Our Animals Help Us Be Better Humans

Blue-eyed girls, photo by Christina Baldwin

Daily our little blue-eyed corgi helps me be a better human. By doing the things she loves, I become a happier, healthier, kinder person. Having a dog makes sure that I tend to the following:

Plan time outdoors every day.

 Share love and affection and, of course, snacks.

Pay attention to needs other than your own.

Offer kindness.

Be curious.

It seems so simple really. Yet we humans can get involved with matters of consequence and overlook or minimize these basic tenets of a good life. But our pets, be they dogs, cats, horses, birds, guinea pigs or something more exotic, thrive on these things. And so do we!

Because Vivi is only two years old, she needs a LOT of exercise—which is very good for us. Two good walks a day of at least two miles. Time in the big, fenced yard of her best friend, who also happens to be a corgi, racing around flat out  with no leash. Lots of time on the floor playing with stuffy toys and keeping her two 70+ year-olds flexible. And did I mention race and chase? Her favorite indoor game is to be there when the laundry comes out of the dryer and steal a -falling sock or underpants that then requires a fun romp and keep-away around the living room. Such good laughter for us two serious humans.

The laundry helper stealing a dropped sock. photo by Christina Baldwin

Come get me. I know you want your sock!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vivi loves meeting people— especially children. She does a hilarious belly crawl as she approaches them—as if a short corgi needs to make herself even shorter so as not to intimidate little children. People always laugh and ask what she is doing. We explain that she wants to meet them, and this is her greeting crawl. During the pandemic, when meetings with passersby have been reduced, her six-foot leash is just the right social distance and her friendliness a wonderful bridge builder. We call her our little Minister of Joy. There are, of course, people who simply ignore Vivi and walk on by. She watches to see if they are dog aware or not, almost shrugs her little corgi shoulders and then heads onto her next interaction.

Always on the lookout for something new and interesting!

Regularity of schedule and pattern provide a secure rhythm to our days. Yet, Vivi is always “up” for something spontaneous—like the surprise appearance of a squirrel on the feeder or a neighbor who stops for a chat during a walk. (Honestly, I am quite sure that most neighbors in the next community over have no clue what my name is—I am just the one who walks that cute tri-colored corgi named Vivi.)

At the end of their weekly Medicine Walk in our local state park, Ann writes in her journal and Vivi remains alert.

As a longtime wilderness guide, I have incorporated two practices from guiding into my life: a weekly Medicine Walk and a daily Sit Spot. (A Medicine Walk is more about being than doing. It is a walk with intention to seek greater awareness and guidance.) Vivi has made this easy. She loves our Medicine Walk. She gets to sniff as much as she likes and when she stops to notice something, I stop to try and perceive what she sees,  hears, smells, or senses. Always she knows when someone is coming well before I am aware of their presence. Walking alongside our perky little pup, I pause as often as she does and listen to the forest. May I do this the rest of the years of my life. It will surely take that long to perceive both the underground symphonies of resonance and the above ground harmony of sensory overload.

Winter Sit Spot on our front porch, photo by Christina Baldwin

The other nature-based practice that Vivi helps me honor is the Sit Spot. When dusk comes, she comes to find me until we head out the front door and sit on the porch together.  On a near daily basis, here are some of our gifts—eagles coming into roost, the last flickers at the feeder, or a surprise clearing of the mountains just in time for sunset.

I cannot end this blog without sharing the journey of two dear friends who walked their 15-year-old chihuahua/Italian greyhound to her final breath this week. They did so with beauty and attention, taking care of their “old lady” as she aged. After she had a stroke, they stopped everything for three days and simply prioritized her needs and their own. Tootsie has been on every hike and camping trip we’ve taken with them all these years—an adventuresome little dynamo. We will all miss her. Tootsie helped them be their best possible selves. She deserved no less.

Tootsie in the last week of her life. Photo by Nicole Luce

Would love to hear some of your own stories about how your pet helps you be a better human in this complex world we live in.

Henry Beston’s famous quote from The Outermost House:

For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.”

 

31 replies
  1. Jeanne Guy
    Jeanne Guy says:

    Okay, I admit I haven’t read the blog in its entirety (yet) but the pictures grabbed me and I just had to write immediately to tell you how freaking cute Vivi is!!! And the picture of her looking out the front window – oh my gosh! By the way, I hope that’s not one of my socks I left there pre-Covid. Miss you all also much it hurts.

    Reply
  2. Gretchen Staebler
    Gretchen Staebler says:

    This is beautiful, Ann. I’m not sure how these past two years would have gone without my kitty, adopted two years ago Valentine’s Day, just before the world closed up shop. She is my heart companion.

    Reply
  3. Jennifer Getsinger
    Jennifer Getsinger says:

    Hi Ann,
    Good to hear you and Christina have another great dog! I remember when there was something sad that happened to another one some years ago.

    Even though my “pet dog” Spot is only a stuffed animal, and a make-believe friend, he really helps me out, too. He reminds me not to put anything too controversial on Facebook, trying very hard not to offend anyone, that is, content appropriate for grandchildren. He provides someone to talk to, as I live alone and my cat expired 3 years ago. I am sorry to see some of my FB friends calling certain groups of people “morons” and don’t think that’s very helpful, even if they don’t agree with everything I might. Wish more folks had circle council background and could learn to communicate with people of different viewpoints. I am so glad I have reached out to my various cousins (and friends) in different places of the world, geographically different and with different opinions. Did I tell you my sister lives in Point Roberts? We get to see each other often, but right now there are still reasons to be hesitant about crossing the border between US and Canada.

    Reply
    • Ann Linnea
      Ann Linnea says:

      You are so kind, but truly I take seriously all my interactions with her—so much trust and vulnerability. Love, Annie

      Reply
  4. Diana Scambler
    Diana Scambler says:

    Our mini- Groodle (mini-poodle/Golden Retriever cross) Banjo encourages me and my partner in all those wonderful activities that Vivi gets you into! At least an hour-long walk every day, preferably on our huge ocean beach at Sandy Point (near the truly special Wilsons Promontory National Park), almost as far south as you can go on the Australian mainland. He is very curious, and simply has to investigate any new thing, or activity. ANY person or dog that comes near, he invites to play with him. Now he’s just turned one year old, he’s beginning to read the room a bit better and doesn’t insist when they’re not interested. But now that we’re more than half-time at Sandy Point, he’s helped us connect to many in the community. In Covid times, walking one’s dog outdoors is many people’s favourite activity. The only downside is ensuring he doesn’t frighten our occasional visitors like the local koalas, echidnas, wombats or indeed tiger snakes! He is adorable and funny and our health coach.

    Reply
    • Ann Linnea
      Ann Linnea says:

      Thank you for this, Di. Our health coaches, indeed! Perfect description of our four-leggeds. Thank you for sharing, Ann

      Reply
  5. Melissa B-K
    Melissa B-K says:

    A little dog named Gracie opened my heart’s eyes to the Universe. My days with her prepared me for receiving the gifting presence of Snowball, Rufus, Elliot, Katy.

    Reply
    • Ann Linnea
      Ann Linnea says:

      Yes, our Gracie was most amazing—walked us through the busiest travel times of our lives, the loss of 3 parents, and the loss of our son. Only hope I did her loyalty and unconditional love justice. So glad for the names of your pets that have followed! Ann

      Reply
  6. Katharine Weinmann
    Katharine Weinmann says:

    Yes, yes, yes.
    Our Annie dog (my fingers keep typing god) is a remarkable teacher in similar ways, as have been each of her five predecessors. We marvel at their wisdom, their dispositions and preferences that have varied with each one; laugh at their antics, and ways of letting us know exactly what and when they want what they want. They have opened my heart and particularly now, during these past two years of covid, Annie’s faithful companionship has been a balm in countless ways. And yes, she has made me a better human being for the love I feel for her.

    Reply
    • Ann Linnea
      Ann Linnea says:

      Yes, I, too, have come to an ever deeper appreciation for our dog through Covid times. Many folks have shared with me that they are not sure how they would have survived the last 2 years without a pet. Love, Ann

      Reply
      • Karl Olsen
        Karl Olsen says:

        Thanks, Ann! What Deb perhaps forgot to mention is that our scruffy wonder dog Mochi helps remind us that we are all complex creatures, with both fierce and lovable sides, and that we are called to extend love, no matter which side shows up at a given moment. Deb’s a whiz at that…me, more of a work in progress! Thanks for the insights and reminders. Much love…

        Reply
  7. Laura Collins
    Laura Collins says:

    My cat Puff has been a lifesaver these past two years. Her gentle and trusting nature blesses me throughout each day. She’s as companionable as a faithful dog, and she barks less! Loved seeing your photos; you and Vivi both look great.

    Reply
  8. Jeanne Petrick
    Jeanne Petrick says:

    Ann, what a wonderful read, on this day, while my dog, Frances sleeps in the sun-raise, right by my side! I could write a book about the many gifts that all of our dogs have bestowed throughout these past 47 years. I will spare you that book here, but big on the list that makes me a better human is Frances’ love of life no matter what the day presents. And she keeps me laughing, with her goofiness, which is always good daily medicine. Loving to lounge as she does, reminds me not to try to accomplish so much that I forget to pause and take time to breathe and enjoy the day at hand. The list goes on and on. I too am a better human for having always shared life with a dog. Aren’t we lucky, beyond!
    Loved all of the photos, Ann – I smiled from one to the other. THANKS

    Reply
    • Ann Linnea
      Ann Linnea says:

      Ah, this is what I hoped for—an outpouring of beautiful stories of our remarkable pets! Such important teaching tales. Love to you and Frances! Ann

      Reply
  9. Marina Lachecki
    Marina Lachecki says:

    OK…talking about dogs and how they teach and meet us touched my heart.
    I knew it would. Love the stories of joy and laughter. The Medicine Walk and Sit Spot at dusk.
    My 6 year old cattle dog, Juju, rescued me when I rescued her as Covid shut-downs began. She was tentative and in need of a new life after being abandoned, homeless, and starving. So was I after leaving my work on beloved Madeline Island to care for my husband as we both walked toward his death.
    Healing with a four-legged is Big Medicine.

    Reply
    • Ann Linnea
      Ann Linnea says:

      Thank you so much for this beautiful tribute to Juju and to yourself on an important heart-opening journey. Love,
      Ann

      Reply
  10. Sara J Harris
    Sara J Harris says:

    And elder rescue dog named Daisy, half lab/half shepherd, has come into our lives after 40 years without a dog! And yes…it is amazing. She is so sweet and easy and forgiving of our “new human” blunders with her. We feel lucky to have her and I am getting more walks for sure!

    Reply
    • Ann Linnea
      Ann Linnea says:

      Oh my, Sara! So grateful that Daisy is easy. The three of you have all lucked into some special later life love. And you so deserve it! Ann

      Reply
  11. Margaret L Brown
    Margaret L Brown says:

    Loved these photos! It was a long day, and I was too tired to do a thing. When I opened email, I was drawn into your blog immediately–so true what they do–but then our beagle alerted me to a Pilated Woodpecker in the backyard….When I returned and finished the blog, our Fletcher sat right behind me, which warms my back and cheers me up but is probably intended to remind me that it’s time to get outside. Now, however, they are making noises that indicate it is definitely time to get outside. Which I will do. Which is your point.

    Reply
    • Ann Linnea
      Ann Linnea says:

      My dear sister, Thank you for writing. You who have loved dogs since you were tiny and blessed our home with their presence have remarkable dog stories. Thank you for sharing. Love, Ann

      Reply
  12. Bonnie Rae
    Bonnie Rae says:

    We lost our “comforter in chief” (our beautiful cat, Gus) late last summer and so our little dog Yoda became our sole source of daily love and comfort. Not sure what I would have done without him. He’s intuitive, as are most of our pets, and knows when to lay his head on a lap or drop his paw on a hand. Bless the tiny beasts ♡

    Reply
    • Ann Linnea
      Ann Linnea says:

      Sorry for your loss, which you beautifully documented on your own fine blog, Bonnie Rae. “Comforter in chief”—such a fine, fine title.

      Reply

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