Today's guest post comes from Gina Hepburn, a writer and historian who is also one of my dearest friends. I hope you will visit here blog and follow her on Twitter. Gina is a magical writer who has the ability to make situations come alive through the vivid images she paints with her words, I am really looking forward to reading her first book.
Over to Gina ...
Thank you Nics for inviting me to guest post on Salt And Sparkle. I read your blog almost daily so how wonderful to be asked to contribute! I hope that my offering will keep your readers entertained..
In 2009 my husband and I took our first steps towards being parents: we got a puppy.
Hubby and I both work from home and we needed some company apart from each other plus an incentive to get some exercise everyday, my goldfish not being sufficiently energetic. Let's face it however, the biggest reason we got a puppy was that we were beginning to feel the first twinges of broodiness (ok, that was mainly me) and a dog was a good way of a) working on our parenting skills and b) staving off the no-baby blues with a cute little ball of fur.
We've now had that cute little ball of fur for more than two years. In that time we have taught him various tricks but in reality, he has taught us far more than we have managed to teach him.
Here are ten of the things my dog has taught me about life:
1) Every walk is a good walkAlbie loves his walks. He doesn't care where we go. When I'm too tired to take him for a long walk and we just go to the park for a sniff around, does he look at me in fury? Nope. He happily pushes his nose up against every blade of grass, finds out what all the neighbourhood dogs are up to, stands up to his elbows in the river and wags his tail like crazy. He doesn't mind.
When you're doing something you love, you love it whether you're out on a two mile trek or holding court in your local park. You love it even if it's pouring with rain. Because you'd rather be out on a walk than anything else in the world. I try to see my life like that: I have good days and bad, but in general, bad days as a writer are better than my good days when I used to work in an office.
2) Eat the best treat first
If you give Albie two treats, he'll eat his favourite first even if that means dropping the one already in his mouth. I've always been in the habit of saving my favourite food for last, eating all the other colours so there were only brown M&Ms left in the packet. This tactic is actually silly, as often someone else would unwittingly eat my favourites or I'd be too full by the time I got to them. This applies to bigger things in life too: do your favourite things now, leave the other stuff for later. Do the big trip, take the risk, buy the pony while you can. You don't know what life is going to throw at you so always eat your favourite treat first.
3) Go to bed tired
Albie is fairly typical for a dog in his sleeping habits. He goes to bed when he can't keep his eyes open and he sleeps soundly every night because he's exhausted. He has spent the day racing about living life to the full and when he lies down at night he sleeps the peaceful sleep of the active. I often go to bed still awake, because I haven't been physically active enough during the day. The answer? Run while you can, jump when you feel like it, dance as you do the washing. Use your body and you can sleep like that too.
4) Don't let the bad dogs ruin your fun
Albie was once attacked by a another dog, a staffie, in the local park. Luckily for him it was only a young one and the damage was minor, a bite below his eye and some tenderness to his jaw. He was initially shaken up and felt very sorry for himself. By the next day however he was out in the park again, greeting new dogs as if nothing had happened. He has even met other staffies in the park (although luckily not the one which attacked him) and not been afraid to greet them. The lesson? Don't let your experiences make you afraid or cynical about the intentions of others. The majority of the people in this world have good morals and ideals, trust in that.
5) Live in the moment
"Maybe they won't give me my food today?" "Maybe they secretly hate me". Examples of the sorts of things Albie does not worry about. He trusts that his next meal will come, that we do love him and that he is safe. He is completely focused on the moment. If he meets an unfriendly human or dog on his walks he will shake it off as he walks away. Shake shake shake. All the bad feelings are gone, his walk resumed as if nothing had happened. His lesson is, don't let the past or fear of the future interfere with your enjoyment of the present.
6) Go on, have a good sniff
Albie sniffs at everything. Every shrub, every tree, every child is of interest. Our walks together have opened my eyes to things which I'd never have noticed otherwise: which plants grow along the paths, grass types, shades of soil, materials they use for the roads and pavements, where the cows have passed through a gate and their weight has made a puddle in the ground. Not only have our walks taken me to places I wouldn't otherwise have explored, they have made me examine the world in a level of detail I haven't experienced before. A level of detail which has inspired my writing, drawing and photography. Next time you're outside, check out which birds are hiding in the trees, which leaves fall at certain times of the year or where kind people have left bowls of water for passing dogs like Monkey. The world is a beautiful place, explore it.
7) Everybody's a potential friend
Albie is equally as excited to meet each new person he comes across. Everybody's a potential friend, everybody deserves a sniff and a wagging tail. He assumes that every person is a friend because by and large, most people are happy to be his friend. He still meets people who dislike or are afraid of dogs but this is rare. From the smallest child to the oldest person, there are always new friends to be made. My husband and I noticed recently that the majority of people we know in our area are dog owners. Because they're the ones we speak to at random times of the day when we happen to cross paths as our dogs get acquainted. Some of these conversations have never moved beyond basic dog talk, others have sprung into friendships or the most incredible stories (like World War II veteran whose daughter adopted her dog in the former Yugoslavia while she was there as an aid worker). As stated earlier, the majority of people are nice and when we open up to each person as a potential friend, our life gets richer.
8) Toys are for sharing
Albie, unlike many dogs, is completely un-possessive about things. He lets other dogs eat from his food bowl, sleep on his bed, even on one memorable occasion pee in his house! He loves to share, especially when it comes to his toys. He never loses hope that someone might play with him, whether its another dog or our 96 year-old neighbour, and so always brings along a toy, just in case. My dog's generosity has been an inspiration to me, as it strikes me that we humans could afford to be more generous about the things we have too. I'm not advocating letting people pee on your carpet but there are ways of mirroring Albie's generosity in our own lives: give more to charity, remember to keep up with those who are lonely, do favours for those who need them.
9) Impatience can be a virtue
As previously stated, Albie isn't a worrier. He doesn't know that his lifespan isn't as long as ours, his own mortality doesn't pose a concern for him. The fact is, for him as well as for us, life can end at any time. While my husband and I secretly hope that Monkey will be the first dog to miraculously live to sixty and keep us company in our old age, we cannot rely on that. Albie is incredibly impatient. When he wants something, he wants it now. He may not be aware of it, but his impatience makes sense. We need to do the things we want to do in life now, before it's too late. For hubby and I this has meant pursuing our dreams and taking the holidays we want now, while we're able to.
10) Boldly go
Albie is incredibly brave. He has his haircut for the first time recently, which involved going to a new place and dealing with a lot of new things. Was he worried? Nope, he charged up the stairs to the salon so fast he knocked the poor groomer over. The groomer said Albie was worried when they turned on the clippers, but he didn't hide or cry, he dealt with it. Bad things may happen but Albie knows that we will take care of him if they do. He approaches the kennels with the same attitude: he jumps out of the car as soon as we get there with enthusiasm and doesn't even look back as he runs up to greet the kennel staff. He knows the kennel is where he gets to stay up all night barking, he knows the staff will play ball with him and give him his meals, and he knows that we will be back for him. Be brave, assume that everything will be alright and trust in the people closest to you to take care of you.
Thank you, Albie, you're a daily inspiration.This Week I’m …
- Reading: A little bit of lighthearted fun with Lion in the Valley by Elizabeth Peters
- Pondering: How I'm going to get through the remainder of June because it's a CampNaNoWriMo month and I still have 40,000 words to write
- Eating/cooking: We're heading off to Switzerland this weekend so raclette will definitely be on the menu
- Thankful for: Nicky, both for inviting me to guest post on her blog and for being such a generous and supportive friend
- Visiting: The beautiful city of Basel and I'll definitely be taking my camera with me!
My blog address is: http://ginahepburn.wordpress.com/
My twitter: @ginahepburn
About me: Writer, history buff and book addict with a love of art, theatre and film.