Life Lessons 101: Taught By My Dog, Zoe

By , SparkPeople Blogger
As some of you may remember, I have a yellow lab named Zoe (along with a new puppy adopted from the shelter and three cats). When my husband and I brought Zoe home though, our lives changed forever! She is full of character and enthusiasm, to say the least. While I’ve been taking her to obedience training classes to get her to learn how to behave well, she is not the only one that has been learning new things. Zoe has taught me some very valuable life lessons that I think may help others too.
So what are these valuable lessons that I have learned from Zoe? Well, first of all, something that I have observed everyday with her is that she makes everything fun. And when I say everything, I really do mean EVERYTHING! No matter what we are doing, she somehow finds a way to turn it into something fun for everyone involved, especially her. When I see her make things fun, I think to myself, what a great idea! There are plenty of things that aren’t necessarily fun to do (perhaps for you it is tracking your food and/or exercise for the day, doing chores, going to work, etc.), but why not look at some of those tasks as something fun. Making some of those tasks into games of some sort can help add a “fun factor” to them and they won’t seem so bad. When you track your food and exercise, you do get SparkPoints for that, so you do get some sort of “fun factor” from SparkPeople for doing that, but what I find more fun is seeing how my fitness improves, seeing how my clothes fit better, and noticing how much better I feel along the way. While these may not be seen as fun by Zoe, they may give you a better satisfaction and “fun factor” as you progress with your weight loss journey. Either way, I think it can be considered a win-win situation. By changing our perspective about these tasks, your attitude about them will likely change and allow you to add more fun in your day.
Zoe also lives in the moment  and certainly doesn’t plan out her day. Honestly, I don’t think she lives beyond the current moment. I’m the complete opposite though – I am constantly planning ahead, whether it is what I need to do in the next hour, day, week, month, etc. By doing that though, I know I don’t always live in the moment and enjoy the process that is currently happening. As I have observed more of Zoe’s behavior, I aim to live more in the moment and enjoy it for what it is, instead of planning my next move. Doing this will also allow me to have more fun and find a bigger “fun factor” in everything that I do.  An example from Zoe for living in the moment is that when we are out for a walk, she fully enjoys the walk for what it is – fun, time to explore and see things, meet new people along the way, and exercise. She’s not thinking about what she needs to do when she gets back home, she just wants to keep walking and do what she is doing in that very moment. This lesson is one that I am sure will take a while for me to get down, but I think it will prove to be very valuable for overall happiness for me (and for all of you).
The last lesson that I have realized Zoe has taught me is patience. We recently adopted a puppy from the shelter and he is now about 4 months old. Watching her with her adopted brother, Mac, I see that she has so much patience. Being nearly a year apart, they are in two different places mentally, and Mac is also in his teething stage. We’ll just say that he loves to play (well, they both do), but he also likes to chew on Zoe’s tail, all in play of course, but when I see that, I wonder if I could handle it as well  as her. I’m not so sure I would. I do like to think that I have a lot of patience though, but there are of course times that I don’t have as much. Going through a weight loss journey, it can be very difficult as it has its ups and downs, and I see posts on the SparkPeople Message Boards about people who are getting very impatient because they aren’t losing weight at the rate that they thought they should. I know that can be frustrating (I’ve been there, done that), but patience and continuing on with your healthy habits will help you see results in the end. Also, as a reminder to those of you that find you are getting to that impatient part of your weight loss, the scale doesn’t always tell the full story – make sure you are also taking measurements and using other non-scale measurements to see and realize the successes you are making every day and week. Having patience will go a long way and alleviate some of the frustrations you have.
I know there are many more valuable lessons that I will learn from Zoe (and Mac), and as I learn those, I will continue to share them with you. I think we can all learn quite a bit from our pets and that we can apply them to whatever journey we are in, whether it is weight loss, weight maintenance, weight gain, pursuing a new career or hobby, etc.

So tell me (and Zoe), how do these lessons apply to your journey? Do you have pets? If so, what have you learned from your pet?

Photo by Denise Tausig 
Note: The photo above is Zoe living in her fun moment at the dog park, but also being patient as she waits for me to take the photo so she can fetch a ball.

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I have learned unconditional forgiveness and acceptance from my pet. Report
Very good blog and very true. I guess my comment is the unconditional love our "fur babies" give. We have had several Chihuahua's and the love they gave has been the same outpouring of affection. They all have different personalities and are all have been different sizes, but their hearts are so big!! Report
All of these comments just reinforce what I've always believed...that our pets are truly God's gifts to us. How thankful I am to know and receive that love and how sorry I am for those who don't understand it. It's unconditional love on earth. Report
LOL! My yellow lab is named Zoey.

Dogs are great companions. I miss my Athena every day. Report
I have a beautiful yellow lab named Zoe too! She is the light of our lives and we love her more than words can say. Even as she is growing older and suffering some from arthritis, she still makes us smile each and every day - even the worst day is no match for the mood lifting power of Zoe! Report
Life to me has always been an adventure but right now it it one with a whole lot less stress due to some fortunate circumstances. Since embarking on ANOTHER weight loss attempt in NOV, the reduced stress has helped me to not look at this situation as as diet or whatever but a "life change for health" to enjoy whaT'S NEXT EVEN MORE. (oops -=caps lock LOL) The calorie counting and exercise are WORKING looking at it as a FUN and GOOD thing rather than in a negative or restrictive way. I think dogs look for adventure as well in all they do, having been a dog owner for MANY yrs now ... so yes they teach you much! Now if my belly and waist would go down in proprtion to my legs and butt ... LOL. It WILL happen ... persevere and further ... Report
My daughter adopted a shelter dog who came with the nick name "Brain". My daughter is 21, has a dry sense of humor and is studying medicine, so...the name had to stay. Brain is a mix of pit bull and jack russell terried. He is absolutely hyper at night unless someone takes him on a long walk. Lately, because of my daughter's work and class schedule, that has fallen to my responsibility. Brain is a goofball- chasing lizards and trying desperately to catch a squirrell, but with the beautiful weather we are having, it is great to begin my exercise plan with Brain charging ahead each evening. He is a "wild child" yet- still in the adolescent stages, but perhaps he will mellow out and I will reach my goals over the next few months of our long walks through the neighborhood.

Thanks for sharing your story about your pups! They are certainly a great form of companionship and comfort- and yes, a great source of entertainment!
My Sarge (First Sargent Clarkson, an AKC registered Doberman - who doesn't care) has gone, but his memory will live forever.
My Dad trained Dobermans and Boxers, and retrained dogs that had gotten out of hand or turned mean. I've learned that there are no truly "mean" or evil dogs, only mean or evil owners. Some just don't know the dog see's them as part of their pack and initially looks at them as an Alpha Male or Alpha Female. If they don't continue to act that way, the dog gets confused, and like a child, starts acting out.
I learned early that Dobermans are just like any dog - Sarge loved having fun and he was friendly with anyone who was introduced to him. When he was introduced, he "smiled". Unfortunately, a Doberman smiles just like a human and they show their teeth. That caused a number of our friends to hesitate when coming into our house until they found he was just a Big puppy.
The only two times he ever showed a Doberman's 'propensity' for violence was one night when a burglar came over our fence. We know it was a burglar because he left his bag of tools for breaking into a house. Sarge and I were sitting on the porch when he suddenly went on Alert, then started a low menacing growl. The next I knew he was flying around the house, barking wildly. I heard an, "Oh, siht", then the sounds of something going over the fence.
The second time he showed his colors was for a stubborn vacuum salesman who was at the screen door giving my wife a hard sell. Sarge trotted around the corner from the living room, started his menacing growl and the salesman turned and jumped at least 6' off the porch. By the time I came around the corner, my wife was laughing so hard she had tears in her eyes.
When I was stressed after work, I could sit on the porch and he would come sit by me, put his big head in my lap and just want me to scratch his head and pet him. When he did that, I could feel my tensions and stress just oozing out my feet.
I've also had Boxers, Beagles, Collies and Border Collies. In every case, their unconditional love was better and MUCH cheaper than going to a Psychologist. Report
Ahhh, what wonderful lessons Zoe has taught you. What a sweetheart! Report
I have a dog who's 10 years old and she keeps me on my toes and walking. She loves to walk so that's the easiest motivator I have is walking her. She'll turn around and look at me periodically like "are you coming?" or "can we keep going?".
She was hit by a truck 4 years ago and had a fractured pelvis, broken left hind leg in 2 places and dislocated right hip. The vet is still amazed at how lively she is and how much she walks and bounces up steps.
Thanks for your blog. I totally loved it. Report
I loved your blog. Thanks for sharing. Report
Cute blog and so true! Report
Cute blog and so true! Report
I have an adorable little brown dog that everyone calls "the ugliest dog they ever saw". He just doesn't know it. Actually his head is the only thing small on him. When he was 2 my daughter got a pit bull pup and I have to admit I was somewhat scared for Butch, but he took the pup out in the yard and taught him every day. Now they are 4 and 2 and Stone is about 3 times bigger than Buth but whenever he irritates Butch all Butch has to do is growl. I guess Stone still thinks he is smaller than Butch. Butch smiles at anyone whenever he is glad to see them, which is most of the time, and my grandsonn in the marines on leave an whenever he would play with him he would laugh just like a 2 year old. He has taught me that you don't have to be beautiful on the outside to be beautiful on the inside. Report
My husband laughed at me recently when he found out that every morning I get up an make a peanut butter sandwich for our dog. She knows exactly what I'm doing when I say do you want some peanut butter. She gets so excited. I think I learn from her about faithfulness. She is often attached to me like an extra limb. She also encourages me to incorporate more fitness into my life because she constantly wants to play. Report
Loved reading this blog it reminds me so much of my girls Holly and Fern. Sadly Holly is no longer with us but I still have Fern who is going on 15, not bad for a black lab. They taught me many lessons and each day with them was a blessing.

Lynn Report
I have a Zoe too! She's a crazy Jack Russel, and we love her :) She definitely knows how to live in the moment and make everything fun. Thanks for reminding me to live more like her! Report
I have a Shasta just like your Zoe. I agree totally! They teach us alot just by being themselves. :) Report
I loved you're blog and I love my little dogs!!! Zoe reminds me of Blue, one of my grandpups that has recently crossed rainbow bridge. He was a yellow lab too and one of the happiest dog I've ever known. It was a joy to be around him. He also raised a puppy, Milo the basset hound with amazing patience. Enjoy every minute with your Zoe and thanks for sharing what you've learned!!! Report
Animals in general tend to teach us stuff. My dog, Murphy, when he was alive, LOVED being outdoors, could be outside all day, provided it wasn't freezing cold and/or pouring. Report
My Chocolate Lab Mandy has done the same for me. I noticed it first on walks. But also, she has just brought more joy into my life - that dog is so full of love, she is all good, and you can't help but feel better about everything when she is around! Report
Great lessons to learn!

From my cat, I learn the importance of relaxing and of stretching. Beauty sure does seem to enjoy those stretches! She S-T-R-E-T-C-H-E-S! lol! Report
My dog Scoobie, only has three legs, but don't let that fool you. He is one of the fastest dogs in town and he does not let his disability hold him back so why should I let the fact that I've already had one knee replacement hold me back? I shouldn't. Scoobie also suffers from seizures. Someone asked me once why I let him go through those, why don't you just put him down? I asked that person if they were crazy. He doesn't have them every day. Maybe every few months and then he is back to his regular self. They are controlled by medicine. Do you think that person would ask me about cutting my legs off because I have restless leg syndrome? Probably not. We all overcome obstacles. Pets teach us that everyday. Great article. Donna Report
Zoe is a beautiful dog. Have had pets in the past but not right now. Maybe sometime soon I hope. Great Blog. Report
our first dog, misty, taught us a valuable lesson - we were only in our 20s, newlyweds - she taught us that if we lived our lives so that she was happy, with plenty of walks in the woods and on the beach, and time to laugh and to think, then we would be living a good life too. and 40 years later, it's still true. the best thing in our lives is our border collie pelle, a rescue dog who has owned us for 8 years now - and if we live our lives so pelle is happy, life is good. Report
Great blog, Denise. Report
I learned all of these lessons from parenting my children. Report
Something I learned from my cat in the last 24 hours is that pets hold grudges! He was mad at me for telling him not to bite me! I had to tell him twice because after the 1st time he bit me again so I was firmer with him & he didn't like it. So, when I wasn't looking he attacked me! Report
I di have a dong, and one thing he reminds me of regularly is the joy of activity.

We have three dogs who teach me every day about love, acceptance, perseverance, patience, enthusiasm, letting things go and being in the moment. Love, Love, Love!! Report
Good lessons! One thing I was taught as I showed my dogs was that if you control the head of the dog, the rest of the body follows. Works for me, too! If I have my head in the right direction, so goes my body! My Corgis are always happy! They find joy in just being with me, or they are quite capable of entertaining themselves and being happy on their own... I am learning as I take my Spark Journey that I need to find the simple joy of just being with ME... I take ME everywhere I go, so I am learning to "entertain" myself. I do not need others to make me happy, but I am happy when I interact with others. My dogs trust me. They know when I have their collar on, I am leading them, and they 90% of the time go willingly. I'm the same with SP. When I track my food, exercise and use the tools SP has given me, it is like I am wearing a "collar" of boundaries set up by SP. I trust the wisdom of SP, and I 90% of the time follow. I realize when I get to where SP is leading me, I will be healthier. My dogs know I will lead them only to good things. SparkPeople is leading me towards being the best person I can be. That's worth "waggin' my tail" about! Woof! Report
Love this one for sure. WISH I could have a dog like Zoe! One day....maybe.... Report
I just returned from a long evening walk with my dog and can truly relate to your blog. My dog keeps me motivated every day. Report
Love this entry - sometimes I feel like my kids' favorite thing to do is to 'chew on my tail'...I need to take Zoe's lead and just work through it gracefully :) Report
Thanks for reminding us!!!!! Report
My dog is now 13 years old--we have had her in our family since she was 5 months. As she is aging I am seeing the importance of maintaining some type of exercise for her, even if it is at a slower pace and for less time. Report
my 2 furbabies, Kirby (6yr old boxer mix boy) and Ziggy (3 yr old beagle mix girl) teach me EVERY day that life is to be enjoyed. even when they get hurt, they don't wimper for long. their attitude is "too much to be happy about". of course, they ARE spoiled rotten by their momma (me). but, i learn many things from them. Report
Sometimes our pets seem smarter than us ... I have two crazy brittany dogs and they are active all day long 'til they crash at night; they see the joy and fun in everything we do, even if I don't think it's fun; and they are patient - waiting for a squirrel or bird to come into our yard, for a food bowl to be put down in front of them, etc. They make me smile every day! Report
My dog motivates me on those days I do not want to exercise, otis always wants to walk. They are a joy! Report
Wonderful Blog! My baby is Pi. He is so full of life and spirit. He always wants to paly ball or go on a walk and everyone is his friend. Pi is always happy to see me when I come home from work. Pets are a special blessing and we all can learn from thier loving spirit! Spark On! Report
Great life lessons. I certainly need to work on my patience in all things, not just weight loss and being healthier. Report
Pets are wonderful mentors. The "fun factor" is so important. I could have never lost the weight if I had not made a game of it all. Diet was a fun challenge to keep calories, protein, carbs, and fats within limits. I picked fun exercise routines. When a routine was not fun -- I substituted another that was. Report
It's amazing how much we can learn from our animals (or should I have said, "our furry family members," because that is just what they are. The fifteen years I spent with my cat, "bobby" taught me a lot about unconditional love and, like Zoe, so much more. Thanks for sharing. Report
I have a dog and two cats. They have saved me from many lonely hours since my divorce. My dog is also my best walking buddy. He does enjoy walking, and likes to push me to go a little faster. He likes to check things out too. He's a great partner because I never have to worry about scheduling; he's always ready to go when I am. But actually walking is not his favorite sport. His favorite sports are catch and keep away. We have a trade off. He walks with me, and I take time every day to play with him as well. Those moments are happy moments in my day. Report
Beautiful reminders. Thanks! Report
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