I’ve Got A Dog Habit

Habits get no respect.

There are drug habits. Creatures of habit. Nun’s habits.

I have a dog habit. And it’s been a life saver.

Honey the golden retriever is my dog habit.

A Good Thing Dogs Are Boring

Most dogs appreciate a structured life.

They want to be fed at a certain time. They look for their people when they expect them to come home. Heck, my Honey even barks when she’s tired and wants to go to bed.

When you have to work late or want to go out with friends, dogs are a royal pain.

But when everything around you is chaos, it’s nice to have a reminder to eat, walk, and sleep on a regular schedule.

That’s what dogs do. They’re the cute, fuzzy, playful version of Google alerts.

Honey the golden retriever goes for a walk.

I don’t know why the human wants a picture of me walking. She gets to see this view every day.

The Downside of Independence

For the past two years, I’ve lived what some people only dream about. Yep, I work from home.

And no, I don’t stay in my pajamas all day.

In truth, it’s difficult at times.

I can’t raid the kitchen for cookies when I get a case of the mid-day munchies (because I don’t buy myself cookies). There’s no one around to bounce an idea off. And it’s hard to stay motivated when no one is going to see the work you do.

For an extrovert like me, working alone can be tough.

It’s a good thing I have my furry little habit to keep me organized.

A Day With Habit Dog

My husband has taken over caring for Honey in the mornings. But she still structures both of our lives.

One of us usually gets up early while Honey sleeps in until 6:30 with whoever decides to stay in bed. By 6:45 she’s getting restless and hungry. Time to feed the dog.

After breakfast, it’s squeaky time. Honey has to celebrate eating with a rousing game of keep away or tug with her noisiest toy.

Before leaving for work, my husband takes Honey on a short walk. I follow-up a few hours later with a much longer one.

Then it’s nap time. And more nap time. And yep, even more nap time. Until Honey reminds us that it’s dinner time.

Honey the golden retriever waits for dinner.

Hurry it up, mister. Or I’m going to drool on your shoe.

Honey keeps a keen eye on me while I’m cooking. Although she has already eaten, she never knows when I might toss her a morsel for dessert.

Honey gets more squeaky play time with my husband, an evening nap, and maybe another short walk before heading off to bed.

No matter what is going on around the edge, Honey creates a framework for everything else we do.

Habit Dog Afloat

Our house is under contract. We’re selling everything we own on May 9. Once the closing happens, we’ll start shopping for our next home—a small sailboat.

Both my husband and I worry about how we’ll respond to such a different life.

Yes, there’s bad weather and shoals to worry about. There are expensive mechanical failures. There is money to run out of.

But I think both of us worry about how we’ll structure our time and wonder if we will create a meaningful life with a purpose.

Luckily, we’ll still have Honey as our regular habit.

Whether on land or sea, Honey needs to eat. Honey needs her walks. Honey needs to play. Honey needs to nap.

In a way, Honey’s activity list is not unlike the regular schedule of prayer and worship monastic monks follow all over the world. Or perhaps I should compare her “I need a biscuit” midday bark to a muezzin calling faithful muslims to prayer throughout the day.

Honey and her habits ground me. When I don’t know where to go next or what to do, I know I have to be ready for an afternoon walk or to prepare her dinner on time.

I have a dog habit. And no matter what else happens, I can count on that to structure my day. And my life.

Honey the golden retriever rolls in the grass.

This is my favorite habit. I do it on every walk.

Your Turn: How do you feel about the habits your pets add to your life? Is it freeing, restricting, or something else?

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  1. Rebecca Jackson says:

    My dogs helped me to become a hiker. Now sometimes we travel just to find new places to hike. Doesn’t matter what time of year or what kind of weather, hiking is what we do and love. Always looking for new, and challenging, pet friendly trails. My dogs, both the 12 year old and the 2 year old, are in great shape, and I am in better shape now, at 63, than I was at 43.

  2. This is so true. When things are crazy, either in a good way or a bad way, it’s my dog I turn to for a moment of solace and peacefulness. They ground us with their routine and keep us focused on what’s really important when chaos abounds. Sometimes it only takes a minute or two of sitting down with your dog to bring a perspective of balance back into your day.

  3. As Elaine said, when everything around me is in a state of chaos – good or bad – it’s Callie and Shadow I turn to for a moment of peace and quiet. Ducky? She’s usually contributing to the chaos! :0 But seriously, if it weren’t for my dogs, I’d have lost my mind a L O N G time ago.

  4. Our two are the perfect retired person dogs: they want their morning pee, breakfast and a walk, but they are flexible about the timing. They wait until we get up on our own. But knowing that after I’ve had breakfast and my coffee, the walk awaits, gives me some comforting structure to my day. The walk helps to get the kinks out and makes the rest of the day better.

  5. Dogs are the best habits! I have to schedule myself around their schedule. :-)

  6. It is only restricting for Mom when she wants to go somewhere for like 12+ hours, then who will let us out or feed us. Usually, it is perfect as we all have our schedule and it works out quite well.

  7. I love how they give me structure and purpose. My hubby still insists on setting the alarm clock…I don’t know why…the dogs will always try to wake him at least 10-15 minutes before it goes off. I don’t handle that morning routine, but I get home from work first on the days I work, and it’s always good to know exactly what I’ll be doing when I get there (playing ball after doling out cat food to the cats and treats to the dogs and quickly checking my email). I crave routine too, and probably dislike it even more than the dogs do when that routine is interrupted by appointments or something like that.

  8. This is why I always recommend to people with depression (or similar debilitating mental disorders) that they get a pet. A pet will give them a reason to keep going, because a pet needs you.

    I’m excited to read more about your life on a boat!

  9. Oh gosh! I wish I could edit my comment.

    When I said “A pet will give them a reason to keep going, because a pet needs you.”, I didn’t mean that depressed people have no reason to live. It can feel like that sometimes (I’m clinically depressed) but a pet will help you get out of bed in the morning (like my Roxie does).

  10. I have a habit too and sometimes when life feels like it’s spinning out of control, the habit is what keeps me sane. It allows me to do normal things.

  11. My dog reminds me to live in the moment. He does have a daily routine, but I always try to spice things up: a new place to walk, a new toy to play with, or a totally unroutine day. But I can see by his reactions that he prefers his daily routine. Any deviation leaves him scratching his head! As long as there is something in it for him he plays along.

  12. Habits make getting out of the house on time in the morning great. I love that my dogs keep me on track every day :)

  13. Dog habits are the only way to live #forme