I didn’t grow up with a dog, so living with Nalin over the last two years is my (and our family’s) first experience with a dog. And over this time, I have learned some lessons from Nalin.
- Love: When I (or someone else) come home, there is Nalin wagging his tail. He never fails to be demonstrative with his affection. If I don’t pet his ears, don’t scratch his chest, don’t stroke his fur, he will nuzzle me on my leg, boop me with his nose, as if to say, “I’m looking for some love from you.”
- Patience: So many times, Nalin is ready, and I am not. To go out for a walk. For his food. Because he has to go about his business outside. I’ll tell him, “Wait,” and he will sit down until I’m ready. He does not bark, he does not run around like a crazed animal, he does not indicate he wants his way NOW. He sits there, trusting that I will do what he wants, waiting for me to get to it.
- Acceptance: I see his belief in his human family. His automatic assent if I ask him to jump into the back of the SUV for a trip; he doesn’t run away inside, or pull away from the SUV, he’s ready for whatever comes next. It may be a trip to the park, to the groomer, or some errands that I’m running – no matter, he wants to be part of it.
- Focus: In the morning, when we sit down to breakfast, he is sitting at the other end of the kitchen. There he is, on the ground, relaxed but fully alert, watching only me. Nothing else is important. He’s looking for a sign, any sign, even a raised eyebrow, that I may have a treat for him. If I make a gesture, he is right beside me with a wagging tail, ready for whatever I have to offer.
- Joy: When we go to the park, Nalin knows where we are headed. He pulls on his leash with all his might, head down, panting, ready to run free. He knows what is coming next. And when he starts running, his ears flopping up and down, his body bouncing from sheer joy, he does it with full abandon, taking in the grass, other dogs, the bouncing ball, shouted instructions, his full presence in just that single moment.
- Wonder: Knowing that I can communicate with another species is such a source of wonder. I can see him in all his facets – thinking, wondering, asking for affection, tired, playful, sleepy. Nalin reminds me of the mystery and wonder of life and living beings, of the shared ability to be aware of the world around us, despite our differing positions on the tree of life.
By his presence in our lives, Nalin has opened up a new world to me, and I am a better person for the experience!