5 Tricks An Old Dog Can Teach You

Lovability as an evolutionary adaptation

Dogs manage to maintain their loveabilty, even as they age. Human beings respond to their cuteness by nurturing. We relate to pets much in the way we treat our own children.

We see the combination of cuteness and dependence, which triggers our impulse to protect and coddle. They don’t hide their vulnerability like we do.   This could be an evolutionary adaptation, to ensure someone will take care of them. Cranky old humans take heed.


3-D sense of smell

Have you watched how dogs smell? Every human has a unique scent, and that’s all a dog needs to differentiate us from one another. “To our dogs, we are our scent,” says canine cognition expert Alexandra Horowitz, author of the book, Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and KnowThey put their entire body and soul into it, like nothing else matters in the world but figuring out the source, their opinion of it and what to do as a result – pee on it, distance oneself, go for it or go on to the next.
My dog can barely see or hear, but she raises her nose when a new smell wafts into the room. Her favorite smell used to be in the crotch of women’s sexy underwear (she never went for the Hanes).  I don’t know how many pairs of Victoria’s Secret underwear she went through in her heyday.

It appears that it’s quite likely that dogs can smell fear, anxiety, even sadness. No wonder dogs seem to suffer greatly from divorce or empty nest. They also have been sad victims of the mobile phone obsession which has brought them very few conveniences but has shifted the attention of their owners tremendously.


Yoga 

Dogs naturally do yoga moves.  Their movements are not limited to puppy pose and downward dog. They know that stretching will help them navigate the world more easily, with a strong posture and gait. Their bodies, and ours, are designed to move. Increasingly as we age the ability to move depends on stretching.

Dogs do yoga instinctively (or attend Doga classes). If we followed their lead we’d be stretching first thing in the morning and several times throughout the day. We would also be complaining less about back pain.


Napping

Old dogs, much like infants, nap nearly all day. They can sleep 22 hours in a day. They tire more easily and nap to get strength they need to function for a few minutes here and there.  It comes down to listening to their bodies. Are you listening?


Being still 

Old dogs don’t have the distractions that interest younger dogs. The aren’t out looking for mates, chasing squirrels, catching frisbees. They don’t get excited about toys or treats. Honestly, being with an old dog can be tedious.
16-year-old Marley magically brings love into the world even without seeing, hearing, moving or making a sound.

Learning to be still with an aging dog is perhaps the greatest lesson of all. At their age, that’s all they really want. Marley just wants to hang with people that love her. She knows who they are. She’s right beside me now, nudging me to get off the computer. So I will end here and give her my full attention. She has taught me about stillness. A lot happens in stillness.  It’s the least we can do for a creature who is all about love and connection.

 

Spending time in Napa Valley got me thinking about wine…

Wine tasting here is a ritual that can be intimidating. The self-righteous sommelier stated that filling out the wine order form was a “test of intelligence”.

I know little about the intricacies of wine. I know which tastes good and which is going to give me a headache. I own a few wine gadgets: an electric corkscrew in honor of my carpal tunnel, an aerator to help it breathe and a vacuum bottle stopper for leftovers. I’m ok with where I am right now in the wine department.

I choose wine from areas I have been to. Wine with a story. I am drawn to Montepulciano from Tuscany, Barolo from Piedmont, Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, Shiraz from Australia. I recall sitting in a pub in New Zealand – it was trivia night (the horrors!) and I was invited to join a team. The only answer I knew was a question about Brett Favre ;-).

Drinking wine has a cerebral and a sensory component. Cerebral is the easy part for me. It is knowing the demographic origin of the grape, the soil composition, the wine-making process. The other is the primal sense of taste. That sense, as with all our senses, is underdeveloped. While we are aware of the 5 elements of taste (sweet, sour, salt, bitter and umami), they don’t get adequate attention. Wine is different in it’s depth, quality and mystique than, let’s say a Coca-cola. Drinking wine with a bit of reverence is a good thing.

That said, often in life the less you know the more you can enjoy. An avid surfer knows so much about surfing that he can no longer go to any beach and catch a wave. He needs to check the surf report for the perfect conditions. Perfect is the enemy of good. I know musicians that can’t just lean back and tap their feet – they need to deconstruct and respond to their analysis of the song rather than the song itself. It’s like a joke…if you dissect it, it dies.

When it comes to wine if you get too intellectual about it, it is no longer fun. But if you down it like a Coke, you miss out.

A scholar tries to learn something every day; a student of Buddhism tries to unlearn something daily.

Alan W. Watts

Got Passion?

Love + Medicine - Passion

One person with passion is better than forty people merely interested.

E. M. Forster

Part of our journey as humans is discovering what our passions truly are. Not what is in style, not pretending, not copying from others – really sensing one’s own passion and going for it. If you get rich along the way, so be it. Many famous, successful entrepreneurs attribute their success to their passion about their work. But of course you can much more easily lose money in the pursuit of your passion ;-).

The sensation of being in it is the goal, not the end result. What we chose to be passionate about is our own, to be respected without judgment. It makes us unique. Development of a passion is a fluid and ever-changing process. Some people have one passion that they pursue their whole life – they put in their 10,000 hours – while others flow from one to another.

 

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