Just a walk

We just returned from our daily walk. We went to the dunes and the forest. We go there almost every day, so you could say this is nothing special. But to me it is always special.

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Every day is different, you know. It smells different, it feels different. Sometimes we have sun, sometimes rain or storm. Or all of them in one walk (those are the best). We might encounter a fox, or a bunch of rabbits. You never know for certain and that makes every walk a little adventure. Not a big one, like going on a holiday and hiking in the mountains, of course not. That is a different category. But I like these little adventures too. Maybe even more, because we can have them every day.

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Yoga

I have been with humans for almost three years now (I’m turning three in October), but I am still surprised about them. Take yoga. Sometimes M and I do this together and then we call it doga. M really likes doing yoga and she even reads books about it. Yoga is a bunch of exercises, some of them hilarious, but it is also what humans call a philosophy about how to lead a good life. Key aspects seem to be living in the now and concentrating on the breathing.

That is funny. Why on earth would you concentrate on the breathing, something that comes natural to every living being? It doesn’t need concentrating in order to work! I think there are loads of other things worth concentrating on, things that need concentrating because otherwise you will miss them. Like good food.  Humans can really make things complicated!

I find the other key aspect, living in the now, very silly too. Of course you live in the present, where else would you be? It is the only time there is! I know a lot of humans are busy regretting things that happened in the past and they worry about things that might happen in the future. That is such a waste of time. You can not change things that happened in the past and you have absolutely no clue what will happen in the future. The only sensible – and by far the most enjoyable – thing to do is live in the now.  To us dogs this is common sense. Have you ever seen a dog regretting things he had done? Or concentrating on his breathing? It would be very funny!

Apparently humans need yoga to tell them basic knowledge like this. That is odd. I must add to this that M does do a lot of yoga, but she breathes naturally so she has no need to concentrate on that (except when she tries to run with me). And she lives in the now, always. Well, most of the time. In this picture she is doing yoga, not doga because I didn’t join her. I was just enjoying the soft mat, as you can see it was kind of rocky on this campsite.

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Juicy sandwich

I can be a very polite dog. Very polite. Priorities, right? We dogs are good in immediately sorting out our priorities. I personally like to go on an Adventure, to go hiking for instance. That is a priority. Snoozing in the sun is another one. But my top priority is food.

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So when P is eating a juicy sandwich, I wait politely for him to share it with me. Of course, he always does. Who can resist my hungry look? No one can!

I think I would have been a very successful stray dog, if I had stayed in Athens. I would seduce all these tourists to share their food with me. I am glad I didn’t stay, though. I like it here. Besides, Dutch sandwiches are the best.

How to talk to dogs

Humans talk a lot. To each other and to us, dogs. But maybe you noticed that we dogs don’t talk to each other, at least not in the way humans do, with words and sentences. So the short version of the answer to the question ‘how to talk to dogs?’ is: you don’t.

We don’t actually mind when humans talk to us. We are polite enough to listen to all this blabla, no worries about that. M for instance talks a lot, to other humans and to me as well. I’m okay with that, it is the way she is and I respect that. But with humans and canines in general the trouble begins when humans seem to think that talking to us is the same thing as communicating with us. That is a big misunderstanding.

Let me give you an example. I was at the beach and a big labrador was happily rolling in a dead fish. His human did not like that and called him. When he finally came, she said to him (in a high pitched voice): “You naughty dog, I told you not to get yourself dirty. I thought we had agreed on that, don’t you remember?” I can tell you we all laughed very loud at this stupid human and the lab laughed with us. This human interacted with her dog as if it was a child and that is just not how it works. I don’t expect this works with human children either, but that’s another story.

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Conclusion: talking to us is not the same as communicating with us. If you want to communicate with us, please take a look at how we dogs do it. We do not use words, we use energy. We pick up each others energy and know what the other needs. Like respect.

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Energy is our most important tool for communicating. Besides that we have all kind of subtle ways to tell each other what we want.

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And less subtle ways, too:

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But the most important tool is energy. Not only between dogs, but also in the human-canine interaction. We don’t need words, we feel what humans feel.  For instance: when a human is stressed, we sense it. Balanced dogs will try to calm this human, stressed dogs will get more stressed.

All this means two things concerning communication:

  1. You can’t fool us with words. We tune in into your energy, so we feel what you mean, despite the words you choose. You cannot lie to a dog.
  2. When you really want us to get your message, make sure your energy is in sync with what you tell us. When you tell us to be calm but you are stressed yourself, it won’t work.

So what about the lab who was rolling in the dead fish? Well, he and his human have an issue that is a bit bigger than just communicating in the right way, because the lab obviously has no respect for his human. I can’t blame him, I would feel the same towards a human who talks to me like I am a bad behaving child. There is something wrong in their relationship and they should work on that, by applying my magic formula of fun, companionship & love.

For the rest of the humans who do have a good relationship with their dog: if you want to communicate with us, be fair to your own feelings and energy and be fair to us. Be genuine, be balanced and only tell us to do things you find really important. Not out of some whim, because we will feel you are dishonest and we will not oblige. By the way: rolling in a dead fish is very high on our bucket list. So please do us a favor and let us enjoy that moment. You can always (oh I hate to say this) give us a bath afterwards.

Look-alike

Look who I met on the beach again: my look-alike!

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She is my friend from Greece, she arrived this year at her new home in Holland. She lived in the shelter in Athens, the same shelter where I grew up. It was nice to meet her again. We gossiped a bit about the shelter back in Athens and then we started to run. After that we investigated our surroundings. We like it in Holland, especially the beaches: they are huge! Great for running.

Tree creatures

Last weekend I walked in a pretty forest. There were nice little lakes where I looked for sticks to play with:

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This forest is unfamiliar to me and that is nice, it means there are loads of things to discover. New scents and stuff like that. There was something else, something odd about the trees. There were faces, inside the trees!

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M pointed them out to me. Of course I noticed them before she did, because I smelled the freshly carved wood and knew something had happened to the trees. Some humans had carved creatures in living trees. Strange.

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There were humans walking around, looking at the woodcarvings and talking about them. They were so focussed on the works of art that they forgot to notice the other interesting things in the forest! Like the little frogs near the lake, a rabbit in the distance, mice hiding in the fallen leafs and a big bird of prey, hovering above us.

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Silly humans. They seem to be capable of focussing only on one thing at a time, usually not the most important one, and forget everything around it. It is a miracle they are still here, and so many of them too.

Fun, companionship & love

The American dog whisperer Cesar Millan works with a formula that every dog owner who wants a friendly, balanced dog has to follow, in his opinion. It consists of three basic principles:

  1. Exercise
  2. Discipline
  3. Affection

In that order. So first you have to make sure your dog gets all the exercise she needs, then you have to discipline your dog (set rules and stuff like that) and after you have done all this, you should give her affection. The exercise part is for the body, discipline is for the mind and affection considers the heart, he writes.

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I think it is nicely said and he probably did a lot of thinking to put a complex subject like this into three simple words. But from a dog’s perspective he is not entirely right. I would translate this formula in three different words, meaning different things. This is my formula:

  1. Fun
  2. Companionship
  3. Love

I will explain this. When you have a dog and you want a good relationship with her, you will have to work together. Of course this means exercising, but there is more to it. You don’t just walk her every day for one hour (with her on the leash and you chatting to other humans), but you go out on Adventures together. You have fun. That is how you get to know each other. You won’t need to set artificial rules, because you will learn what works best for both of you while doing it. It is a natural process! Having fun together builds a strong relationship. It is a matter of the body and the mind.

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Companionship is about the mind. When you and your dog truly understand each other and you have a strong bond (because you have adventures!), you will be true companions. She will protect you and comfort you in times of sorrow, you will feed her and give her shelter. You will be a real team.

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Love (and respect) is what comes from fun & companionship. When you do all of the above, your dog will love you and you will love your dog. That is a matter of the heart. Although we dogs do not distinct body from mind and heart, in our opinion they are one and the same.

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When you follow this formula, you will not only have a balanced dog, but a friend for life. That is worth some effort, isn’t it?