What My Dog Taught Me

Lessons #1  June 2012

My Teacher, My Dog

I have a large German shepherd named AMEE.  She’s been a part of my family from the time she was a tiny pup.  And I have learned many lessons from her.  One lesson in particular stands out for me and this is the lesson of how to begin each day.

It’s a question you might ask yourself.  How do you start your day?  What are your first thoughts and actions upon awakening?  Do you immediately turn on the computer to check your Facebook page or email?  Do you click on CNN to catch the first news of the day?   If something is troubling you, do you find yourself thinking about it right away?

The start of my mornings is completely intertwined the start of AMEE’s day.  It begins around 5 AM while I am still in REM sleep.  There comes that inevitable moment when I become aware that AMEE is heavy and persistent breathing.   This signals she has awake and is standing next to my side of the bed waiting.  Only a fold-out gate prevents her from licking my face.   If I open my eyes or make any obvious moves, she will leap onto the bed in the expectation of belly rubs and egg pull.  I do my best to pretend that I’m still asleep but I can never fool her.  Maybe my breathing pattern changes or maybe she is just psychic but she knows when I’m awake.  I hear her tail begin to wag, beating against the side of the dresser as rhythmic as a metronome.

No more pretending.  I get out of bed and look at her.  Her ears are playfully tilted sideways and she has a look of utter joy that comes from knowing she is about to go outside for her first walk.  She leaps and bounds and runs in circles.  She has done this day after day for 12 years.   Whatever unpleasantness has marked her previous day, whether getting shots from her vet or yelled at for chewing a shoe, the past is completely forgotten.  She knows only the joy of awaking to a new day.

Judaism’s “wagging tail” is called the Modeh.  This is a prayer of thanks for being alive that we can say each morning upon waking.  You can say the traditional words or make up your own.

Here’s the traditional version:

I give thanks to Thee, everlasting King, who has mercifully restored my soul within me, Thy faithfulness is great. 

 START EACH AND EVERY DAY WITH THE FEELING OF SHEER JOY AT BEING ALIVE.  METAPHORICALLY SPEAKING, WAG YOUT TAIL.  THERE WILL BE PLENTY OF TIME FOR EVERYTHING ELSE.

Thank you AMEE.

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