This morning everything seemed to be going to the dogs. My house, my yard, my kids’ behavior, my behavior with my kids, their behavior towards my behavior, not to mention the world at large. So I took a cup of tea and sat on the back steps with Jack, our Great Pyrenees dog. Let me state here that he’s a lovely, gentle soul and my older daughter Helen says if I found a man like him I’d finally get married. She may be right—I could do worse. O.K., I have done worse.
So Jack seems to like nothing better than for me to join him out there, getting all excited with tail wagging and face licking before setting himself down right beside me. And then we just sit. Nothing more. Well, a little talking is good. I might comment on the birds or the weather and he might cock his head to indicate he’s interested in some animal sound, but that’s about it. We could sit for 5 minutes or 15, depending on our needs at the time. It’s very nice and I’ve decided to call this activity “Sitting with the Dog.” It’s not meditation. It’s not contemplation. It’s not any form of yoga, though I will add here that I used to know some yoga positions including one called downward dog. But this is just sitting with a dog. (To clarify, this activity does not include the, let us call them 11 and two weeks shy of 17 year olds who go find a dog for an excuse not to empty the dishwasher or feed the cats.)
If you don’t have a dog there are some other options:
A young child will also have that wonderful unconditional joy to have you sit with her but you have to find a time when she’s tired enough to be still but not too tired to start whining, possibly a two minute window extended to four with a popsicle.
Cats may come to mind to some of you and I have plenty (11 to be exact) at my house so I have an idea about this. Cats are better at the “Napping with the Cat” activity (possible topic for a future blog) but not so much the sitting. And they sometimes like to rest on odd body parts like your head and I don’t get what that’s about.
A really old people can be great for this but you both need to have the same expectations. The person has to be old or wise enough to know you don’t have to comment that much on the story you’ve likely heard 20 times already. It has to be all right for you to just sit quietly by his side. There could be short responses on your part and maybe some light resting of hands on frail limbs. This is a really nice thing to do for a really old person. It’s also a really nice thing to do for yourself.
So this morning I did this Sitting with the Dog thing. It felt pretty good. I forgot to be annoyed at everything and everyone, including myself. And there was a sense of being complete. I noticed I had something to contribute, which was making Jack happy. I got to see the ballet of two white butterflies, swooping and twirling around each other among the weeds by the fence. That was something to appreciate. And really, at any given moment, that’s all you need: something to contribute and something to appreciate. Even in a world that seems to be going to the dogs. And I also think a really old person would agree with that.