I’ve been lucky to have shared my life with many pets over the years. Looking back, I know they were all very generous with their gifts and they taught me many things. Like a lot of people, though, I felt especially blessed and connected by one dog in particular. For me, that was my beloved Bichon Frise Casey Jane who I had to say good-bye to in December of 2011. The thought of that still gives me pain.
Over the years, though, there was much, much more joy in my life from Casey than any other thing. That is, she brought joy and love to me in abundance but, looking back, she brought more, as well. Can I quantify those things? No, of course not. But if I think about her gifts I can boil it down, at least a little bit.
Here, then, are the 10 Things Casey Taught Me: the things I have to hold on to every single day. The gifts she shared that, ultimately, changed my life. And now I’ll share those gifts with you.
The Ten Things Casey Taught Me
1. Forget About Multitasking
Look at your dog when she’s got a job to do. She’s doing it whole-heartedly, isn’t she? She’s in the moment and on the ball. There are studies that show that when you multitask your productivity goes down. I don’t think Casey actually knew that, but something in her bones did, just the same.
2. Walk Every Single Day
Even when you don’t feel like it. Walking continues to be the safest and easiest ways to burn calories and help you lose weight, fight depression, keep your bones strong, your heart going and your mind sharp.
3. Live in the Moment
Though I think, in a way, that this goes with multitasking, it’s a strong enough point to draw a line under. In a Harvard university study called “A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind,” psychologists concluded that people are happiest when doing things that keep the mind focused, such as sex or exercise. So live in the now!
4. Wag Your Tail
It’s true: I do not have a tail. Nor, probably, do you. But Casey taught me to try and be happy for the small things and to approach life gratefully. Back to the studies: it’s been shown that people who keep gratitude journals have better attitudes, exercise more and have fewer physical complaints.
5. Get More Than Your Eight Glasses
When dogs are thirsty and need replenishing, they go straight for the good stuff: water from the tap! When you’re playing -- and even just plain living -- it’s important to your health and your heart to stay hydrated. It helps keep you looking good, too.
6. Show Your Love
Dogs don’t ever play coy. When they love you, you know it. It turns out that showing your love is important for people, too and couples that let each other see their love are more connected and secure.
7. Don’t Forget to Groom
When we take care of ourselves and take the time to look good, we feel better. And Casey didn’t just make that up: there’s a strong link between personal hygiene and self-esteem. And everyone knows a shiny coat is a good indication of health.
8. Don’t Sit in the Sun
You wouldn’t think that dogs would know about UV rays and such but next time you’re out and stop for a break, watch your dog: they’re most likely going to head for the shade. And though sunscreen in the summer is a must, adding the protection of a big ’ol tree won’t hurt, either.
9. Give in to the Routine
Dogs are creatures of habit. Most of us? Not so much. Yet people tend to thrive more when they get really in tune with their body clock. Everything you do in this regard can help you achieve more -- and more restful -- sleep.
10. Learn to Read Body Language
Dogs are experts at non-verbal communication. A stretch, a sniff or a snuggle all reveal deeply different things. It’s not that we humans don’t have body language -- we’re stretching and scratching and making eye contact all the time. It’s just that most of us aren’t terribly good at reading it and volumes of potentially valuable communication goes to waste.