Learning Gratitude From a Dog

Learning Gratitude From a Dog

Annie was a “rescue.” She was one of seven sisters picked up from a shelter by the rescue organization “You Lucky Dog.” Part boxer, part pit-bull, part something-or-another, we met Annie when she was just a couple of months old at The Roswell Farmer’s Market on a hot summer morning. The organization was showing off the pups that were available for adoption, and along with her sisters, Annie was there to be petted and loved. That day a year and a half ago we found ourselves rescued by Annie.

 

Annie is teaching me about gratitude. Of course I am skeptical that in dog cognition gratitude, as I understand it, is something a dog experiences. Nevertheless there is much I am learning about gratitude from this fifty pound brown pup.

 

Every moment is purposeful for her. I am not saying that she is always busy with frantic energy as she scratches off items on her “to-do” list. Rather, Annie fully engages the moment: she will thoroughly smell most anything new, different and unique. Butterflies delight her; bumble-bees amaze her, and squirrels engage her. Every moment seems to be filled with possible wonder.

 

Every creature is a potential friend. Of course not every creature is friendly, including the two-legged variety, but every creature she meets is greeted with an enthusiastic wag of the tail. Instead of fear, anxiety or defense, she chooses to meet another with the hope of kindness exchanged.

 

Every day is a gift. And in each day, there are many gifts to experience. Whether nosing through the trash to fish out a tasty bit of paper or dozing in the sunshine or furtively staring at us while we try to eat a meal, all things hold the possibility of a gift. When I watch her curl at my feet in front of the fire, she even finds rest as a wonderful gift that she accepts and fully embraces.

 

A few years ago I was listening to a Ted-Talk presented by David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk from Austria. He said that the one thing that unites all persons everywhere is that we all want to be happy. Some people, he noted, think that when you are happy you are grateful, but this monk challenges us to think again. It is not that gratitude comes from happiness, but that when we are grateful we are happy. I think he is right.

 

While I know I am projecting anthropomorphic values onto Annie, I nevertheless see a canine that is happy because she is grateful – at least in a doggy kind of way!

 

Another favorite monk of mine writes: “Every moment and every event of every man’s [sic] life on earth plants something in his soul…we must learn to realize that the love of God seeks us in every situation, and seeks our good.” (Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation)

 

I wonder if part of our national angst is rooted in our lack of gratitude? We bristle at accusations of privilege, yet behave as if we are entitled. We view not only strangers, but sometimes our own friends and family members with suspicion and fear. We frantically move through the day just trying to get through it instead of live in it.

 

We set aside one day for gratitude, but why not set aside a life for gratitude? The ancient children of God were exhorted: You shall eat your fill and bless the LORD your God for the good land that he has given you. Take care that you do not forget the LORD your God…(Deuteronomy 8:10-11)

 

Every moment has a purpose…every creature is a potential friend…every day is a gift – I am thankful for my little teacher who greets me every evening with vigorous wag, a curious lick on the hand, and a hopeful glance at the door where together, with leash in hand, we can explore our small part of the universe.

 

Grace, peace and gratitude,

Greg

21 Comments

  1. Thank you Greg! Just the message I needed today.

  2. There are many things to be learned from our canine family members. Thanks for sharing Annie’s lesson on gratitude and happiness!

  3. As always, you offer exactly the right inspiration and encouragement at exactly the moment it is needed.

  4. Our son-in-law died a few weeks ago and we inherited his rescue dog, Blair, along with our daughters cat, Chuck and two goldfish that have been growing for 5 years. They add wonder and love to us every day. Thanks for your blog.

  5. My dog is my constant companion and the love we share is a wonder!

  6. What a beautiful post. Dogs are so awesome. I never really thought about the way a dog enjoys such simple pleasures in life. A good lesson.

  7. Wonderful thoughts about gratitude! Hope you, Amy and your wonderful family have a Thanksgiving filled with blessings! We are thankful for you. Meg Byars

  8. Thank you for your blog. Always thoughtful. Love Thomas Merton – and I love my dog! He fills me with gratitude and delight. Merton fills my soul!

  9. If I could only have this on a repeat in my head! Thanks again for what I need to hear when I truly need to hear it.

  10. All my dogs have been rescued. Some from pound others chose us . They just stopped by for a visit and stayed forever. They know they have been saved. They are they are the best. They make us better people.

  11. Betty (and Charles) I am so very sorry for your loss – my goodness, I can only imagine how tender your Thanksgiving will be. Please know that even now I am lifting up prayers for your strength and encouragement. I am so grateful that you and Charles have shared a part of my life.

  12. Thank you for sharing Annie Aaron got to share our brood and got a new insight. our little ones show up the good side of life. To one and all Happy Thanksgiving.

  13. Yep. We can all aspire to be more doggy.

  14. Wonderful insight as usual, Greg! Miss our periodic lunches! Happy Thanksgiving!

  15. Growing up we always had outside dogs. When Lisa and David were growing up Skeeter told the kids they could have a daddy or a dog but not both. When Skeeter died Vivian Sim’s daughter had to get rid of Casper and flew him to Atlanta and we became fast friends! I didn’t realize how smart they are with their keen senses. He was so much company!

  16. This is a fundamental message anyone could understand and live by!

  17. Miss you too my friend.

  18. Indeed! Hope you and yours are enjoying thanksgiving.

  19. Grateful for the Deloaches. I already know you enjoyed Thanksgiving because you spent it with your favorite two-legged creations. And Annie.

  20. Truth spoken so beautifully. Thank you for the gentle reminder.

  21. Beautiful; loved reading your thoughts, as always. The precious 60-lb canine who is my best friend is Daisy, a rescue Denton “obtained” from a dirt road south of Augusta. But not having a fenced yard, he asked if she could live with me. I couldn’t NOT take her, the most pitiful, starved creature I’d ever seen. She has blossomed brightly in the 8 months since we became attached. Could not imagine my life without her unconditional love, nor our gratitude to and for one another.