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What does Marsha teach me?

Marsha is our family dog. She’s a rescue. She came with her name from the pound, and we felt it suited her. She’s now about 14 years old or so. She’s taught me so much about how to love. How to revel in life. The biggest challenge for me is to make friends with everyone I meet. Marsha wants to say Hi to everyone with a few exceptions.

Be a peacemaker: Marsha gently asks us when our voices become tense and louder: “Is this what you want?” She stands right near us without looking, serving as a silent reminder to either stay committed to the tense moment or to re-evaluate it. Some situations and issues are worth fighting for. Some we realize are a petty battle of egos. Dogs are ready to raise their hackles, bark, and bare teeth when the situation calls for it. (Although I doubt Marsha is the guard dog type. She’s barked at people and other dogs but that’s the extent of it.) Dogs can remind us to step outside and evaluate our emotions and attitudes… Do we want to continue feeling or thinking this way? Or will this tension ease with a breath and some distance?

Find something each day to roll around in: Not all dogs roll on the ground, but Marsha sure does…every day, at least once in fact. Rolling around serves many functions. First the world is her comb to reach every itchy spot. Second her sense of smell draws her to scents we can’t perceive. For her, the world becomes a way to create ambience, to achieve olfactory ecstasy, to give her whole being layers of nuance. We can do this in the same way when we learn and experience other cultures, other ways of thought, other ways to move our bodies, engaging our senses.

Do something few understand and enjoy it while you can: A few times I’d let Marsha enjoy time at an empty park off leash. Sometimes she would hang back and I’d turn around to see her far off. Then the fun for her began. She found something so exquisite to her dog sense that she’d slide slow into a scent on the ground and roll. She’d pump her back legs to get that back pressed hard into whatever stench it was. Then she’d stand up and repeat like a rinse cycle for dogs. I won’t give you the details but suffice it to say I drove her back home with all the windows down and took her straight to the hose in the yard followed by a proper bath with baby shampoo.

What might this mean for you or me? There might be a few ideas or projects you feel drawn to do but no one around you understands or supports you. Sometimes it’s important to pursue those dreams or ideas. Be the change you want to see in the world even when those around you might roll down the windows.

Start your day with love: I enjoy the moment I come back to bed after being up to have a cup of coffee and read. Before I crawl back in bed, I pet on Marsha. She has a bed right next to ours. I know she enjoys it like I do because she presses her paw hard against my side to stretch her front leg as I rub on her shoulder and side. Then she rolls up to get a belly rub.

This is about the length of this blog, but I realize that I’ll be returning to what Marsha teaches me. There will be one about cats too. I’ve spent more years of my life sharing a home with cats.

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