where the writers are
Living on Dog Time

(Originally posted on The Dog Diet, April 16th, 2010.)

I don't read newspaper editorials because they're usually boring political issues. I do though have a habit of buying local newspapers wherever I am, and when Sadie and I were in the Smokey Mountains working on our book, I read an editorial because the title, "Goodbye Old Friend" caught my attention and when I saw that it was about a dog...I read on.

The editor of this rural mountain newspaper had left New Orleans 15 years previously to take a lowly job at a place she'd never heard of. She put everything she owned in her car, and was leaving town when fate stepped in disguised as a lost puppy that ran into the side of her car. She brought her car to an abrupt stop and jumped out to scoop up the tiny dog and began looking around for a possible owner. As the puppy snuggled against her, grateful and safe she looked into his eyes and said..."Oh what the heck," put him in the car and continued.

Fast forward to the weekend before I read the story...this dog who had been with the editor for 15 years...waited on the porch for her return from the paper each day...hiked the mountains with her...shared her new life...had died. I looked at my dog Sadie in disbelief...as a new dog Mom, I had no idea she would most likely die before me. I saw us growing old together...never could I imagine my life without her now. The editorial said that since one dog year supposedly equals seven people years, the editor's dog was about 105...a long life for a dog or a person, but it hit me hard...one day Sadie wouldn't be here. That's when I decided to live my life on Dog Time.

Dog Time is living in the moment...allowing yourself to savor, enjoy, and appreciate the moments in your life...before they turn into years...dog years or otherwise. I learned to do this from watching Sadie and you can learn this from your dog too. It's your ticket our of the fast paced, stressed out, human being time world. Sadie lives in the moment...all day long...it doesn't matter what she's doing...it's her moment and she enjoys it. It all starts when she opens her eyes.

I used to silence the morning alarm numerous times attempting to delay the start of my day. Not so after Sadie came to share the king sized bed with me. "Morning Moments" start the minute I open my eyes and see bright brown eyes staring at me and hear her tail thumping on the mattress. She scootches up to my face and with an eagerness I can't deny, our day begins. Sadie stretches...I stretch...we go downstairs and out the side door. Sadie stops and surveys each aspect of the yard...and her day of mindfulness begins.

Mindfulness is a great way to live...it simply means you give attention to the moment and place you are in. Sadie revels in her surroundings...she sniffs the air...has something bloomed during the night? Is the wind blowing her fur...are the birds at the feeder? After however many seconds it takes her to assess the new day...she goes off the porch for a run around the yard...maybe a squirrel chase...perhaps a sniff at the fence trying to determine if Mr. Raccoon slipped under it last night. I sip my coffee and breathe deeply...thus are our morning mindful moments....the ones I save in my mind and return to during my hectic people time day.

Dogs know how to live in the moment and are attentive to what they are doing because they don't multitask. Humans like combining tasks...driving...talking on cell phone...eating...listening to radio. Or watching television...reading the newspaper while folding clothes and polishing nails. What's our hurry?

When Sadie eats...she doesn't do anything else. She chews her food while she scans her bowl looking for her next bite...when she drinks water she does it with gusto and when she sleeps...she is relaxed and at peace. Well...sometimes even Sadie has dreams...and in those dreams I think she re-lives the moments from her day. When she plays with her toys or runs after the ball...she does it with her whole being...living in the moment...each moment with her is precious...they are ticking by at seven times the speed of the clock.

Mindful moments...magic moments...sitting on the couch...feeling the stress of the day go away as I stroke my sweet dog's fur...seven seconds to her one...slow down...a magic moment as we watch the sun set over our fence...a magic moment when the rain falls on us with the convertible top down and I laugh as Sadie hunkers on the floor reluctant to get wet...magic moments watching the birds...planting a flower...going through McDonald's for a hamburger.

Driving back from Pittsburgh this past fall, having just left the bedside of a critically ill sister, it was the comfort of my dog in the silent moments of the dark car that eased my worries. At the hospital I was the person getting things done...making arrangements...assuring everyone that it would be ok. But in the company of only Sadie, I could confess...I was scared...I was tired...I needed the reassurance I was quick to hand out...a split second tragedy had brought my family to this moment...but I was comforted in dog years by Sadie. Our time difference was reversed... one moment of her time was like seven for me...soothing...peaceful...needed.

Seven years to our one...it makes me cherish the time I have with my dog more. One of the Ten Commandments for Dog Owners says: "Please limit your time away from me. You have your friends, your work. I have only you." It made me see there was a lot of unnecessary time away from my dog who wouldn't be here forever...seven minutes to our one...it adds up.
She has taught me not to tug on my leash always pulling towards the future when the present moment is more than enough. Live in the moment...follow your dog's example...adopt her appreciation for the fleeting hours that turn into days and then into what is called your life. Live it in dog time...the best lessons for appreciating life are right before your eyes on four legs with a tail.