Seeing Ourselves Through the Eyes of Dogs
Updated: Oct 5, 2022
We see ourselves in a different light every day, often giving harsh criticism for things not complete, something we felt bad about, or just not being our most vulnerable, and true self. Dogs see us differently though. What came up in my Mindful Self Compassion workshop the other day was Mary Oliver, a poet and pet lover and how her Dog Songs can teach us about the meaning of our human lives. My eyes filled with tears when the instructor read one of her poems about her dog that passed away, and I had to look further into her work.
The First Time Percy Came Back by Mary Oliver
The first time Percy came back he was not sailing on a cloud.
He was loping along the sand as though he had come a great way.
"Percy," I cried out, and reached to him—
those white curls— but he was unreachable.
As music is present yet you can't touch it."
Yes, it's all different," he said.
"You're going to be very surprised.
"But I wasn't thinking of that. I only wanted to hold him.
"Listen," he said, "I miss that too.
And now you'll be telling stories of my coming back and they won't be false, and they won't be true, but they'll be real."
And then, as he used to, he said, "Let's go!"
And we walked down the beach together.
I used to live right on the ocean and lucky enough to walk along the beach everyday. On my meditative walks with the sound of crashing waves, there were also some of the most happiest dogs. Let loose to just run and play, these dogs knew it was their moment to be free. My moments of joy happened most when certain dogs would approach me, or even wait for me to pass by so that I can say hello. It was as if they knew me their whole lives. I often wondered if it were just a small connection, curiosity or maybe they sensed the honest love in my heart for them. These moments should remind you that dogs see us for who we really are, and hope in some small way that you acknowledge them too. They want to live a good, full life, and we as humans are meant to offer that life to them. We forget sometimes that we are so capable of offering something so natural, and that what we get in return is the promise that we will have unconditional love and many moments of joy. Think about the ways in which dogs look at us as supportive, caring, and authentic people. They are precious, and we are lucky to be given the chance to know them. The added love, well that would be even better.
"Because of the dog's joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift. It is not the least reason why we should honour as well as love the dog of our own life, and the dog down the street, and all the dogs not yet born. What would the world be like without music or rivers or the green and tender grass? What would this world be like without dogs?"
― Mary Oliver, Dog Songs
Maria Popova, from The Marginalian puts it so eloquently when she speaks to Mary Oliver and her poems and it reminds me again of the mindful moments we can have with animals. "Amidst the poetic, there are also the necessary, playfully practical reminders of how dogs illustrate the limitations of our own sensory awareness."
"A dog can never tell you what she knows from the smells of the world, but you know, watching her that you know almost nothing."
If you are spiritual in any capacity, you understand the notion of connecting with something unlike you. Imagine what dogs feel like when they see a human? Though the connection with a dog and its owner is inevitably the strongest and most whole-hearted, you don't have to own one to feel this power too. I remember living with two dogs and taking care of them while their owner was away. I treated them as if they were my own, and in return they would never leave my side. Their empathy kicked in, and they communicated with me in a way I have never experienced before. Without even speaking to eachother, the connection gets stronger. Dogs also share the particular neuron that humans and mammals have that can provide this empathetic nature. They also have ways to protect you if they sense danger. We look at empathy in four points: Perspective, staying out of judgement, recognizing emotion in other people, and communicating. We need to recognize these truly amazing capabilities that this helpless creature can provide. Connection brings love, and we are worthy of it, and so are dogs. If the lens we can see ourselves in gets better each day with an animal, why wouldn't we find a way to help and heal them too?