I got my first dog at midlife. I was always allergic, and although I liked dogs I never thought I’d have one of my own.
I’d sneeze and wheeze each time I’d go over to a friend’s house, and I’d have to avoid even petting their pooch for fear my hand would break out in welts.
And yet, sometimes we’d go somewhere and I wouldn’t need to grab the tissues right away. I didn’t realize it then, but some dogs affected me differently on the allergy front than others. Eventually I figured out that a cross between a Poodle and Schnauzer (therefore called a Schnoodle) would be something I could handle.
Can Dogs Change Your Life?
I was the one that wanted the dog, but my husband readily agreed. We thought the dog would be fun (and she is) but I didn’t expect anything life-changing to happen. That’s what happens in schmaltzy movies and overly sentimental books, right?
There are plenty of books about great dogs (Marley and Me, Merle’s Door, and my favorite, Benji) but I’ve always taken them with a grain of salt. After all, can a dog really change your life? Especially after you get to midlife?
I used to think that it takes big lessons to change your perspective in midlife. Funny that the older I’ve gotten, the more the smaller things in life seem to make the most impact. So it should really be no surprise that a 15-pound Schnoodle named Genevieve would change my life for the better.
Lessons From the Dog
I’ve learned, for example, to relax. There’s nothing Genevieve (named after the dog in the Madeline books) likes better than snuggling up to you. It’s hard to feel guilty about sitting down and watching the birds outside when you’ve got the dog enjoying her time with you. After all, you wouldn’t want her to be disturbed, so you sit quietly and take in the view for a few minutes.
She’s also good at napping. I like that no matter what she’s been doing before, if she sees you heading for a nap she’ll zoom in next to you and get her snooze on.
On Balance and Taking Care of Yourself
Since I work at home, she’s been a good reminder about balance. I used to pound away at the keyboard until I was exhausted. I rarely took breaks and even ate lunch at my desk. Now, I have to get up. I have to let her out, get her some exercise, and in the process I get my own body moving as well.
I used to try to no avail to do the Pomodoro technique, which is basically a writing technique that helps you stay focused on working for set amounts of time and then taking a break, and with my dog I tend to do that much more easily than before. The dog has her own rhythm, and as a result, she forces me to stop what I’m doing. In the end, this actually helps my productivity.
I never stopped during the day to have fun. Oh the guilt in enjoying your day! Well no more. If there’s anything this dog has taught me, it’s that play time is a necessity. Not just a luxury. The more I’m able to free my mind from the business side of my life, the better I am at the creative side. In turn, the business side profits because the creative side is nurtured. Truly a win-win.
Get Excited at Seeing Your Loved Ones
When we come home and the dog runs around with delight at our return, there is something that says “welcome home.” She is happy to have us here, and I have to wonder how often we actually do this with each other. Do we run to our family members? Greet them excitedly every single day and let them know we’re so happy they are there?
If not, we should.
My husband and family give me unconditional love, but the kind of love I get from the puppy is different. She really does look at me with eyes that say “You are the greatest!” She wags her tail when I sing or act silly. She does this cute little snort thing when she’s happy, and when I’m editing videos and my voice comes on she closes her eyes and does that snort snort snort thing and sighs, all happy and content, before snuggling into her bed and snoozing.
She has taught me to look at myself in a better light. I may not deserve that kind of goodness, but the fact that she seems to think I might makes me change the way I see myself. I’m often very hard on myself, to the point where I’m annoying about it. I’m very critical. But in the doggie’s eyes, I’m pretty darn great, and this fills me gratefulness.