Animal Medicine


As many of you know, I am a recent convert to dog-loving. Theo is my first ever pup. And having reared him as my own fur baby for a little over six months now, I've learned a thing or two about what all the fuss is when it comes to these four-legged friends. 

My husband and I sometimes joke that Theo just loves so hard. And by that we mean, he wants to jump all over you and lick every possible part of your face in a welcome greeting any time you enter our home. But beyond the cute and crazy puppy stuff (and I've included some very cute photos at the end of this blog), there is a true medicine when it comes to spending time with animals and especially with this little mutt. 

We know studies have shown that pets can actually lower your blood pressure, but (surprise, surprise) I find the mystical and esoteric side of the animal world also quite interesting.  In shamanism the dog is the symbol of loyalty, the guardian, friendship, and even unconditional love. And when we have a close connection to dogs, it might be postured that we too are capable of these qualities and possible conduits of the deep protection, healing, and nobility they demonstrate. 

So today I'm sharing with you a few choice lessons I've learned from six months of living with our lovable beast. I hope you enjoy them!  

GUARD YOUR SPACE. Theo's bark is much bigger and scarier than his bite, but he is instinctively protective. At the arboretum a few weeks ago, as I was meditating in the grass, anytime someone would come even somewhat close to my area Theo would bark, and essentially establish a perimeter and boundary line for my safety. It was really incredible to witness and a great reminder of the importance of guarding our spaces of all kinds - especially those of deeper reflection and relaxation. 

BE A FIERCE FRIEND. Theo greets his doggie friends like he hasn't seen them in 20 years. Despite the fact that he's seen and played with many of them even just hours prior, he teaches me day after day the fun of extreme excitement when seeing those we might be "habituated" to ordinarily. Nothing - when it comes to loved ones - is taken for granted in his world. 

EXUDE WARMTH. I cannot tell you how many times this pup has put a smile on someone's face simply by stoping and staring at them with interest and a tail wag when passing on the street. He reminds me that no matter how busy or in a rush I might be, it's possible to pause and appreciate the beings all around us. In doing so, we are filled up as well with connection and warmth. 

TREAT COZY LIKE A VERB. Cozy is an adjective, and a noun, but most importantly for Theo - it is a state of mind. This animal is an exquisitely talented napper and finds ways to actively snuggle with anything and everything around. While being ridiculously adorable, it's also quite admirable. When he rests - he rests! What a concept. 

TOUCH IS HEALING. As I work from home, Theo is around me constantly. He's there when I'm angry, when I'm really frustrated, when I have a good cry, etc. And somehow, when I'm deeply upset by something this bright being knows the power of coming over to me and resting his head on my lap, or gently licking my palm, or some other weirdly soothing and loving gesture. A reminder that touch breaks through pain and discomfort and is one of the most powerful forms of connection between humans and animals. 

LIVE IN THE PRESENT. In the deeply instinctual nature of an animal, there is no real concern about the past or the future. The moment is now. The only moment we have - we ever have - is now. I love how he reminds me of this often. 

GO OUTSIDE. To many of us, spending time outside or in nature is a luxury. A "nice-to-have." For dogs it's as essential as breathing. They are at home in nature - and for Theo - going outside is a party. The act of heading out for a walk elicits so much excitement and enthusiasm - even when the weather is less than perfect, that it reminds me too to find the appreciation and celebration in mama nature. For this lesson - and for all the lessons, I am so grateful.


And if you've made it this far, a fun P.S. of things I'll let Theo keep to himself:

  • The butt sniffing. 'Nuff said. 
  • Being scared of his own shadow. Lately he's discovered his shadow, and he's not too happy about it. 
  • Tail chasing. I really don't like running around in circles. 
  • Chewing. Everything. Especially carpet and wood, and blankets, and shoes, and socks....
  • Inhaling his food. As I'm hosting a mindful eating workshop this week, I'm working to not vacuum up my food in T-15 seconds, but hey, he's mostly a wolf so what can you do. 
Joanna Andreae