Till about a year back, I was indifferent to dogs. Growing up, I never had a pet. So I always was apprehensive when it came to interacting with them. On the other hand, my husband who grew up surrounded by dogs and cats and always wanted us to have a four-legged member in the family.
Cats were out of the question (no offence cat lovers) … and that’s how Zia happened. Zia is a foster dog who was abandoned on the road when she was a month old. She was rescued by a kind soul who was her foster family for a few weeks, before we made her our own and welcomed her into our life.
Even at 2 months old she was curious and fidgety, barely weighing 6 pounds. She would walk a few steps, pee, sleep off for a few minutes, wake up again, walk a few steps, pee.. and this went on till she decided when it was time to turn in for the night. Initially it was cute, but I was soon doubting my decision to be responsible for a life.
I was forgetting something.. Zia didn’t know us. For her we were just two strangers who would give her food and fussed over her when she fell sick. I had to give us time to connect.
Adopting a homeless dog is challenging. In the last one year, we have patiently trained her, built her confidence and gave her the space and love to grow and develop her personality. Yesterday we celebrated her first birthday.
Looking back at the last year, as a family, we have grown so much. While I was teaching Zia basic obedience commands, she was imparting a few lessons to me as well.
Here are the 5 life lessons my dog has taught me:
1. Let it go
I have never seen Zia hold on to a grudge. When she misbehaves she gets a time-out, and at times a good shouting too. She understands her mistake and through her puppy eyes conveys feelings of guilt. However, give her 15-20 minutes and she’s back to her loving and goofy self.
(I am positive that dogs realise their mistakes. Why else, would she not repeat the crime for the next few hours or days?)
Lesson for myself: Don’t hold on to words said in anger.
2. Overcome fear – one step at a time
As a foster dog, new people and places are challenging for Zia. It took us months of training to take her out for walks, without her pulling the leash and trying to escape.
A few weeks back on one of her walks she met a pitbull who had just moved into the locality. Zia was taken aback – a new smell! Her tail slid in-between her legs and her ears pulled back, a clear indication that she was not interested in meeting him. For 5 minutes while I chatted with the pitbull’s human, Zia kept her distance. Her tail had started to wag but she was still wary of this new member.
We said our byes and returned home, the incident forgotten. Last week on her walk she encountered the same pitbull. This time she was more willing. She even let him sniff around! After a few minutes of interaction, she had made a new friend. We moved on and Zia was a happy dog.
Lesson for myself: A new situation can initially be daunting. Give it some time and approach it again.
3. Show Affection
We discourage Zia from licking us (or herself) to avoid it becoming a behavioural issue. But once in a while we let her give us an affectionate lick. Over time, she has developed her own ways of showing love – rubbing her body against my leg, resting her head on my feet, or letting out a huge sigh at the end of the day when she cosies up to me. As I learn more about her, I am noticing that Zia has her own language of love. It’s subtle, but it’s genuine.
Lesson for myself: Love doesn’t have to be an excessive display of affection, sometimes it’s the little things that matters.
4. Stay Enthusiastic
Zia loves to run around and is always up for a game of hide. She could be in a deep sleep, but she just needs to hear her name and she will come running from wherever she is in the house. Her run is almost a gallop – puts a smile on our faces every time.
Lesson for myself: Embrace each moment with enthusiasm and live life to the fullest.
5. Accept Praises
I’m sure this is true of all dogs, but since my reference is only Zia, here’s the last but the most important one – accept praises. Zia loves it when we call her a ‘good girl’. Her ears perk up, she takes a perfect sitting stance and makes eye contact – cue for either “give me a biscuit” or “give me lots of loving”, and sometimes both.
Lesson for myself: Accept praise with grace, without dismissing them.