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Jan 31, 2024

A Tail of Love’s Lessons

Sheila Tucker

Photography By

How utterly amazing would it be to unconditionally love yourself the way your pet loves you?

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I was 10 years old with long, stringy blonde hair and a tendency to one-up the boys in my age group. Jump a ramp with your bike? Hold my basket, boys, and raise that thing; your girl is going over it. 

Admittedly, I could be slightly competitive. My two best friends, Billy and Demetri, were used to my antics and never underestimated my ability to raise the bar. Until I met HIM. 

I was totally and utterly in love from the first moment we met. I simply couldn’t keep my hands out of his messy golden locks. Those eyes. They were so expressive, the color of brown topaz when the light shines through, with the tiniest golden flecks you could see only if you were nose to nose. Much to my mother’s dismay, he was fashion-forward, putting holes in my jeans and fraying the hems. 

His name was Charlie, and he truly changed how I saw life and myself. It didn’t matter what kind of day I had; he believed I could do no wrong. It was a love that impacts me even today. 

Charlie was my first childhood pet – a cocker spaniel my mother bought on a whim from a pet store in the mall. As soon as our eyes locked, there was no turning back. We left that day with a puppy and very full hearts. 

Charlie was always there when I needed someone to listen, play with, or simply sit in silence. When I was older, I could always depend on him to be at the ready for an impromptu run around the block so I could clear my head. 

It could be five seconds or five hours, but he still greeted me the same way. He was always so excited to see me. Happy dance with his entire body shaking, tail wagging, and even more kisses. It didn’t matter if I was in a bad mood or whether I was successful or productive. Charlie was my biggest fan. 

How utterly amazing would it be to unconditionally love yourself the way your pet loves you? Regardless of the day’s nagging pressures and expectations, imagine loving and accepting yourself without judgment, conditions, or reservation. 

It’s difficult, right? My self-talk is quite judgmental at the thought of unequivocal self-love and acceptance. I suppose it’s more of a meandering than a destination. 

If you will, walk with me as we navigate a few ways to be more like our dogs (and cats, too). 

Unwavering Acceptance

You come home after a long day, and your dog is there waiting for you, that tail wagging with an unparalleled enthusiasm that screams, “I’m so happy you’re here!” Imagine treating yourself with the same unwavering acceptance – embracing your flaws, imperfections, and mistakes.

Your dog doesn’t judge you for a bad hair day or a missed deadline. One way to be more like your dog is to practice self-acceptance and celebrate your uniqueness.

Your kitty is likely to greet you a tad differently – raising her head with a look that takes the tone of “Why did you wake me.” Although your cat is likely judging you, even ever so slightly, she still loves you for being the food-giving machine and chin-scratcher you are. 

Be Present in the Moment

Dogs have an innate ability to live in the moment. Whether enjoying a simple belly rub, savoring a treat, or relishing a walk in the park, they are fully immersed in the now. Take a cue from your canine companion and practice mindfulness. Instead of dwelling on past regrets or worrying about the future, focus on the present moment.

Cats, too, live in the present. Watch how they savor an opportunity to slowly and methodically bat something off the counter and casually saunter away from the scene. They’re not afraid to seek out opportunities and not worry about the future. 

Prioritize Self-Care

Dogs don’t compromise on the basics. They are always ready for a nutritious meal, regular exercise, and plenty of rest. To love yourself like your dog loves you, prioritize self-care. Nourish your body with healthy food, engage in activities that bring you joy, and ensure you get enough rest. Just as you attend to your dog’s wellbeing, make your own wellbeing a priority.

Your cat knows exactly what she likes when she likes it. Try to give her a kitty treat or delay her dining time by a few minutes, and she’ll let you know. She’s not afraid to speak up for what she wants and needs. Those kitty cat paw taps to your nose in the morning aren’t just signs of love and adoration. Take a page from her book. Learn about your wants and needs and what feeds your soul. Then, make it a priority to seek them out for your wellbeing. 

Forgive and Forget

Have you ever accidentally stepped on your dog’s paw? I do it all the time (sorry, Louie). Within moments, they’re ready to forgive and forget. Can you apply this forgiveness to yourself? 

We all make mistakes, but holding onto guilt and shame only weighs us down. Learn from your errors, forgive yourself, and move forward with a clean slate, just as your dog does. 

To quote Homer Simpson, “You can’t keep blaming yourself. Blame yourself once and move on.”

Do you remember that time you closed your closet door and accidentally shut your cat in the closet? Unlike doggie friends, your cat will tell you off as soon as you open the door. Again, cats have an uncanny way of speaking up for themselves. Although they express their feelings freely, they don’t hold a grudge. However, they do usually stay away from the closet for at least a few hours – which is a whole other way to be like your cat. Learn from your mistakes or failures.

Express Love and Affection

Dogs don’t shy away from expressing their love. They radiate affection through wagging tails, kisses, or simply snuggling beside you. Be intentional about expressing love and kindness to yourself. Acknowledge your accomplishments, practice positive self-talk, and indulge in activities that bring you joy. 

Podcast host and motivational speaker Mel Robbins suggests that you high-five yourself in the mirror daily. Treat yourself with the same tenderness and care that your dog showers upon you.

Usually, on their own terms, kitties will also express love through head butts, weaving in and out of your feet while you’re trying to walk (down the stairs, or is it just me?), and curling up in your lap. Notice the subtle ways you can show yourself compassion. 

Loving yourself like your pet loves you isn’t about perfection; it’s about embracing your authenticity (read January’s issue to learn more about authenticity) and showing yourself the same kindness and compassion your furry friend offers unconditionally. By incorporating these ways of being into your life, you can begin to embrace a profound sense of self-love and appreciation.

Later today, when you look into your pet’s eyes and see pure love reflected back at you, remember that you deserve that same love from yourself.  

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