Through Sadie’s eyes: Life lessons from a dog

Our 3 and 1/2 year old Cavachon, Sadie.

Our 3 and 1/2 year old Cavachon, Sadie.

This morning I posted the picture above with the caption, “I want to live her life for just a day.” From this, I began thinking and reflecting as to what life would be like as a dog. From this, I have come up with the following observations lessons I have learned through observing the way Sadie, and other dogs, go through life.

Wake up every morning with enthusiasm, ready to take on the new day.
I often take for granted how Sadie wakes up every morning.  Each day is the same.  My wife lets her out of her crate and she bursts down the stairs. Sometimes I wonder if her paws even hit the stairs or if she just slides down them. She runs around outside and comes in to eat. She literally bounces around the house, jumps on and off the bed and greets both of us as if she hadn’t seen us in ages. Imagine waking up that way every morning.  What would life be like if we put behind us anything that happened the day before and woke up each day refreshed and excited?

Treat everyone (equally) like they are the most important person
Sadie loves people. Whenever someone comes to the house or we pass them on a walk, she wants to greet them. She wags her tail, jumps up, nestles close, and licks feverishly (if we let her) as if to say “I am SO excited to see you.” She does this with me every day when I get home, like greeting a long lost friend. She does not see gender, race, ethnicity, or any difference at all. She treats each human she sees the same; with love and excitement. What would our world be like if humans did this? Instead of walking through the streets head down, eyes glued on on our phones, what if we smiled and greeted each person we cross paths with? Our world would be a friendlier place if we treated each other like dogs treat us.

You don’t need expensive toys to have fun
It seems like every time we shop, we come home with a new toy for Sadie. While she loves to play, she does not need expensive toys to do so. One of her favorite things to play with, for example, is the cup her ice cream treats come in. She would make anything a toy if we let her. Often, she will play with the new toy only to get bored and go to one she has had forever that we should throw away, but just haven’t brought ourselves to do so. The lesson here is about our dependence on and want for material things to have fun. Like children, dogs have seemingly a wonderful imagination and do not need much to have fun. We, too can do this just by being with other people and learning to use our surroundings in a creative way. We depend too much on expensive “toys” to entertain us.

Love is unselfish
Sadie and I have the same routine when I get home. She greets me as mentioned above, she goes outside to do her business, she gets a treat, I give her plenty of attention, and she rushes downstairs to play with a toy like she had forgotten they were there for her to use all day. This routine drastically changes when Sadie can sense I have had a bad day or am sick. Instead of rushing to play with a toy, she will jump on the couch and sit as close to me as possible and will not move as if to protect or console me. Sadie does this without fail and always seems to know when I need her the most. We can all learn how to be better aware when our loved ones need us the most and to drop our own needs and wants to be there for them. 

Loyalty and forgiveness are the keys to a good relationship
Dogs are extremely loyal animals. There are countless stories and videos to back this up. Sadie is no different. No matter how much I may have neglected her while working or doing something for myself, have been verbally upset with her for barking when she wasn’t supposed to, or have just been a grump, she always forgives. This sort of undying loyalty and forgiveness are something we lack as humans. All to easily, we hold a grudge and lose trust in others. People make mistakes often. Dogs know this and see past this, so why can’t we?

The key to good communication is not words
Dogs can’t understand words. Most people know this. However, they can pick up very keenly on tone and body language. All too often we rely on words as the key focus in communicating. What if we just understood (and had to pay most attention) to tone and body language? We would certainly be better listeners and communicators for it.

Step out of Forget your comfort zone
Sadie can literally sleep anywhere; her crate, a bed, the arm of the couch, the cold kitchen floor, the grass, the car, you name it. She can always find a place to get comfortable. The lesson here is that we need to learn to be more comfortable more often. We are usually anxious and uncomfortable in places we are not used to. If you are comfortable, you are more likely to be genuine and confident which leads to building better relationships. If you learn to get comfortable anywhere, imagine the possibilities.

Learn to value rest
Face it, we all could use some more rest. This was the genesis of my picture and ensuing reflection this morning. Sadie lounges around all day. I am not suggesting we should be like dogs and just move from spot to spot and sleep all day (though we could use that once in a while). What I am suggesting is that we need to be better at listening to what our bodies are telling us and to rest when needed. Let me give a better example. Sadie’s favorite thing to do is to play with her ball. If we mention the word ball or anything that sounds like it, she will go right to the closet where it is kept and whine until we play with her. That being said, as much as she loves to play, she usually tells us when she is done. When her body gets too tired, she will lay down on the floor and stop. Simple as that. We could all be better at doing this. How often do we ignore the signals our body sends us and continue to work or play, when we really should rest?

Of course none of the above is based on any science, rather my observations and reflections from my first three years as a dog owner. When we started puppy training, our trainer told us that the classes were as much for us, if not more, than Sadie. While we have worked hard to train her, she has taught us perhaps even more.

What else can we learn from our pets?

Sadie playing at her favorite spot, the beach. This photo won her Portland's cutest dog, which enabled me to fulfill a lifelong dream of throwing out a first pitch at a professional baseball game (with her by my side)!

Sadie playing at her favorite spot, the beach. This photo won her Portland’s cutest dog, which enabled me to fulfill a lifelong dream of throwing out a first pitch at a professional baseball game (with her by my side)!

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Think before you post: Social Media advice for college students

I have been seeing students (not just at my institution) post some things lately that have really caused me to think; how are we teaching them about social media? I don’t necessarily mean how to technically use it (though important). I mean how do we teach them proper communication with Social Media? I asked my student affairs colleagues in the #sachat community the following question:

The response was overwhelming. From the #sachat advice and my own thoughts and reflections over the last few years, I offer the following for undergraduate students (or anyone, really) to consider before posting:

There is really no such thing as privacy

Yes, you can (and should) set your privacy settings on Facebook. Your tweets can (but shouldn’t be) private. However, that does not truly protect you. Did you know that most Twitter platforms allow for private tweets to be retweeted? That’s right! If you post something about your weekend partying and your roommate decides she wants to retweet the photo, it is now public, for all the world to see. This is just one small example of how complex “privacy” can be with Social Media. My general rule of thumb is to do your homework and know how private your content is. Above all else, don’t post it if you don’t want it to be seen by the general public, your boss, or your grandma!

What you post should be (and is) a reflection of you

Whether you like it or not, what you post is a reflection of you. Peers, friends, family, faculty, employers, colleagues, future employers, and more are looking at what you post and assume that it is a true representation of you. This gives you great power. You have full and ultimate control of your online presence. You can use Social Media to positively reflect who you are and all that is great about you. Why not use it in a positive way to add to your personal brand? Ultimately, when someone googles you and reads your posts, you want them to get a true representation of who you are and leave them with a positive impression. Be genuine and authentic.

Stop being so negative

We see it often and you know who you are: the person who posts all the time about every little thing they are mad at or annoyed by. Instead of negative posting, be an agent of change. Send an email, call, or better yet, meet with the person or office that is the source of the anger and frustration and come up with a compromise and a solution. Saying that the person in the library is mean (for sake of a PG rating on this blog) is not helpful to anyone. Raise the issue appropriately. We have a rule with my student orientation staff called the 24 hour rule. Basically, the rule says that if your are frustrated or upset with someone, you have 24 hours to address it with them face-to-face or let it go. Social Media does not replace face-to-face communication!

Social Media is a tool

Social Media does not replace all other forms of communication. Email is still important, and in a college setting, is often the main form of communication between students and the University. Face to face conversations and spending time to get to know someone beyond their Facebook photos, tweets, and what they write on their blog is invaluable.

Student Leaders, pay attention

Social Media can be a great tool for you to showcase all you do and let your peers know what is happening with your club, floor, team, etc. However, it can be a double edged sword. We all know about the fish bowl: that as a student leader everyone pays attention to what you do. This is especially true online. While you may not connect with professional staff on Social Media, your peers and those whom you are leading see what you post. Don’t be a hypocrite. Role model proper behavior and use of Social Media.

Social Media is a professional tool

Social Media can be used as a tool to connect with professionals in your field and to showcase who you are and your value to a given organization or profession as a whole. Create a LinkedIn account, get connected with professionals in your field on Twitter, and create a blog. Become an active contributor to your profession. This will get you noticed and will keep you learning about what is happening then and now in your field.

Google yourself

Have you done this before? What comes up? Is it you? Look at the images. Are you proud of what comes up? Remember that Flickr account you created for that Spring Break trip? Didn’t know that would be seen in a Google search of your name did you? Spend some time cleaning up all of your accounts and presenting yourself in a way that is genuine and that you are proud of. Move from hoping that potential employers won’t Google you from hoping they will!

A few thoughts about email

A personal pet peeve of mine – you are college students, so use proper grammar and spelling! When addressing a member of the faculty or a staff member, “hey”, “yo” and “what’s up” are not appropriate ways to begin an email. Emails are not tweets or facebook messages and should not be treated as such.

I am not trying to be too preachy here, but feel it is important that student at least hear and think about some of this. Don’t let it come to your senior year and find out you did not get that job because of those pictures you posted or that rant you went on about not getting your way. Trust me when I tell you, potential employers will Google you and will dig deep to see who you are online. You are in ultimate control of what they see and read. Use these tools and this power to your advantage and showcase all that is great about you!

What additional advice would you give our students?