What Looking After a Pet Dog Taught Us About Relationships And Compassion

What Looking After a Pet Dog Taught Us About Relationships And Compassion

Over the last three months we’ve had the pleasure of house sitting our friends pet dog, Coco. If you’ve been following us on Instagram, you’ve probably seen her. Coco is absolutely adorable! She’s also really playful, affectionate and cheeky. If you have a dog, I’m sure you can relate. It was definitely sad to leave her last week, but we’re also grateful to have spent time with her.

Whilst we’ve been familiar with dogs in the past, this was the first time we’ve exclusively lived with one for an extended period of time. As it turns out, looking after a dog has taught us a lot about a human/pet relationship and what it means to look after them compassionately.

In this post I’m going to share three things we discovered by spending time with this little dog as it specifically relates to our lifestyle.

The ongiong guilt of looking after a pet dog

When you first enter a relationship with a pet dog it’s easy to feel guilty. Anybody who has a child, a pet or any being who they’re responsible for can probably relate to this.

The pet often wants to play or to be walked or fed whilst you’re trying to get things done around the house or for work. As compassionate caring people we found this challenging because we made a commitment. Just like if you were to have a child, you can’t half-ass your responsibility. You have to be 100% committed. And we see no difference when it comes to having a pet. You have a responsibility to ensure that they live a great life.

Eventually we started to figure out what the boundaries were. Both from the pets perspective and for ours. It’s basically a process of setting expectations between the two parties. Sounds like any relationship doesn’t it?

It is beautiful and liberating process when humans and animals learn to work together and find a balance where all lives are enriched.

What dog “ownership” symbolises

This is a profound concept and can be a little confronting for many of us who “own” pets.

Earlier this year, we had the pleasure of seeing Jim Morris, who is a 79 year old vegan bodybuilder speak at the Sydney Vegan Festival. He spoke about his bodybuilding career, his sexuality as well as his journey into veganism. One thing that always stuck in my mind however was his comment on his relationship with his two pet dogs. He said that his pet dogs are his best friends – but in a way they are also his slaves. It’s a concept he’s grappled with since be become vegan 15 years ago.

Sure, slaves is a harsh word to use in relation to a dog/human relationship, but it’s relevant nevertheless. I’m sure most of us adore out beloved furry friends and love them to bits. But the fact is, most of them wear a collar with our name and contact information on it. We tell them when they can walk, play, eat, sleep and fetch. We raise them like they were one of our children. Yet a child eventually becomes old enough to leave home and start their own families.

At what point does a pet dog or any pet for that matter get an opportunity to experience independence and live out their own lives? Rarely.

Will this idea prevent us from having pets in the future? Of course not. There’s still a way to live with pets in harmony. I just think we need to change terminology and tweak our attitudes. Instead of saying you’re a dog owner, say you’re a dog parent, or a dog partner.

Just a simple tweak in the terminology will force us to think differently about a human/pet relationship and how we can all grow together. As opposed to humans being superior because that’s what slavery represents. One earthling being superior to another. There’s no hierarchy, and we should all get the respect that we deserve, animals included.

This is not to say that there aren’t barriers that need to be set but it does hold everyone accountable to each other to live in true partnership.

How a dog partnership improves your health

This was a really welcomed change to our lifestyles. Having an opportunity to develop a relationship with a pet dog forced us to be more active. Dogs much like humans, love being in nature, running and playing. These are all of the activities that often get neglected in our lives because we’re too busy with work, looking after family or running a household.

If you’re a compassionate dog parent, you essentially have no choice but to get back in touch with nature and be more active. Not such a bad deal, is it?

We found that we grew a strong passion for walking, playing and exploring outside. It was completely liberating. I know many dog parents are committed to walking their dogs once or even twice a day, which is fantastic. But we also have to be careful of how we walk that line. If we were completely honest with ourselves, some of us get dogs because they force us to be active. We hear it all the time. “Our dog is our gym membership.” So just be really clear as to why you want to enter into a dog relationship. Hopefully it’s for mutual joy and exercise is just a byproduct of a healthy relationship.

Beyond the raw physical activity, we found that having a dog forced us to be present. When you’re playing with a child, they can sense when you’re not 100% present with them. A dog can sense the same energy. If you’re going to engage in a play session, commit. It’s so much fun!

It’s an amazing dynamic when dog and human are fully engaged and are challenging each other whether it’s running around the house or wrestling on the grass. The animal appreciates it, and you do to. When you’re present, you’re not thinking about the bills you have to pay, what you have to do at work or any other errands you have on your to-do list.

All you’re thinking about in that moment is the joy you have, and that’s why it’s so powerful to have a healthy relationship with your pet.

Conslusion

Overall it’s been a really enriching experience looking after a dog over the last three months and housesitting. Building relationships with a dogs, and all animals for that matter, is definitely something we want to pursue in the future. It’s also handy to have these experiences now so we have an idea of what we’re in for, so we can fully commit when that time comes.

We are minimalists and we don’t take new commitments lightly. So when we are ready to take on a pet we want to make sure we can give them all of the love and respect that they deserve.

Have you had similar experiences with your pets? How do you look at the relationship you have with them?

Image: Flickr

4 comments… add one
  • Tracy Sage 06/09/2015 Reply

    My husband & I used to look at doggy people as if they were a bit mad …That is until we got our first dog, Archie, 2 years ago. Now we get it. The unconditional love a dog gives you & the pure joy of their companionship is a revelation. Within months I had turned from a lifelong vegetarian to a vegan. Everything fell into place for me. Pets are a full time commitment but they can change you life and your outlook on life for the better.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience Tracy. I agree with everything you said – it can truly be an amazing partnership! It’s also quite interesting to see your transformation from vegetarian to a vegan as a result of looking after your dog. May I ask what specifically prompted you to make the change?

      • Tracy 07/09/2015 Reply

        When we got Archie I searched online for a dog friendly cafe & the nearest, Fortify in Maidstone Kent England, happened to be vegan. After tasting their delicious food I went home to research veganism. This led me to various videos online about how cruel the dairy industry is and convinced me I had been kidding myself all those years. I could no longer be part of any animal cruelty. Just looking into Archie’s eyes and seeing the total trust he has in me was enough. I changed my diet that day & haven’t looked back. However changing Archie to a vegan diet is a whole other issue & for various reasons hasn’t worked so far…

        • Wow, thanks for sharing Tracy. We can definitely relate to your experience, particularly around connecting the dots with Archie and other animals. Kudos to you!

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