Dog Tales, and What Humans Can Learn from Them
What Can We Learn From Dogs? Story & Lesson #1
A friend passed along to me the first touching and memorable tale and the picture (below) that, years ago, went around the world by email. It is about a dog, a little boy, and a Veterinarian. In the email my friend sent to me, the story was actually told by the Vet, a man who was asked to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker.
The Dog’s owners were a family; a man, Ron; his wife, Lisa, and their little boy, a six-year-old named Shane. The family was closely attached to Belker and wanted a miracle to save the life of their beloved, ailing pet. It is expected that Irish Wolfhounds, the tallest of all dog breeds, will live an average of seven years, and that most will succumb to some form of bone cancer. Belker, as it turned out, was no different from most other breeds of large dogs with a life span between five and ten years. His condition was terminal, so, unfortunately, the Vet had to deliver bad news to the family instead of the good news they wanted to hear. Belker was dying of cancer and the Vet told the family there was nothing he could do to save the family's canine friend. The doctor then offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for them at the family’s home.
Arrangements were soon made for the procedure, and the man and his wife said they felt it would be a good idea for little Shane to also be present, to observe the procedure. The little boy's parents told the Vet they believed it would be a good learning experience for their child.
The next day, the doctor said he felt the familiar fullness in his throat as Belker 's family gathered around their pet to say goodbye. Shane seemed especially calm, petting the old dog for the last time. The doctor said he couldn’t help but wonder if the little boy really understood what was going on.
It wasn’t long before the dog slipped peacefully away, and, again, the little boy seemed especially calm. The child seemed to accept Belker's going away without any of the difficulty or confusion one might expect to see from a little boy saying good-bye to his dog for the last time. The doctor and the family all sat together for a time after Belker's homegoing. Shane sat silently by, listening quietly as the grownups talked and wondered out loud why it is that animal lives are so much shorter, in general, than human lives.
Shane, not realizing it was a rhetorical question, chimed in at that point saying, “I know why.”
Surprised to hear the young lad speak, the grownups all turned to look at him. The Vet said that what came out of that child’s mouth next left him stunned. He said never had he heard a more comforting explanation, and that little Shane’s words changed the way he tries to live. Here is what he said was Shane’s explanation:
''People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life -- like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?'' With everyone in amazed agreement, the little boy continued, ''Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don't have to stay as long.''
What Can We Learn Can From Dogs? Story & Lesson #2
Now it's time for the second tale and lesson number two, delivered to humans, once again, by a dog.
A man in Ghana became worried when his loyal companion, his dog, did not come home one night. It was so unlike the hound that the next day, when the pooch still had not returned home, the man gathered together a search party of friends and neighbors to help him look for his dog.
They spent most of the night combing nearby woods and fields, calling the dog’s name, to no avail. Then some of them doubled back toward the man’s farm; the place their neighbor and his trusted canine friend called home. Going underneath a small bridge in Winkongo (near Bolgatanga, the Upper East Regional Capital of Ghana), they were surprised but elated to find their friend’s dog, alive and well. The animal was lying still, looking up at them, and then they realized he was snuggled next to something—as though he were protecting it. It was a tiny human baby, and the dog was keeping the child warm.
This story was in the news several years ago, during the time when I first wrote and published this Hub. News from Ghana told us about the dog that had become a hero after it was discovered the animal had spent a whole night protecting a newborn abandoned child.
Thankfully, but for a slight infection caused by the umbilical cord not having been cut at birth, the child was in relatively good condition. As of the telling of the story, the infant was in the custody of local health directorate until suitable arrangements could be made for his care. Investigating authorities are speculating that the child’s parents were probably teenagers, but no one knows yet for sure.
This is not the first story I’ve read about a human infant, abandoned by its mother, who was saved by a canine. Why is it that the protective instincts of dogs, sometimes, are stronger than those of a human mother? Why is it that, in this story, a search party had been convened to look for the dog, but no one, it seems, was searching for the baby?
What We Can Learn From Dogs: Who Needs Training?
Dogs seem to get it right, a lot of the time. Who could learn a lesson or two from some of our canine friends? We all could. Their instincts about people, more often than not, seem “spot on.” Maybe it’s time for us to take a few lessons from them, instead of just doing things the other way around.
When it comes to living simply.
Life doesn’t have to be complicated, as long as the primary focus is love.
When it comes to loving generously.
Real love is simple and pure. Sure, a nice treat, a great meal, and a hearty walk, are appreciated, but a dog will shower more love on you than any number of treats, meals, or walks could ever repay.
When it comes to caring deeply.
Even the tiniest of canines will growl with the ferocity of a lion if he/she thinks someone is trying to harm a beloved human. Dogs are the truest of homies—always ready to “roll out” with you, they always have your back!
When it comes to speaking kindly.
You don’t know what endless love is until a dog shows you how very much he/she loves kind words spoken directly to him/her. And if you sweeten the deal by talking “baby talk,” they’ll never forget you. They love it!
Canines Keep it Simple!
Dogs work hard to teach us the simpler lessons in life. For example, they demonstrate that when loved ones come home from a hard day’s work, you should always run to greet them. They teach us to never pass up the chance to go for a joyride, and to always bask in the experience of fresh air, with the wind blowing in your face, coating your ears with happiness. It’s pure ecstasy.
Think maybe, someday, we can become the people our dogs think we are? I think they're holding out hope that we're trainable.
“The more I know about people, the better I like my dog.” – Mark Twain
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Sallie B Middlebrook PhD