When planning a sabbatical, people often speak of “enlightenment” and traveling to “find themselves”. In our case, we’ve been looking for creative inspiration and a chance to experiment. So let’s experiment with a funny thought.
Imagine for a second that you are a dog. I know what you’re thinking… ‘all this poop scooping has gone to their heads’. Fair. It may even be true. But humor us for a bit.
So you’re a dog. You’ve been taken away from your mother before you could even open your eyes, and given to a family from a different species. They feed you, and walk you, and sometimes give you tasty treats if you sit or lie down. You also get to sleep. A lot. Your life is pretty good.
But what about your psyche? Your new parents often leave you and say that they’ll ‘see you later’. They throw a ball for you, and then tease you with another one. They have visitors and sometimes tell you to sit outside whilst the guests are around. You get sad, lonely, bored, and may even resort to doing weird things, like chasing your tail.
It’s tough sometimes, especially on your emotions, but you still get fed, and you still get a ball thrown at you. You also have a warm bed to sleep in. And if it isn’t warm, you sleep on the floor, because, hey, you can sleep anywhere. Sometimes the food you get tastes different, but it’s good – it’s still food. You may have to sit outside when it’s cold, but you get by. When there’s no electricity, or its raining, you somehow adapt, without complaints.
Lots of ups and downs whilst being a dog, but somehow, your life is great. “It’s a dog’s life,” as they say.
Our month spent volunteering at The Pet’s Academy with our new friends Laura and Michele (Italy’s Cesar Milan, as we’d like to think), who together have devoted their lives to helping and understanding animals, had us realise something profound – any enlightenment or soul searching you hope to achieve, you can very simply learn by living like a dog. Here’s why:
Dogs need equilibrium.
Dogs need few things to live a balanced life, but require all of them in order to stay happy and healthy. Think Maslow’s heirarchy here. They need general comfort (like food and shelter), physical activity (to stay healthy and trim) and challenging tasks to keep their minds busy (and keep boredom at bay). With all three spheres receiving equal amounts of attention, they live a fulfilled life, without any problems or illnesses. We too require balance. If overworked and not catching enough ZZZs or KM, we burnout. Keep us locked up with nothing to do, our minds wander and create problems for us to solve (sometimes unhealthy ones).
Dogs live in the present.
There’s no worrying about who they’ll see at the park on Sunday, and no sad thoughts thinking that their owner was disappointed because they only really understood ‘sit’ on the third treat. Dogs live completely in the moment. When they go for walks, they take in every last step. They stop to greet other dogs, and sniff fully what their curious noses discover. For us, a dog walk* is simply something we get through; something that we need to do because it’s right for the dog, or it gets us out of the house. We don’t fully live in the moment, enjoying the fact that we’re out in nature with our best friend, exploring.
*Of course, ‘dog walk’ can be replaced with any activity we’re required to do as a human.
Dogs never complain.
If dogs are given a hand-me-down toy, or need to wear a pink collar, they roll with the punches and enjoy what’s given to them. No whining, crying or complaining. When someone cuts us off in traffic, or we miss the last train home, we often resort to heavy sighs and the urge to scream at random people (in real life, or virtually on our social feeds). Why do we do it? It won’t make the situation better.
Whether they have to sit in a cage en route to the vet, or need to share their bed with a cat, they somehow find a way to adapt to any situation that’s presented to them. As everyone knows, things don’t always work out how you planned (for the better or for worse) and the sooner you adapt to the situation, the more time you can spend enjoying it. So when the electricity has cut out and it’s dark outside – see it as an opportunity to practice some light painting photography techniques you’ve been checking out on 500px. Eggs finished and you were hoping to bake a cake? Why not try a vegan recipe (like something from the guys at The Kitchen Thief) instead?
Discussions about these human-dog similarities, and Michele and Laura’s own ‘perfect dog’ methodology, had us brainstorming a concept we have now coined “Pet to the Power of 10” or #PetPower10. It’s a programme that packages The Pet’s Academy’s knowledge of dog psychology, and our desire to promote the power of dog ownership for the human psyche.
We have already developed the lite version of the dog edition (which you can download here), and will be releasing the full eBook later this year – so look out for it!
Then if you want a glimpse of what it’s like to live with two fascinating dog psychologists and their troop of furry hounds, have a look at some of our favourite snaps below.
For more of our dog photography, follow @PixelPaws on Instagram.