My daughter Sarah, has a wonderful bond with our dog, Apollo. Apollo is a 2 year old, 93 lb yellow lab. He’s playful and so handsome. Sarah is the youngest; there are quite a few years between her and her older siblings. Many times, Sarah is unable to participate in the “older kids” games. This disappoints her, but only for a brief moment. Quickly she runs off to find Apollo, her buddy. Sarah loves to read to Apollo. She’s 6, and a phenomenal reader. She reads non fiction dog books to help him “meet” other dogs. She also plays pretend with him (costumes, make up and all) and enjoys just laying around on him throughout the day. Usually when she does this, she takes his face in her hands and places it to her forehead, telling him in a baby talk way how much she loves him. They are close, like peanut butter and jelly. I’ve watched this friendship bloom and blossom for a few years now, always amazed at how gentle Apollo is with her. During these observations, I’ve learned a lot from our beloved pooch and I’ve realized that they are some of life’s most important lessons.
Always Be Curious and Give Everyone a Chance
When a friend or family member comes over, Apollo tries his hardest not to jump on them. He is extremely curious about our visitor and why they are here. He will sniff (in places a lady never discusses), lick, step back and rub up against the person, in hopes of understanding who this person is, and what they are about. At times, he will even bring a toy in hopes of playing and unlocking even more answers. Many times he will sit right next to them and glace at our visitor from time to time, hoping for a pet. Sometimes Apollo will give you a hint of what to do, he’ll nudge his snout under your hand for a pet. To Apollo, it doesn’t matter if you are familiar with dogs, and respond right away to his invites to play. Or if you are shy and nervous, when a dog is near by. Apollo will still put himself out there and give you a chance to get to know him, a chance to make a new friend.
He has taught me to always stay curious and use as many avenues to quench my curiosity. He also taught me that if you close yourself off to new people, you’re missing out on a chance to connect with a new friend. It’s as if he is saying “Stop putting up barriers and just connect with me!”
Be Patient and Move Forward
I am so fortunate to be able to work from home, when I need to. Apollo loves to come into the office and paw me, his way of saying “Hey lets play, I’m ready and waiting!!” There are times when I can throw his tennis ball into the dining room and he’ll hop, hop, hop and slide along the hardwood to retrieve it. There are other times that I must tell him to “go lay down, Mommy’s working”. He slowly but surely meanders to his part of the area rug, dog pillow or chair (don’t tell Justin!) He plops down and waits. He waits knowing that the most perfect time is coming. His eyes glance my way, then look away, then dart back at me again. With each peek, his tail will sway, once, twice then stop. He doesn’t come to paw at me, he knows to wait. When the time finally comes, I call him over, and he is overjoyed jumping all the while! Hopping towards me, as if to say “I forgive you for making me wait, now lets move on and play!”. All is forgiven. Apollo moves on to happy times.
Apollo has taught me that being patient and waiting for the most perfect time, is worth it. A person should be patient for a good cause and should never doubt or give up their endeavors. It’s difficult to be patient, but so worth it. I’ve also learned that moving forward is necessary. When we move forward from a disappointment or an issue it helps us to realize more significant parts of our journey. It allows new opportunity and personal growth.
Companionship and Adventure
I think Apollo’s biggest disappointment is when we leave the house. A few times he has even come out into our garage eager to jump inside the car with us and go. Dogs are social. They enjoy being around people, especially the ones they love. Staying home alone is not their idea of a good day. Dogs enjoy companionship. They want to share everything with the ones they love; like their chewed up spikey bone, or their slobbered on, shredded stuffed toy. When we do take Apollo out to a park or to get groomed, he is excited for the adventure. He enjoys the risk of an adventure, not knowing where he is going, what lays ahead or who he is going to meet. He gladly jumps in the car and is ready for a ride.
A great lesson Apollo frequently reminds me is to jump in, take risks and enjoy the journey. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Although goals are great to set, we often forget that it’s the journey that matters most. It’s about who you meet on the way, what you’re trying for the first time, and what you’re learning along the way. Worst case scenario, you won’t like it. Best case scenario, you’ve found a new passion, new friend and will have fantastic stories to tell.
Unconditional Love and Acceptance
They say dogs tend to choose one master that they obey, the Alpha. I must be Apollo’s alpha. He greets others when they come down the stairs in the morning, but he yelps for me to come down too. He will play with others but if I walk into the room he stops and hustles over to me. Apollo will greet the family when they enter our home, but will jump and run and bring toys when I enter. When he was younger, (smaller) I would cuddle him and hold him just like I did my own children. When I cry, he comes and sits on top of me – on my lap really, he’s just so huge! Apollo’s tail wags when he sees me, no matter what mood I’m in. He gives me big wet kisses, even if I just disciplined him. And he instantly forgives you no matter how I behave. He accepts me, for who I am, not what he wants me to be. I don’t have to impress or try to fit into a certain mold or elite group. He sees me, pure and simple…and loves me anyway.
Unconditional love and acceptance is what I receive from Apollo. He reminds me the importance of this everyday. Feeling genuinely accepted lifts people up. At the most basic level, it makes us feel safe, which is what frees us to be our best. Accepting others means seeing difference as something positive. It means trying to understand how others think and feel, and knowing that this helps you as well as them. It is a difficult task, but it’s the one that would surely make the world a better place if we all just tried.
Yes, we can learn a lot from our dogs. Their curiosity, sense of adventure and unconditional love is unmatched by any human standards. We’ve all heard the saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” I just never thought that the roles could be reversed and that my sweet boy Apollo, would be teaching me.