3 life lessons from pint-sized gurus
Rocky and Lucy came into our lives unexpectedly. They were dumped in a box on a vet’s doorstep. Our neighbors fostered the litter until they were old enough to adopt. My son played with them all summer. One day, he begged to adopt the runt — Lucy — and her bruiser brother Rocky. Against my better judgment, I agreed.
I didn’t do any research on how to manage puppies before we adopted them, and it’s probably good I didn’t. Had I known I’d be getting up in the middle of the night to let these little beings out to relieve themselves, I’m not sure I’d have signed up. The last month has been a blur of poop, pee, baths, wet kisses, toys, distraction, redirection, feeding, and chewing-up-stuff deterrence.
We’re exhausted. They’re exhausted. But all the love, attention, and snuggles we’ve given them have been returned in spades. More than that, these warm-hearted souls have taught us life-changing lessons. They are the spiritual guides we never knew we needed. Here are three lessons Rocky and Lucy have taught us that may help you too.
1. Clean up the crap
Puppies produce an extraordinary amount of poop. From all that eating and growing and whatnot. And it must be picked up. When we first got Rocky and Lucy, we’d let the poop cleanup regimen slide to every few days or so. But then the yellow jackets came. So we’re now on top of it daily.
I’m the main scooper. I never thought I’d say this, but I enjoy it. Not the smell. Not the gross texture. But the simple act of cleaning up the crap. Things look and smell better immediately. And the yellow jackets go away.
Life is like this. Cleaning up the crap in your life instantly makes things better. It also avoids bigger problems. Let’s say you haven’t called a certain relative in a while. You know they are expecting your call, but for some reason you just cannot muster up the energy to do it. But now, because you avoided making that call, the relationship with your relative is strained. And it will take an even bigger effort to get it back on track.
Or, maybe you aren’t the best about paying your bills on time. You get busy. You don’t feel like it. You forget when they are due. You don’t want to face up to the paltry amount in your bank account. But as a result, you incur late fees. And a ding on your credit report. Which then makes it more difficult and expensive for you to get a loan to buy a house.
Take care of life’s unpleasant tasks so they don’t morph into bigger problems. Clean up the crap in your life. You’ll feel better. And more in control.
2. Control your reactions
While taking care of things you’d rather avoid gives you a modicum of control over your life, you cannot control everything. Puppies, for one. They will entertain themselves with all the things you don’t want them to find. Socks. Bras. Toilet paper. Shoes. Food. Anything you leave within their reach. The chewier the better.
They’ll also have a few — ok, many — “accidents.” It’s just the way it is. At first you’ll be grossed out. And maybe a bit angry. But then you’ll realize that these are essentially babies. You’ll become more patient. You’ll get more creative in luring them outside when the need arises. You’ll have backup paper towel rolls and all-purpose cleaner at the ready.
In short, you will let go of control. Of perfection. Of cleanliness. Of the need to have everything in its place. Of the way you think things should be. And when you do that, something magical happens. You eliminate your own anxiety. You stop reacting negatively. You realize that many unexpected things are going to happen with these little creatures. You go with the flow.
Doing this with people is harder. But each of us is essentially a big puppy that makes a mess of things now and again. Acknowledging that allows us to avoid negatively reacting to others. We can take emotion out of the equation. We can realize that what other people say or do has nothing to do with us. We can have some empathy for others. We can relax while they figuratively rip things to shreds. And we can be a lot happier as a result.
Anyone who has owned a puppy or dog knows that they give unconditional love. When they see you, it is as if they are seeing you for the first time. Their eyes brighten. Their faces relax. Their tails wag uncontrollably. Their bodies wiggle. They cannot contain their excitement. They cannot wait to give you all of their love.
What if we treated the people in our lives like this? Just loved them. Even when they are unloveable. What if we gave them a kiss when they walked in the door. Saw the good in them. Treated them as if we had not seen them in ages. Smiled more. Hugged more. Loved more.
This lesson and many more rival those taught by the most enlightened spiritual gurus. Yet Rocky and Lucy are only months old. Which goes to show you can learn things from almost anyone or anything. Thank you my dear puppies for making us better.