For the last three years I’ve been living in the Washington, D.C. metro area and my dog, Landry, has remained back home with my Nana in Texas. It might not happen every day, but occasionally it will hit me out of nowhere that I miss that little stinker! Whenever life gets a little hectic or I find myself being tempted to get wrapped up in the negativity around me, I miss Landry even more. He always cheered me up after a hard day. Now that I think about it, I think we could all benefit from taking some pointers from Landry.
#1: Gobble Life Up
I remember the first time I saw Landry. It was freezing cold outside the day I went to view 2 litters of Italian Greyhound puppies in a rural town in Texas. The breeder brought the pups out two at a time so I could see them. When Landry appeared, I thought he was from the second litter. He was SO TINY! His brother was easily two times his size. Landry was the runt. Maybe this is why Landry gobbled up everything in life.
When I first brought him home, I wanted to show him to my parents. I visited them at their home in Fort Worth and brought Landry with me. My mom put a dish of water down on the kitchen floor and we were talking when she said, “Oh my gosh!” and pointed. I looked and saw that tiny little Landry was gorging himself on the water—promptly drinking the whole dishful and causing his stomach to balloon out. We were afraid it would make him sick, but he survived. His bad etiquette extended to food as well. Even though no other dogs were around, he’d scarf his food down as though it might disappear from sight at any moment.
Unfortunately, his eagerness to gobble up anything that he encountered extended to things other than food and water. Landry wanted to eat everything and hoard everything in his sleeping area. Things would disappear from my sight such lipstick, pens, pencils...Anything he could get into, he would. It’s like Landry never takes anything for granted. Maybe he realizes something great might not be sitting idly in front of him for very long. So he gobbles it up. I’m not suggesting we all start eating lipstick and chewing on pens. But I think we should enjoy the “little things” in life and sometimes pause to marvel at how neat the “stuff” of life can be.
#2 Spend Plenty of Time Relaxing
Not only does Landry dine like there’s no tomorrow, Landry sleeps like he may not get another chance tomorrow either. On some mornings when I got up for work, I’d literally have to drag Landry out of bed so I could take him outside to relieve himself. He would make me pick him up like he was a little sack of potatoes, making zero effort to get up. Finally he’d act as though he was awake when I’d put him down on his feet. He’d sometimes grumble a little as if to say, “Leave me alone…I’m trying to sleep!”
Then he’d usually take his time s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g his long, spindly little legs before walking around the yard. Unless it was cold or raining outside. Then he wouldn’t want to go out at all! He’d rather hold it than go outside in the rain or cold. Then when I let him back in the house, he’d race back to the bedroom, jump up on the bed, and dive back under the covers again. Sometimes it happened so fast I literally didn’t see him. He loved his sleep time. I couldn’t keep that dog out from under the covers! So many times I’d be calling for him in the morning, looking for him…and then I’d see the tiny little lump on my bed. Landry.
#3 Don’t Do Anything Half-Heartedly
In addition to his frantic dining habits and near-hibernation sleeping patterns, Landry also lives the rest of life his life to the fullest. He makes me think of the old high school sports slogan: “Play Hard or Go Home.” That’s Landry. He does nothing half-heartedly. While he may be the itty-bitty version of his ancestors, Landry definitely has Greyhound blood coursing through his veins. That dog loves to run. And he seriously has two speeds: Stop and High Gear. That’s it.
I was quite the runner and Landry loved going with me. Even on the hottest of Texas days when we’d go on a long run for 2 hours or more, never once did I wear Landry out—he would always outrun me. No matter how long we ran or how hot it was, he always had a burst of energy up that final hill to the house. I trained him to be the perfectly obedient runner companion—he would run right alongside me, slightly to the right and 1 or 2 steps behind. He wouldn’t pull on the leash or dart out ahead of me or lag behind. So as a reward, I’d allow the leash to extend way out ahead of me during the final stretch of the run to let Landry finish up as fast as he wanted to go. Well, almost. He’d race ahead of me as far as the leash would let him.
Whenever I’d catch up to him on the front steps, his little ribcage would be heaving in and out, he’d have that sweaty little dog smell, and his skinny pink tongue would be hanging out so far one side of his mouth I wondered how it would ever fit back down his throat. He’d be looking back at me with excited eyes as if to say, “Is that all you got? Let’s run again!” I swear he smiled.
Landry’s middle name is Daytona. And he loves to run his laps. Landry will run laps around the room, around the house, down the hallway, around the couch, around the dining room table, around the bed, around someone standing in the middle of the room, you name it—and run around, fast as lightning with his ears slicked back and his body low to the ground. He’ll jump up onto the couch or onto anyone in his way and bounce off like a pinball in a pinball machine. So many times, especially when he was younger, Landry would bang into the wall or hit his head on a chair as he was sprinting around. But it never slowed him down for more than a second. He would run until he was tired—he loved feeling the speed apparently. It’s as though his motto was, “What’s the use of doing something half-way?”
#4 Always Be Excited…No, Be Ecstatic…To See the People You Love
This is what most people love about their dogs—they are always so happy to see them! You can come home after a long, tiring day and there’s your dog looking up at you wagging his tail, so thrilled to see you. It’s as if you’re all they’ve been thinking about all day long. Their entire day revolves around the joy they experience when you walk through that door. Well…Landry isn’t quite as social as some other dogs I’ve had over the years. He isn’t excited to see just anybody. But he’s ecstatic to see the few people in his “inner circle.” He gets so excited he can barely contain himself. He snorts, jumps around, cuddles, and yes—will even go sprinting around the room a couple times.
I think it is often our tendency as humans to take things for granted—especially our loved ones. Our loved ones need to be shown how much we love and value them. After a trip out of town or even after a day of work, wouldn’t it be nice to come home to someone who’s genuinely excited to see you? How many people would keep a dog around who snarled their lip, growled, and walked out of the room as soon as he saw his owner? Same goes for people. Sometimes when a loved one comes home at the end of the day or after a trip or comes for a visit, gripes and complains and requests should wait a minute or two. And instead, those initial moments could be spent just enjoying the gift of getting to spend time together again.
#5 Don’t Take Things So Seriously
I’ll admit it: There have been times when I looked at Landry and was envious. Yes, I said it: I wished I was a dog. Ha. Seriously, what an easy life! No worries, no bills, no stressors, no demands…just sleeping and eating and having fun goofing off. Sometimes I’d be having a hard day or would be really tired or rushed and then Landry would do something funny to make me laugh. Had he not been around, I might not have laughed some days.
I remember one time I had purchased a huge, economy-sized container of hazelnut-flavored liquid coffee creamer. I usually just got the small size, but there was a great deal on this one so I bought it. One morning, while rushing to head out the door to work, I struggled with the little plastic ring thingy on the container. Some splattered on my hand as I opened it that first time. But whatever, I licked it off and quickly snapped the top back in place because I had to hurry. I was running behind (as usual) for work and was on my way out—all I had to do was pour that dang creamer into my coffee and hit the road.
Well, as is my habit, I started shaking the container before I poured it into my coffee—I probably shook it a little more than usual since I was rushing plus a little frustrated by getting in on my arm just a second ago. The next thing I knew, there was an explosion like a mini volcano and stuff flew everywhere! I let out a little scream and Landry raced over. What the heck just happened? For a split second it didn’t register— I just stood there in shock. What just happened? I didn’t know where to begin. It was like a junior high science experiment had blown up all over my kitchen. Sticky liquid hazelnut creamer was oozing all over the place. It was in my hair, on my clothes, on the counter, on the refrigerator, dripping down onto the floor…I wanted to cry. I probably said a couple choice words too. And what did Landry do? Of course. He was thrilled at this development and started lapping up the hazelnut creamer as quickly as he possibly could. That made me stop and just laugh. Most things really aren’t that big of a deal and there’s usually a silver lining if we just are able to see it.
Even though Landry isn’t with me every day, I am going to try to keep some things in mind that I’ve learned from him. I want to always be sure to gobble life up, give things 100%, be ecstatic to have my friends and family, and enjoy the stuff of life and every moment I have.
Natosha Monroe is a counselor and PhD candidate passionate about increasing Troop access to counseling services. Her blog contents are not representative of the Army or Department of Defense in any way.