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Photo: Dog at Glacier in Himalayas Credit: Kiva Bottero

As a child, we always had family dogs. We had a couple of cats too. My parents believed that having a pet helped teach responsibility and foster maturity.

I loved all of our dogs growing up, but it was only when I got my first dog as an adult that I really realized what a unique and special bond could be formed with one’s canine animal companion. And how much there was to learn from them.

Zen and the art of canine communication

There are some key lessons about communication I have been taught, or have had driven home, by my dogs:

  • Enthusiasm is contagious.  Just by being enthusiastic and excited yourself, you can motivate those around you to become enthusiastic and excited, too.
  • Not everyone you meet may want to interact, but that shouldn’t discourage you from trying. Often, they will smile despite themselves and that, in itself, is a reward.
  • You have a whole body you can use to communicate. Humans may not have prominent ears or that wonderfully expressive tail, but we have shoulders, arms, hands and a huge range of facial expressions. Even the way you walk conveys your mood or attitude.
  • Never underestimate the power of touch. The poke of a cold nose, the brush of a furry body or a big head lying on your leg is a concrete reminder that we are not alone. In human terms, a touch on the arm, taking a hand in our own, or a hug, is a way to let others know we are there and we care.
  • That a simple tilt of the head can convey interest, curiosity, engagement and attention and that you are most important thing in the whole world at that moment.
  • Eye contact is important, but you need to get it right. A look should be direct without being either aggressive or submissive. It must hold for just the right amount of time; too briefly met seems like avoidance, too long seems challenging.
  • That, by paying a little bit of attention, body language becomes easy to understand and adds a depth of awareness that allows one to read mood without, and beyond, words. And that body language doesn’t lie.
  • A bad mood can be changed in an instant.
  • Sometimes, all you need is someone to keep you company, no chatter, no conversation. Just someone to sit with companionably, in quiet harmony.
  • Be honest, be genuine, just be who you are. Not everyone will accept you, some will be indifferent and a few will even dislike you. However to be happy in life, you must like yourself and be satisfied with who you are. In order to achieve that, you must be true to yourself.
  • Try not to be too enthusiastic in your greeting. That is sometimes off-putting and overwhelming. There are certain social niceties that must be observed, and a slight reservation is appropriate when meeting someone new.
  • That, sometimes, the most important and valued role in conversation is the one where you play focused, totally absorbed, unconditional listener.

Live and enjoy each moment

My dogs have taught me much about life in general.

Things like you should live each moment fully, throwing yourself into it. Enjoy the good times; try not to dwell on the bad. Play hard. Love completely and unconditionally. Don’t let a bad mood or bad incident ruin your day. Be a loyal friend.

Here’s to Jazz (1996 – 2008), Isla (2008) and Aurora (2012) and the valuable lessons they have taught me. I know I have a lot more to learn!

Best wishes for the Holiday Season and a happy, healthy New Year to all.

Robin Thornton

Robin Thornton

Managing Director at mononews
Communications professional. Strategic marketer. Brand builder. Consultant and resource. Opinionated fan of the written word, dogs, horses and shoes. Aficionado of Social Media and Single Malt. Extreme adult. Ever learning. Believe that if it's worth doing, it's worth doing well. Being the eldest child might explain my tendency to try and overachieve.
Robin Thornton
Dr. Avra Lyraki

Thank you Robin! Amazing article! Happy New Year!

December 31, 2012, 11:13 AM

Thank you, and Happy New Year to you!

December 31, 2012, 11:17 AM
Danielle

Loved it and am sending it on..Ever thought about becoming a writer (yes you already are but I mean like a book I would definitely buy!!!! Danielle – danielle.john @videotron.ca

January 2, 2013, 4:59 PM

LOVE-LOVE-LOVE it. You nailed it!

January 2, 2013, 10:10 PM

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