5 More Things I’ve learned from my Dog

image: (c) Dr David R Hamilton

Oscar is 18 months old today. We’ve had him since he was 8 weeks old and he’s completely changed our lives. Dogs have a habit of doing that. I have learned so much from him in just that short time, some of which I’ve written about in previous blogs. I feel like I’m always learning so here are some of my most recent insights:

1) I can be a child any time I want

Oscar & I walked by the river this morning, close to where we live. The level was higher on account of recent rain, such that the path we often take along the river was flooded. So we had to climb up a steep bank and through some trees to get to a field.

As I clambered up the bank, getting filthy from the mud, holding onto tree branches to pull myself up, a loud ‘Yippeeeee’ burst out of me. I felt like a child again. I used to have adventures like that all the time as a child. I could have stayed there all morning. What’s the rush, I thought? I then actually went back down a bit and chose the steepest part of the bank, just so that I’d need to climb a tree to get back up again. It was so much fun.

I was reminded that we can play like children any time we want. We just need to find a tree, or a ball, or a skipping rope or hula hoop. As adults, we have this idea that we have to always behave like adults. Who said we need to? I think it would do us all some good if we let our inner child have a play from time to time.

It set my up for the day. I am feeling great right now as I type this. 🙂

2) It’s important to listen to my body

If Oscar goes on a long walk or has a lot of play time with his friends, he comes in and slumps on the floor and sleeps. He just knows what his body needs and acts on it.

Even when I feel really tired, I have had a habit of continuing to work because I have things I need to finish. But what I’m doing is putting my work before my health instead of the other way around. If we don’t have our health then we can’t work. It’s as simple as that.

Oscar reminds me to listen to my body more. If I feel tired I can sleep, hungry I can eat, light-hearted I can play. If I don’t feel hungry, I don’t need to eat (that’s never the case with Oscar). It doesn’t mean we have to just down tools every time we’re tired, but it wouldn’t do us any harm just to pay a little more attention to the needs of our bodies.

3) It’s important to take regular breaks (and make them fun if I can)

Oscar broke my laptop screen a few weeks ago. The Apple Store repaired it for me for free (Go Genius Bar!) so no harm done. If he’s been sleeping and then wakes up, and I happen to be using my laptop on the sofa (we have a lovely log fire so I prefer the living room to the office during the winter), he jumps up on the sofa and pushes my laptop out of the way, while his tail ferociously slaps me on the side of the head as he wags it with excitement. I think it’s his way of saying “You can’t choose that silvery thing over me.

I always end up bursting out laughing as I stretch my laptop out with my hand so it doesn’t drop on the floor (failed that one time), while he then licks my face as I laugh.

It’s funny, but when Oscar wants to play, even if I’ve been feeling under pressure with my workload, the stress disappears in an instant. I stop what I’m doing and we play with his ball, ring, or one of his other toys; or we just have a play-wrestle.

It reminds me that we have a capacity to make ourselves smile at any time. We just don’t recognize how important it is or we’d do it a lot more.

4) Walking is very good exercise

Before we got Oscar, 16 months ago, I used to go to the gym 3 or 4 times a week and jog at least once a week. I convinced myself that it was the only way to stay fit. Now I don’t go to the gym nearly so much, yet I’m about 8 pounds lighter.

I hadn’t thought about it until I worked it out, but I walk around 20 miles a week on average. And it’s the consistency that matters. Many people like to walk but are not consistent enough to feel the real benefits. I’ve been like that in the past, full of good intentions but only keeping up the practice sporadically.

Having Oscar forces me to be consistent … like every day. The result has been weight loss and a healthier cardiovascular system to boot.

And another thing: I thought that by not running as much I’d have lost fitness. That was until I took part in a charity 5k and ran it in not much over 20 minutes, having not been out for a jog in several months. Walking consistently really is great exercise.

5) Love needs to be unconditional

I think we’ve all heard it somewhere. We’ve read it, heard it at a talk, or maybe we’ve seen it in a quote, or even one of our friends proclaimed it in a conversation. But have you ever really thought about what it means? Or witnessed it in action?

I’m not so sure I’d ever really thought about it until Oscar arrived. Dogs have this knack of showing you unconditional love – love without anything attached to it … not “I’ll love you if you take me for a walk” or “I love you because you feed me” or “I’ll stop loving you if you do that.” It’s just, well, “I love you” … and that’s it. There’s nothing attached. It’s just pure, simple, complete love. And it feels fantastic. It really gets you thinking.

There’s a sense of freedom in it that makes me love him even more. I don’t have to love him back, which allows the natural bond to form unimpeded with conditions. That’s the thing with unconditional love. When there’s nothing riding on it, the love is unimpeded and is super strong.

Here are some of my previous blogs about my experiences with Oscar:

4 Reasons Why Dogs are Good for Your Health

5 Lessons I Learned from my Dog

How My Dog Being Attacked Reminded me to Live in the Moment

How Dogs are Good for Your heart

A Lucky Escape – Premonition, Guidance, or Both?

An Intuitive Search for my Lost Dog

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  1. KAREN ROHLEDER on February 27, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    Hi David

    I really enjoyed last Saturday’s MBS day in London sooo much!
    The whole day went so quickly and felt very well-balanced.


    love and light
    PS love the Oscar stories, I grew up with a black lab called Bruce

    • David R. Hamilton PhD on March 13, 2014 at 11:04 am

      Thanks Karen. I’m glad Oscar’s stories are reminding you of Bruce. 🙂

  2. Esther Lemmens on February 27, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    Hi David,

    A lovely continuation on your first article! 😀

    It has inspired me to write a little book called Life Lessons Learned From Cats – which is in progress 🙂 Like you, I can be easily distracted and cheered up when they want a cuddle!

    Thank you, and I look forward to seeing you at the Norwich workshop soon x

    • David R. Hamilton PhD on March 13, 2014 at 11:04 am

      Thanks Esther. Oh, I look forward to your book. I had two cats growing up (Buttons and Sooty) so I think I will relate to your book. 🙂 See you in Norwich in April. 🙂

  3. Myrtle Fish on February 27, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    I almost feel love touch me as I read. I could see Oscar jumping for Joy as you scrambled in the mud. Simple fun. It is so wonderful that he could revive those childhood memories. Their capacity to love is heart rendering. What a wonderful feeling that is.
    We should experience that loving feeling all day long. What a beautiful life that would be. Love Myrtle

    • David R. Hamilton PhD on March 13, 2014 at 11:02 am

      It would indeed, Myrtle. 🙂

  4. Ursula on February 27, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    Thank you for you “Oscar-points”. ( as you rightly added in your blog you have referred to some Oscar-points before – actually on quite a few occasions) Some of the points you highlighted I kind of know but appreciate being reminded of again.
    Isn’t life great we learn and learn – just to forget again. That is maybe one of the reasons I look forward to your blogs : to learn……….
    Thank you

    • David R. Hamilton PhD on March 13, 2014 at 11:02 am

      Thanks for your kind words Ursula. 🙂 Yes, I think I might just have written about Oscar on quite a few occasions. 🙂 I’m always learning from him. 🙂

  5. Shenagh Leiper on February 27, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    i love reading your blogs about Oscar, David. My faithful golden retriever lies at my feet as I type. She is constantly there for me and never moans if i`m late home from work or feed her late. She never says she doesnt want to walk or go for a swim and always gives the cat her bed if she gets there first. She is my friend and confidante especially tonight when football is on and the men in my life dont notice whether i`m here or on another planet!

    • David R. Hamilton PhD on March 13, 2014 at 10:59 am

      Hi Shenagh, Oscar is at my feet as I type too. 🙂 Yesterday, I was being interviewed on Skype on a split-screen interview and Oscar decided to participate. He jumped up on the chair and licked my face. The interviewer thought it was hilarious. 🙂 Your comment really brings it home just how much dogs are our loving companions. 🙂

  6. Pat Wells on February 27, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    David, we are on the same level. What you have discovered, I am thriving on at present and have for the last fifteen years. Living solo here, my present two Leonbergers are my life and my family. My true family are only a short drive away but lead very busy lives, so their absence is made up by my companions. Also sadly my daughter is allergic to the dust and hair from their coats although they are also dog owners. Dylan the black Labrador now lives with their daughter and boyfriend. Tragicly they recently lost Barclay the Beagle to a car accident. By the age of two, your Oscar will be showing his colours ie will become a teenager. You will need all your strength of will to dominate him and keep him under control. This will be your love of him in return, to protect him from non dog lovers, who will not appreciate his friendliness.
    I am so much in agreement with your findings.
    Happy rambling,
    Best wishes, Pat

  7. Gill on February 28, 2014 at 1:17 am

    Well, I say ‘yippee!’ all the time now!
    My dog Max, a rescue dog from Bergerac SPA, an animal rescue centre here in France, has encouraged me.
    He does all the things your dog does, and has taught me the same lessons.
    Another wonderful thing he does is to bring other people into my life. On a recent journey to Dijon, I noticed how much his presence enabled people to open up and be their friendly, loving selves, and to chat about dogs and life to me.
    It’s only Max and me at home, so I really value the opportunity to talk to people when we’re out.
    I have only just realised that my dog’s other name has to be Love on Legs! LOL!!!

    • David R. Hamilton PhD on March 13, 2014 at 11:01 am

      LOL. I love your new definition of LOL, Gill. 🙂 Yes, I find that too – that dogs bring people into our lives. I find myself speaking to so much more different people since Oscar arrived in our lives. It’s really lovely. 🙂

  8. Michael Serota on February 28, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    I attended the Friends House event last Saturday and thought wouldnt it be nice if we could match the unconditional love you get from Oscar and offer it to others and ourselves.

    By the way your guided meditation last Satureday was really specail so thanks for that.

    • David R. Hamilton PhD on March 13, 2014 at 10:56 am

      That would be nice indeed Michael. 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the meditation. 🙂