sun is warm and nice, and the rain is also nice just in different ways. From her I have learned that walking is a joy, and it need not have a great purpose. One can walk just for the sake of walking; just to discover what is around the next corner, or under the next bridge, or simply to experience the majesty of life that surrounds us. The dog does not have any objectives in mind when we leave the house. She does not carry a list of things that must be done. For Seiko there are only two purposes to going for a walk; the pure joy of migrating with the pack, and the thrill of investigating the multitude of interesting things our world is compiled from.

There are mysteries to witness on the coldest winter evening under a bright moon. The scent of the forest after a rain speaks loudly of life. The breeze makes music in the forest canopy on a summer evening. A river has a symphony of smells all composed on the theme of water, and has there always been so many birds singing in the spring forest? Everything is so very alive today, when did I stop noticing these things?

This is the wisdom my dog is teaching me.

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