Welcome to the Old Dog Haven Blog: Life Lessons from Old Dogs.  This article, published in Pet Connection magazine, provides a foundation for the posts that will appear in the blog. The basic premise of dogs (especially old dogs) as teachers is a theme that will run through the articles you’ll find on the blog. Sometimes specific Old Dog Haven (ODH) dogs will be featured to illustrate a concept; other blog entries will focus on practical topics of interest to people who live with older dogs; and some entries will showcase people and events directly connected to ODH. The point of the blog is to inform, educate and expand your awareness of what senior dogs offer humans in the way of life lessons. It’s all about old dogs and what we can learn from them.

When you welcome a dog into your home, you also invite him or her into your heart. When that magical bonding happens, you end up with an animal heart. This doesn’t mean that you have two hearts; it just means that your human heart is enhanced to such a degree that you now have an inner dog you can depend on for the most important insights of your life.

As humans, we tend to think of our insights as being thought-related. How shortsighted of us. We also think that our insights come with words attached to them to provide meaning and intellectual content. The problem with this concept is that it’s too limited. Thinking is an intellectual exercise that often never makes it past our brains, and because thoughts are lodged in our heads, they don’t provide impetus for emotional learning. The true epiphanies of life are those feelings that seem to come from nowhere and knock the socks off of us with their impact. Insights we feel moved to act on are those that are felt intuitively, and if you live with a dog, they’re generated by your animal heart and felt by your inner dog.

Dogs know so much more than we do about almost everything. Their knowing isn’t intellectual though, and that’s a difficulty for some people. If you’re afraid to trust your intuition, then trusting feelings that come from your inner dog won’t be easy.

It’s not easy because humans don’t listen very well. Our consciousness is too filled with thoughts that skid around in a kind of time warp whirlwind. We’re so busy thinking about yesterday and planning for tomorrow that what we need to do in the present is lost in a weird time shuffle. Dogs don’t do this. They live in the moment, and it’s only what happens in the moment that counts. How simple is that? Listen to your inner dog.

Another thing you can learn from your inner dog is the importance of acting on your feelings. When your animal friend needs a hug, he comes right over to you and puts his head on your knee. Simple and direct. Why can’t we let the people and animals in our lives know what we need? Too often we try to talk our way in and out of situations and then we wonder why the end result isn’t what we hoped it would be. We tend to confuse speech with intelligence. We think if we speak clearly and make our thoughts known all will be well. Dogs don’t need to talk. They communicate very well with their hearts and if we tune into our inner dog, we can do the same.

What we think we need and what we actually need are often very different. Dogs know what they need intuitively and they act on those feelings without reservation. If we listen to our inner dog, acting on those heart messages will serve us well.

Another aspect of being human that gets us into trouble is allowing fear to replace love. We fear what we don’t understand. We fear what is different. Our fear is fueled by the ego’s need to be in charge. Dogs that are loved don’t know fear. Shouldn’t that be a clue to us about how we can live without fear? If you love and are loved, there isn’t any need for fear. Listen to your inner dog.

When I watch my animal friends interact with each other and with me, I’m always reminded of the simplicity of bonding without reservation or limitation. When I listen with my heart, I hear only the sounds of a perfect union between my human heart and my animal heart.

Listen to your inner dog.

Note:  Next week’s blog features Thor, an Old Dog Haven dog that teaches valuable lessons in patience and resilience.

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