Life Lessons from a Cape Cod Dog

We all learn lessons in life. Some from our parents, others from our teachers, but sometimes the most important lessons we learn from the most unexpected sources.

Having spent some time a while back recovering from major back surgery, I was confined to quarters in the dark of winter, a winter not unlike the one we are having now. With instructions from my surgeon to walk as much as possible, I was forced to walk around the first floor of our bed and breakfast inn, traveling from one room to the next, around and around in circles until my pedometer read at least one mile. Let me tell you walking a mile inside requires a lot of laps around your living room, dining room, great room and kitchen. I would have preferred to walk outside with our faithful lab, Casey. But thick ice and snow made it too dangerous a proposition to even entertain.

Walking is a great way to clear your head, even indoors. I had some great conversations with my Dad on those walks. Oh, he is long gone now, but I still talk to him regularly and still learn from him. Casey would often join me on those walks, perhaps not understanding the necessity of having to walk indoors, but still up for the adventure, regardless of how tame. That’s when I started to learn powerful lessons from a four-legged Labrador retriever.

Casey was seven when I had my back surgery. We moved her to Cape Cod from our first bed and breakfast in North Conway, NH where the whole outdoors was her oyster. She could hike in the mountains, swim in the Saco river, snowshoe on the groomed cross country trails outside our inn, and enjoy her favorite past time, going for a joyride in the car with Rich.

I’m a one-dog girl, having had no pets as a child. Casey is my first, and perhaps only dog. So I am constantly amazed by things I never knew about dogs. For example, Casey has a number of facial expressions. She smiles when she’s happy, and looks at you with quizzical eyes when she has no clue what you‘re talking about. She definitely pouts when she is denied, and skulks away in shame when reprimanded. And when you’re hurting, she instinctively knows, and lies down near you to comfort you. And that simple gesture is very comforting.

So on those walks around the Inn, I began to compile a list of what I’ve learned from a yellow lab named Casey, life lessons that serve me well now and will continue to do as I grow older.

  • Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joy ride.
  • Fresh air and the wind in your face is pure ecstasy, no matter how cold outside.
  • When someone you love comes home, run to greet them.
  • Obey, but only when it’s in your best interest.
  • Let others know when they’ve invaded your private space.
  • Always stretch after rising.
  • Make time to play every day.
  • Eat with gusto, but always smell your food first.
  • Never pretend to be something you’re not.
  • If what you want lies buried, dig for it.
  • If your loved one is hurt, stay close.
  • If you’ve got an itch, scratch it.
  • Giving kisses and being hugged feels good.
  • Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
  • On hot days, drink lots of water and lay under a shady tree.
  • When your happy or excited, dance around and wag your entire body.
  • If you’re scolded, don’t buy into the guilt thing and pout – run back and make up.
  • Delight in the simple joys of life, like long walks and all day naps.