I was fortunate enough to grow up on a farm and surrounded by animals. I have always been an animal lover but having a dog has taught me many life lessons. After years of education, Apollo has bestowed more knowledge, wisdom, and insight than a classroom ever could.
My partner and I rescued Apollo three years ago from the Emerald Coast Golden Retriever Rescue. It was the second best decision of my life. If you have or had a dog, then you will understand what I’m about to share with you.
Apollo’s previous owner was a single parent, which left him caged for many hours a day. He was thin, had huge paws, and a ton of energy. We had a long drive to rescue him, so we stayed overnight in a hotel. The first night that he spent with us resulted in him sleeping on my head the entire time. We laughed throughout the night and my partner was worried that this was how Apollo would sleep every night. I told him not to worry because it meant that Apollo trusts me enough to sleep on my head.
One of my many favorite things about Apollo is that he knows how to count. He does this by greeting people he sees by touching them with his nose. It is his way of saying hello as he counts every person he interacts with. He is the sweetest and most loving animal I have ever met. Here are a few lessons that Apollo has taught me about life.
1. Be a kind person
I wouldn’t say that I’m unkind, but I can get stressed which leads me not to be as tolerant as I would like to be. How can I not be kind when I look at his big brown eyes and his comical eyebrows? They melt my heart. He is a gentle soul that only wants to be loved and share his love. He is so kind and just as big as I am tall. I aspire to be as gentle and loving as he is.
2. Stop and be present in the moment
I am the self-proclaimed queen of multi-tasking. I can make a severe dent in my to-do list very quickly. However, I have to work hard to be present in the moment. It’s easy to be present when I’m in therapy with a client, however, when it’s downtime, or I’m not working, it’s difficult.
Apollo has taught me to be in the moment. He makes me put my phone down so that I can pet him. He nudges my arm until he has his head in my lap so I can only focus on him in the moment. He shows me that nothing else matters except that exact moment.
3. Don’t take life too seriously
There is nothing funnier than when Apollo wants to play with the red laser. This is when he chases the laser pointer across the living room as if he is a cat. He could do it for hours if I would let him. He hops around, pounces, and gets so exhausted that his tongue hangs out the side of his mouth. This is what bliss looks like which is an excellent reminder that life is short and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. If he can find this much happiness playing with a laser pointer, surely I can relax and stop being so serious.
4. Don’t be selfish or self-absorbed
Apollo relies on me to make sure he is fed, gets exercise, and stays healthy. He can’t do this without me. There is zero room for selfishness when you have a dog. I can’t leave him for an entire day without access to a bathroom or food. That would be irresponsible. It doesn’t matter what I want to do because he is my first responsibility to make sure he is taken care of and comfortable. He depends on me to take care of him, and I rely on him to help me stay balanced.
5. Speak up for what you need
It doesn’t matter how busy I am when Apollo wants attention I give it to him. Whether he burrows under my arm for a scratch on the head or whimpers until I get out the laser pointer, he knows I will do anything to make him happy. He knows what he needs at the moment and isn’t afraid to ask for it.
6. Don’t be afraid to say hello
I am an introvert and have to work hard at being social. This is very different than how Apollo socializes. He will run up to anyone or any animal to say hello. Whether it’s a sweet person who wants to pet him or a growling dog with a toy he approaches everyone thinking the best of them. He doesn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to say hello and be his friend. I am trying to practice this daily, which has helped me in meeting new people and networking.
When I’m nervous or wanting to avoid a situation, so I don’t have to chat, I remember Apollo and push myself out of my comfort zone. He has taught me to be content with life and live in the moment. If I’m not feeling good, he won’t leave my side. His loyalty, commitment, and love have inspired me to be a better person. What have you learned about yourself from your dog?
A clinical sexologist and psychotherapist. From sex/intimacy, personal growth, and relationships, I am here to help you every step of the way.