How to channel our inner animal and make life more fulfilling
The Things Our Dogs Can Teach Us
Written by Taly Matiteyahu (CEO of Blink, an audio-only blind speed dating app)
The pandemic has been devastating for so many reasons, but it’s given us the opportunity to reassess our day-to-day lives. It’s changed how we live, work, and socialize. Our morning commutes shifted from 45-minute train rides to 30 second walks downstairs, our lunches went from pre-packed, store-bought, or employer-provided to prepared fresh while camera-off in a Zoom meeting, our weekday attire changed from mindful and put together to… whatever wasn’t in the hamper or what we worked out in that morning. As I settled into my new, pandemic (and, I hope very soon, post-pandemic) normal, I’ve embraced my inner animal in pursuit of a happier, fuller life.
I’ve seen many suggestions about things we can learn from our pets. In my case, I took the chance during work-from-home life to take cues from my pups, with who I now spend much of my days with. While I wish I could laze on the couch for 19 hours a day and only wake up for massages and food, sadly I couldn’t emulate that portion of their existence. With that said, they did teach me a number of important lessons.
Dogs live in the now. Did you take their squeaky toy away an hour ago because it was interrupting your meeting? Maybe. But if you’ve got a treat or leash in hand, your pup has probably already forgotten all about your mouse-napping.
Before the pandemic, I was definitely trapped in a daily grind. Wake up, work out, get dressed, go to work, work, do something social or run some errands, go home, eat, sleep, repeat. Sure, the routine is good, but I never really stopped enjoying the moment.
Work from home can feel monotonous and repetitive, but there are some beautiful things about it… like your pup snuggling up under your chair and resting their chin on your foot, or a package you’ve been expecting arriving during your 5-minute break between meetings. Enjoy those moments. Pause to appreciate them.
A 2016 study showed that humans say “thank you” 2,000 times a year on average (or approximately 5 times a day), but more than half the time, they don’t actually mean it. It’s become second nature for us to mindlessly say “thank you” and we rarely stop to properly express our gratitude.
Our pets, on the other hand, show their gratitude. Whether it’s a tail waggle when we play with them or a lick when we scritch them, they let us know when they’re happy. Now, don’t go licking your mail carrier when they deliver a package you’ve been waiting for or anything, but taking an extra moment to say thank you to someone will probably be as gratifying for you as it is to them.
The last time a loved one came home, how did you greet them? Did you stop what you were doing for a hug? Did you pause to ask how they are? Or did you say “hey,” maybe ask “how’d it go?” or “what did you get?” while continuing to do whatever you were doing when they came in?
Our pups, on the other hand, are always excited when we come home, stopping whatever they were doing (... you know, whether it was their 14th nap of the day, playing with a toy, or grooming themselves) to come over and greet you. Their tails and/or butts waggle and they spend the next few minutes giving you all of their love and attention.
Humans sometimes take love for granted. We forget that spending time with our loved ones doesn’t mean just sitting on the couch together and watching Netflix, but putting distractions aside and focusing on one another. So the next time your parent or spouse or child comes home, put down your phone or step away from your computer, give them a hug, and catch up for a few moments before turning back to what you were working on.
When we pick up our dog’s leash, they don’t ask “Where are we going and who are we seeing? When are we coming home? Do we have work tomorrow…?” If your pup is anything like mine, they’re rarin’ to go the moment the leash comes out (ok ok fine, sometimes my pup is lazy and refuses to walk, but that’s usually on our quick “normal route cause I have a meeting in ten minutes and you have to pee” outings).
Try to channel that sense of adventure and willingness to explore. With so much of our lives changed and limited these days, try to say “yes” to the new, atypical, and safe adventures you can take – whether it’s a walk around a different neighbourhood or a trip to a park you’ve never been to.
Now that we’re spending so much time at home, it’s easy to forget to get outside and stretch our legs a little. During the pandemic, there have been days when I’ve had to stop and think about the last time I’d left my apartment.
If you have a dog, though, that just won’t cut it. Walks are mandatory. Getting outside, breathing fresh air, smelling some flowers, maybe seeing some other pups… that’s built into your every day. And it’s so good for us. A 2008 study found that adults who regularly walked their dogs for at least 30 minutes a day had a reduced risk for certain health issues. So get out there and talk a walk, even if it’s only for a short stroll between Zoom meetings.
How often do you stand up and stretch during your day? Take a sip of water? I’m willing to bet it’s far less often than you should.
Take a cue from your pup. Every time they get up and stretch, copy them. If they drink some water, take a sip of your own. The goal isn’t to mimic your pet (... or is it?), but to realize that we need to stop working every now and then and pay attention to our bodies.
Since the pandemic began, my favorite part of the day has become a couple of hours after lunch. It’s when my older pup wakes up from his 18th nap of the day, wanders over to the toy bin, and starts rummaging. After picking out a toy (usually his mouse, which he’d chewed the ears and tail off of years prior), he tosses it at me and grumbles, demanding I play with him. Whether I’m between meetings, about to make myself a snack, or dozing off reviewing emails, I make sure to toss the mouse back to him and play tug of war until he gets bored and wanders off for his 19th nap.
If you find yourself burning out or feeling wound up, take a break. Step away from the computer and put down your phone and play! Pick up your guitar, do a puzzle, dance, throw paper balls at a trash can – let yourself disconnect from your obligations for a few minutes and have a bit of fun. I promise, your pile of work will be there waiting for you once you’re ready to turn to it again.
 NY Daily News, Sep 14 2016. Americans say ‘thank you’ so much the phrase has lost its meaning, survey shows. https://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/americans-phrase-lost-meaning-article-1.2791950.
 VCA. The Benefits of Walking Your Dog. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/the-benefits-of-walking-your-dog.
The Things Our Dogs Can Teach Us The Things Our Dogs Can Teach Us The Things Our Dogs Can Teach Us The Things Our Dogs Can Teach Us