Learning From Dogs Not To Think

Honey the golden retriever grins in the snow.

Don’t worry. Be puppy.

Humans are cursed. We have these amazing, complex brains. And we can’t rely on them to tell us the truth.

Dogs, on the other paw, while very intelligent, rely more on their senses than we do. And they are rarely led astray.

Maybe the most important thing we can learn from dogs is how not to think.

Dog and Human on a Snowy Day

I get up from bed and immediately look out the window. It’s snowing. Oh, crud. Now I’m going to have to drag my groceries home in my cart over the sidewalks my neighbors refuse to shovel.

Honey gets up from bed too. She’s hungry. Time to eat.

I open the back door to let Honey relieve herself outdoors. Are my neighbors up yet? Will they see me out on the porch in my pajamas and bathrobe? And if they do, will they care? Do I care?

At the bottom of the steps, Honey does a little spin. Snow makes her happy.

Her feet slip on the ice hiding under the new snow. She corrects her gait and goes looking for just the right spot.

I’m thinking about the rest of my day. What people think of me. My mood.

Honey is present in her body feeling what she feels.

Honey the golden retriever delights in sitting in the snow.

Snow is so delightful I think I’ll just sit here and enjoy it a little while.

Is Thinking Bad

If the human brain never advanced to its present state, we wouldn’t have Galileo, Kierkegaard, or Chinua Achebe.

And let’s face it. A world run by dogs wouldn’t have art, music, or poetry. Or at least, good poetry. After all, everything rhymes with woof.

But the human brain plays mischief on us too.

We freak out when an airplane goes down while thinking nothing about getting behind the wheel of a car, the most dangerous thing most people ever do.

When a friend doesn’t answer our call, we make up stories: she hates us, she’s spending time with someone she likes more, we offended her. Instead of considering the simplest explanation: she’s just busy.

Our brains trick us all the time. Mentally ill people have to protect themselves against a brain that might actually try to kill them. I’ve often thought schizophrenia must be like fighting a steel cage death match with your own brain.

Maybe the answer is not to despise our brains. But to learn how to put them in their places. And we can do that by imitating our dogs.

Honey the Golden Retriever Fetching in the Snow

I fetch therefore I am.

When Dogs Don’t Think

Dogs do think. Quite a bit. They can solve problems. Manipulate us into giving them what they want. Trick each other.

But dogs spend the greatest part of their day feeling. And being present in the moment.

When they’re tired, they sleep. When they’re hungry, they eat (or try to get us to feed them). When they feel good, they wag.

They don’t doubt that what they’re feeling is the right thing to feel. They don’t look forward to wonder how they’re going to feel later. And they don’t judge us for not being better than we are.

Maybe the way we become better humans is by trying to be more like dogs. Stop chasing our brains through the tricky obstacle course it leaves for us. And spend more time being. Just being.

Best City for Pet Travelers

My beloved Cape May, New Jersey was knocked out of the running by Key West, Florida. I guess other pet travelers disagree that we have too many Jimmy Buffett wannabes already. Sigh.

Thank you to everyone who supported our favorite beach town.

But the battle goes on to find the Best City for Pet Travelers.

Two lovely Canadian cities are making a grand showing against the dominance of American beach towns. I’m throwing my support behind Vancouver and Edmonton. At least until the two of them face each other in a future round.

So head over now and vote for your favorite cities for pet travelers.


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  1. Very wise. I spend far too much time worrying about what other people think about me when the truth of the matter is they don’t!!

  2. Good sound advice. Just started watching Cosmos this weekend and cam away feeling so silly being so worried about all my ‘problems’. In the scheme of things they are pretty insignificant. And had the same thought…I need to be more like Jack.

  3. Yay! Thanks for your vote. I don’t know if we have a chance against rainy Portland, people seem to like walking in a downpour, but I will do my best to make Edmontonians proud.

    Not thinking is an even tougher challenge. But one on which we should all embark. Honey’s photo personifies this to the max.

  4. So true. People would be much better off thinking like dogs more often.

  5. This is so great! I’m often envious of our dogs’ ability to just let stuff go and ‘be in the moment’, as they say.
    Sure, dogs look for ‘why’, but only to a certain extent. They’ll investigate a noise, but not dwell on the reasons behind some action or event. It’s admirable. They live in this perfect balance of being retrospective enough to learn from mistakes but not hold grudges.
    Must be nice!

  6. I’m always trying to be more ‘present’. I can’t do it. When I try to be present I’m always thinking about the future, and all of the tiny details that actually don’t really matter. I want to come back in my next life as a dog! Great post as always.

  7. Unfortunately it is easier said than done getting our brains to cooperate. Especially at 3AM when you just want the damn thing to go to sleep 😉

  8. I think human thinking is a great thing…look at all they can do for us dogs with their thinking. What is bad is the worrying part. Dogs don’t really worry and that makes life much easier.

  9. I spend lots and lots of time thinking too much. Elka does too, sometimes, but it’s FAR easier for her to drop the issue and just love and enjoy things. I’m trying to take the lesson, really I am!

  10. Yep dogs sure are smart!

  11. Your so right, I over think everything and it’s Maggie who grounds me back with a “get over it” and let’s go for a walk.

  12. I’d love to live in the moment like our dogs, and not over-think things, but you nailed my personality with this one. “When a friend doesn’t answer our call, we make up stories: she hates us, she’s spending time with someone she likes more, we offended her. Instead of considering the simplest explanation: she’s just busy.”

  13. Very insightful, thanks for sharing!

  14. Sounds good to me. Although I think Silas is maybe less in the moment than other dogs.

  15. This point: “But dogs spend the greatest part of their day feeling. And being present in the moment.” Love. It’s definitely an ideal I would like to strive to achieve, and I think my guys definitely live their lives feeling. Sometimes that’s not a great thing (Lucas, I’m talking to you, buddy!) but mostly it’s wonderful and lovely!