Like most social media savvy dogs, Rolo the dog came into our lives via Facebook.
He appeared in the feed of a friend of mine — a 6-month-old puppy with all his shots, free to a good home. After a long and winding road he ended up in our welcome arms. And he promptly changed my life forever.
Here’s what he’s been teaching me:
To Be 100% Me
Rolo expresses himself at 100% at all times. There is no censorship. There is no self-editing filter. There is also no shame, no embarrassment, no feeling silly and looking to save face either. No second guessing. No walking on egg shells. No game.
Rolo is Rolo.
He sniffs where he wants to sniff, barks when he wants to bark, and doesn’t stop to weigh his relationships or wonder what he should say or do with his off-leash buddies in various situations.
If there’s conflict, he deals with it. If there isn’t, he’s not concerned or anticipating that there might be.
When he walks down the street, he’s not thinking about his appearance.
He doesn’t have social anxiety.
Can I say as much?
Not yet. But I’m learning.
To Live in the Moment
Rolo is right now. He is not a year into the future. He is not planning the week’s meals. He is not worried about deadlines or concerned about how things could play out next quarter. He is not thinking about RRSPs, or how old he is and how long it will take him to amass stuff.
In fact, my puppy is a moment with four legs and a bark.
‘I am playful now.’
‘I am resting now.’
‘I am protective now.’
‘I am happy now.’
He adapts to different places, people, and experiences with ease. He is resilient and is graceful with change because change is just many little moments.
Every moment brings progress, because there is no predetermined expectation imposed on it.
Wow do I need to find my bark.
To Love Unconditionally
Rolo doesn’t love 'IF.' He just…loves. He doesn’t judge, he doesn’t assume, and he’s never critical. His default setting is love. (And slobbering, but mostly love.)
All too often we’re taught that love needs to be earned, exchanged, or bartered like it’s some kind of currency — and our past relationships (whether with friends, family, romantic or whatever) form a complex trade index where we unconsciously monitor the value of someone’s actions and words and respond accordingly.
This person loves me more than this person because he said ‘I love you’ and he gave me a flower.
This person now deserves my affection in exchange for their actions because he's earned it and I can now trust him.
That’s not love.
Can you imagine a dog giving someone half a tail wag? Or a demi-lick? Nope. Not my dog.
Rolo is all or nothing. He jumps in like a goof and takes risks willingly, whether he gets it back or not. And it’s beautiful.
He knows that love is not something that exists sheerly based on reciprocity. Love is just something that exists. I guess we humans have instinctively institutionalized even the most primal of our feelings so we have the illusion of control. I guess it’s easier to feel like love is more of an acquisition or accomplishment than to just be in it.
Luckily our dogs are smarter and lead by example.
To Find the Joy in Everything
It’s easy to find the joy in everything when you’re actually looking for it. And looking for joy is not the same as expecting something to be amazing or to ‘wow’ us or entertain us.
Rolo looks at a piece of bread on the sidewalk like it’s a long lost treasure. He’ll catch a whiff of something indiscernible to the human nose and be off like a shot in a mix of electric glee and breathless anticipation.
His abilities to let things unfold and enjoy the act of discovery keep him in a perpetual state of inquisitive bliss.
Sometimes we have to leave our jaded perceptions behind and let ourselves be silly again.
We need to let ourselves experience, play, and embrace life — and we can.
The best part is that having four legs is not a prerequisite.