How My Dog Taught Me To Live In The Moment

“What day is it?”

“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favorite day,” said Pooh.
A.A. Milne

live in the momentLola – my 4-yr-old, 70-lb Labrador Retriever – is still quite the puppy.

She wriggles and whines and loves to push on her squeaky giraffe toy. She cuddles up beside you to sleep, and insists on tummy scratches in the morning. She interrupts my morning work by butting my hand off the keyboard with her big Labrador head and bringing me toys she can’t believe I’m ignoring. And she greets our visitors as if they are her long lost best friends.

Lola also happens to be a really good girl. She doesn’t pee or poop in the house (never has), will heel on a leash for miles if you ask her to, and comes when she’s called, every time. (Okay, there was that one time she was distracted by the discovery of chickens living on our block, but even then she did eventually come. And, seriously, who WOULDN’T be distracted by chickens?)

Lola, it turns out, also has her priorities straight.

Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Well Lola’s Hierarchy of Needs, in the order of non-negotiable to optional, goes something like this:

  • Love
  • More love
  • Play
  • More play
  • Food
  • Time to pee and poop (only if there’s nothing better to do)

I kid you not. Lola is the first dog I’ve ever had who not only doesn’t stand at the back door with her legs crossed when I get home from work in the evening, but actually refuses to go out to do her business before she’s had her tummy scratch and dinner.

And, even then, when I finally do manage to get her outside, Lola brings me toy after toy – her Frisbee, her ball, her stuffed bunny, a stick, one right after another with an ever more serious “Oh my God, will you not throw me ANYTHING?” look on her face – until she finally realizes I’m much more stubborn than her and that I simply will not play until she’s had a good pee.

One such night, I arrived home after a full day in my office to a puppy that had been cooped up in the house alone for a good nine hours. Once inside and past the quivering, bouncing greeting machine, I moved to the back of the house and opened the door to let her out (I always try). Predictably, Lola went immediately into a downward dog pose to tell me she simply wouldn’t think of it. So I scratched her tummy and head, and poured her some food, and she was happy.

Later, when I finally convinced her to go outside and made it absolutely clear that it was not play time, Lola at last went about the job of sniffing out her spot to do her business, assumed the familiar crouch, and began to pee a big long one.

By the way, anyone who uses the term “pees like a racehorse” has not seen my dog do her thing.

live in the momentSuddenly, in total puppy mode and right in the middle of her pee, Lola caught sight of a Monarch alighting on the birdbath by the north fence line, stopped her flow in what could only have been an incredibly uncomfortable way, and made a bolt for the butterfly, stopping just short of it to gaze with interest, and seeming delight, as it fluttered and waved above her in the patchy sun.

Now, I don’t know exactly what might move me to cut off an “it’s been 10 hours since my last one” pee, but I’m pretty sure a butterfly wouldn’t do it.

But, as I said, Lola has her priorities straight.

So I’m enjoying Lola enjoying the butterfly, marveling at her childlike preference and focus, and wondering if/when she’ll think to get back to her business when suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see a bunny dart out from under the fire pit and begin to bound quickly across the yard, ears up and white tail bobbing.

Now, live bunnies are Lola’s absolutely FAVORITE THINGS. She loves to stalk and chase them in our yard. She never catches them, mind you, but that’s okay with her. The chase is the thing.

I am praying Lola doesn’t see this bunny, because not only is she not on a leash but we also have no south fence line at the moment (it’s in the process of being replaced), and I’m a bit worried that my excitable canine might just chase the bunny out of our yard and into the street (yes, she’s a good girl, but a puppy can only be so strong). So I remain very still, with only my eyes moving back and forth – Lola, bunny, Lola, bunny, Lola, bunny. And I’m prepared to yell out a command if she starts to bolt.

But, miracle of miracles, Lola doesn’t see the bunny, and it bounds safely past the nonexistent fence line, across the street, and under the neighbor’s chain link fence. I start breathing again, and Lola wanders off to resume her interrupted pee.

live in the momentThe wonderful thing is, Lola didn’t see the bunny because she was already giving her full enraptured attention to a lazy butterfly, and then to a scent near the butterfly and then to a sunflower waving near the scent, and so on. You get the picture.

Now, given the choice, would Lola have chosen the bunny over the butterfly? Perhaps. They are her FAVORITE THINGS, after all. But, lucky for her, Lola doesn’t think in terms of gradations of joy, saving her energy for the big event, or holding out for something better.

Instead, Lola throws her whole ecstatic and wriggly self into the observation and admiration of what’s in front of her in the present moment, whether it be a good, long pee, a lazy butterfly or that most precious of sights, a running bunny.

And so she is able to find the joy in each and every moment, the small ones as well as the big. And she has taught me to try to do the same.


What about you? Are you, like me, in need of a constant reminder to live in the moment? Do you have a canine friend that helps you out with this?

Also, if this post got you thinking, you might also want to check out All in Good Time: Traveling at the Speed of Life or Ride Every Stride: Mindfulness in Writing, Riding, Running and Relationship.

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7 Responses to How My Dog Taught Me To Live In The Moment

  1. Robin says:

    Once again, your writing is pitch perfect! Thank you for sharing Lola and her focus – I love reading your posts, always so inspiring and delightful.

  2. Noelle says:

    I love this, Anne! Lola has the sweetest face and a sweet soul! You made me laugh out loud when you wrote about the way she pushes your hands off the keyboard! Reaver does the to me, too! I feel like a real heel when I ignore him and usually can’t hold out for long before I have to get up and play! Nice blog post!

    • Anne Barker says:

      Yes! In addition to helping me live in the moment, I think Lola helps me remember what’s really important in life (like playing with a squeaky toy). Sounds like Reaver does this for you too!

  3. Noelle says:

    absolutely. and that helps me over look the dog hair … mostly. 🙂

  4. Tamara says:

    Anne! No wonder I like you so much (even though we have yet to meet)! You are a Vassar gal! No, I didn’t go to school there but do love that part of the country and that school in particular. I’ll be you’re familiar with Playback Theatre, then aren’t you? I have been up there a couple of times for training in Playback. Love the work!

    Just thought I would drop in today since I was thinking about you and say “hello.”

    • Anne Barker says:

      So glad you did drop in, Tamara. No, I’m not familiar with Playback, but I’ll certainly look it up.

      I think we need to meet next summer when my family heads to the mountains for our yearly trip. I’ll be sure to keep you in the loop about our travel plans. Until then, we always have blogging . . .

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