What Dogs Teach Us about How to Be Better Humans

"The more boys I meet, the more I love my dog." —Carrie Underwood
“The more boys I meet, the more I love my dog.” —Carrie Underwood

This morning I hit the snooze button a few too many times. I woke up in a hurry and rushed haphazardly through my morning routine. Before I left home to attend to the business of work, my dog had to attend to some business of his own. As city dwellers my dog and I lack the luxury of a yard, but ordinarily our early morning strolls are the best part of my day. Since today I was running late, walking Sherman was an arduous task. It took him an extra four blocks to identify the perfect shit spot and I swear that turd came out in slow motion. When we finally rounded the corner of our street, Sherman plopped his furry ass down on the curb and refused to move. He needed to tell me that he wanted a longer walk, and he was not shy about saying so. It was in this moment that I realized what dogs teach us about how to be better humans.

More often than not, we humans are afraid to ask for what we need, let alone what we want. And not just in our romantic relationships but in our friendships and with our family, too. Why are we so afraid to drop our asses down and be straightforward about what we actually require or desire for our well-being?

As we continued to walk Sherman spotted a rabbit. As a child I read and was traumatized by Bunnicula so I have always hated bunnies. Even still I try to prevent Sherman from chasing them, mainly to protect my rotator cuff. Yet on this day chase he did. More often than not, we humans fail to chase after our dreams. Why do we fear that we will not catch these dreams, and why do we allow people and things to hold us back from the chase?

In the moment of his rabbit chase, and every other singular moment of his life, Sherman is completely present. Sherman does not burden himself with yesterdays nor does he stress about tomorrows. He is simply, perfectly present. We humans could stand to live a little more in the moment.

Before leaving for a walk Sherman does not look in the mirror and criticize the color of his fur or the way his tail curls. He does not look at other dogs and wish he had their noses, tails, or paws. Sherman purely accepts that he is who he is. We humans could stand to accept ourselves more wholly, to criticize ourselves less and love ourselves more.

Sometimes I make Sherman mad or sad, like if I refuse to share my table food or go on a long vacation. Sherman allows himself to feel whatever he feels and he expresses it. But instead of holding on to these feelings he humbly lets them go and moves on to the next thing. We humans could stand to practice a little more acceptance, a little more forgiveness, a little less grudge holding.

Sherman loves to play and he also loves to nap. As a dog, he is keenly aware that it is important to have a balanced existence. We humans could stand to frolic, move, and nap a little more and work a little less.

Sherman loves freely and unconditionally. He is curious about each new person he comes in contact with and he is open to developing new relationships. We humans could stand to love more liberally, to be more vulnerable, to open ourselves up more to the people around us.

When in the car, Sherman sticks his head out of the window to breathe in the fresh air, feel the wind on his furry face and take in the sights and smells. Though this could be a metaphor for how we humans should enjoy the journey more than anything, maybe sometime we should just actually stick our heads out of a car window. Maybe there’s really something to it…

I have often questioned Sherman’s judgement of character; he has loved every single asshat that I’ve dated. Yes, I loved them too, but dogs are supposed to have stronger instincts about these sorts of things. But now I see that I can hardly blame Sherman for his acceptance of my lovers past. Sherman was simply doing what dogs do and what humans should do more often—accepting and loving freely, wholeheartedly, unconditionally and without fear of failure.

"Dogs act exactly the way we would act if we had no shame." —Cynthia Heimel
“Dogs act exactly the way we would act if we had no shame.” —Cynthia Heimel

3 thoughts on “What Dogs Teach Us about How to Be Better Humans

  1. A social worker friend posted your blog on being a social worker and I’ve been stumbling down the rabbit hole with your posts. This one about what we can learn from dogs hit home for me and my pooch. Keep up the great writing!

  2. I’m an LCSW who recently started working with a community reentry program for incarcerated men and women, who are given rescued dogs with behavior problems who were scheduled for euthanasia. What a beautiful relationship the participants and dogs form as they learn to work together to get the dogs ready for adoption and their forever homes!

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