Oscar is 18 months old today. We’ve had him since he was 8 weeks old and he’s completely changed our lives. Dogs have a habit of doing that. I have learned so much from him in just that short time, some of which I’ve written about in previous blogs. I feel like I’m always learning so here are some of my most recent insights:
1) I can be a child any time I want
Oscar & I walked by the river this morning, close to where we live. The level was higher on account of recent rain, such that the path we often take along the river was flooded. So we had to climb up a steep bank and through some trees to get to a field.
As I clambered up the bank, getting filthy from the mud, holding onto tree branches to pull myself up, a loud ‘Yippeeeee’ burst out of me. I felt like a child again. I used to have adventures like that all the time as a child. I could have stayed there all morning. What’s the rush, I thought? I then actually went back down a bit and chose the steepest part of the bank, just so that I’d need to climb a tree to get back up again. It was so much fun.
I was reminded that we can play like children any time we want. We just need to find a tree, or a ball, or a skipping rope or hula hoop. As adults, we have this idea that we have to always behave like adults. Who said we need to? I think it would do us all some good if we let our inner child have a play from time to time.
It set my up for the day. I am feeling great right now as I type this.
2) It’s important to listen to my body
If Oscar goes on a long walk or has a lot of play time with his friends, he comes in and slumps on the floor and sleeps. He just knows what his body needs and acts on it.
Even when I feel really tired, I have had a habit of continuing to work because I have things I need to finish. But what I’m doing is putting my work before my health instead of the other way around. If we don’t have our health then we can’t work. It’s as simple as that.
Oscar reminds me to listen to my body more. If I feel tired I can sleep, hungry I can eat, light-hearted I can play. If I don’t feel hungry, I don’t need to eat (that’s never the case with Oscar). It doesn’t mean we have to just down tools every time we’re tired, but it wouldn’t do us any harm just to pay a little more attention to the needs of our bodies.
3) It’s important to take regular breaks (and make them fun if I can)
Oscar broke my laptop screen a few weeks ago. The Apple Store repaired it for me for free (Go Genius Bar!) so no harm done. If he’s been sleeping and then wakes up, and I happen to be using my laptop on the sofa (we have a lovely log fire so I prefer the living room to the office during the winter), he jumps up on the sofa and pushes my laptop out of the way, while his tail ferociously slaps me on the side of the head as he wags it with excitement. I think it’s his way of saying “You can’t choose that silvery thing over me.”
I always end up bursting out laughing as I stretch my laptop out with my hand so it doesn’t drop on the floor (failed that one time), while he then licks my face as I laugh.
It’s funny, but when Oscar wants to play, even if I’ve been feeling under pressure with my workload, the stress disappears in an instant. I stop what I’m doing and we play with his ball, ring, or one of his other toys; or we just have a play-wrestle.
It reminds me that we have a capacity to make ourselves smile at any time. We just don’t recognize how important it is or we’d do it a lot more.
4) Walking is very good exercise
Before we got Oscar, 16 months ago, I used to go to the gym 3 or 4 times a week and jog at least once a week. I convinced myself that it was the only way to stay fit. Now I don’t go to the gym nearly so much, yet I’m about 8 pounds lighter.
I hadn’t thought about it until I worked it out, but I walk around 20 miles a week on average. And it’s the consistency that matters. Many people like to walk but are not consistent enough to feel the real benefits. I’ve been like that in the past, full of good intentions but only keeping up the practice sporadically.
Having Oscar forces me to be consistent … like every day. The result has been weight loss and a healthier cardiovascular system to boot.
And another thing: I thought that by not running as much I’d have lost fitness. That was until I took part in a charity 5k and ran it in not much over 20 minutes, having not been out for a jog in several months. Walking consistently really is great exercise.
5) Love needs to be unconditional
I think we’ve all heard it somewhere. We’ve read it, heard it at a talk, or maybe we’ve seen it in a quote, or even one of our friends proclaimed it in a conversation. But have you ever really thought about what it means? Or witnessed it in action?
I’m not so sure I’d ever really thought about it until Oscar arrived. Dogs have this knack of showing you unconditional love – love without anything attached to it … not “I’ll love you if you take me for a walk” or “I love you because you feed me” or “I’ll stop loving you if you do that.” It’s just, well, “I love you” … and that’s it. There’s nothing attached. It’s just pure, simple, complete love. And it feels fantastic. It really gets you thinking.
There’s a sense of freedom in it that makes me love him even more. I don’t have to love him back, which allows the natural bond to form unimpeded with conditions. That’s the thing with unconditional love. When there’s nothing riding on it, the love is unimpeded and is super strong.
Here are some of my previous blogs about my experiences with Oscar:
Copyright 2014 David R. Hamilton PhD.