Lessons From a Life Well-Lived

Thursday, December 11, 2014

I’ve wanted to write this blog post for the past month but had to let a bit of time pass before I was able to gather my thoughts. Many of you know that my husband and I had to put our sweet 11-year old basset hound, Swanny, to sleep a couple of months ago. I’ve had dogs for all of my adult life and they each hold a very special place in my heart. I’ve learned a lot from all my dogs but Swanny was a bit different for me. He was a sensitive, unique, and quirky dog who taught me a lot about how to live life well. I wanted to pass some of these lessons onto you in hopes they will help you as they have helped me.

#1 - Swanny mid whine at deer in front yard

Whine A Little: Swanny loved to whine. He had a slightly annoying whimpering whine, which would surface when he smelled something or saw something that he couldn’t get close enough to sniff and investigate. He didn’t whine for long. Maybe a minute or two to express his frustration and then he’d move onto the next thing. He honored what he was feeling and then moved on. I think it would do us all justice to honor our emotions and frustrations and express them so they don’t get stuck in our bodies. Just for a minute or two, like Swanny. That’s typically how long it takes for an emotion to move through us. Then it doesn’t linger and we can move forward. This works much better than trying to suppress the feeling and having it possibly show up (repeatedly) in inconvenient ways. No, it’s probably much better to whine a little and then move on.

#2 - Swanny thundershirt

Move Away From Negative Energy and Loud Noises: Swanny was a very sensitive dog. He picked up on human energy instantly. If I came home after a long hard day and was in a crappy mood, he’d say his hello and then quickly go upstairs to move away from me. Even if I loved on him, he sensed it and exited the room. If my husband (or I) were ever watching a Philadelphia Eagles game and had the unfortunate need to yell at the TV, Swanny would quietly slink away and stay upstairs until the end of the football game when things calmed down. When there were loud noises like construction in our house or, heaven forbid, the horrific thunderstorm, Swanny tried to get as far away from those noises as possible. He also used a Thundershirt™ to feel more secure when around loud banging or thunderstorms. As humans we may tend to do the opposite. We move towards things or stay in situations that may not be good for us as opposed to paying attention to the fact that they don’t feel good, honoring those feelings, and stepping away from those situations. I think the Swanny way is a much better method – move away from negative energy and loud noises.

#3- Swanny resting

Rest Often: Swanny was a typical lazy basset hound so resting was common for him. My favorite example of the way this most benefited him was when he would be out in our backyard. We have a large fenced in area of our backyard for the dogs to roam around. Swanny loved to wander all around and cover every inch of his territory. When I’d call him to come inside it would always take him a long time to make it from wherever he was to the door to the house. Why? Because he had to rest often. He’d walk about 20 feet and then he’d stop to lie down and rest awhile. I’d call him again, he’d get up, walk about 20 feet, stop, lie down and rest again. I’d give him a few more minutes, call him again and he’d get up and repeat the process until he finally made it back to the house. I think he might have been stalling but the fact is, he honored his need to simply stop and lie down in the grass whenever it hit him. I believe we’d all benefit from stopping and resting more often; and even laying in the grass a bit more too.

#4 - Swanny napping ritual

When All Else Fails Dig, Burrow In, and Take A Nap: Swanny was a master nap-taker (as most bassets are) but what made his napping so special was the way he approached it. His favorite couch had a blanket-type cover on it plus some throw pillows. When getting ready for a nap, Swanny would dig at the blanket to get himself under it; he’d toss the pillows off the couch with his nose and turn around several times before finally burrowing himself into a tight dog ball and instantly falling asleep. It seemed like a lot of work to me but he did it because it made him most comfortable. He dug, burrowed in, and slept. I’ve discovered this is an ideal recipe for bring comfort and care to oneself. Find your favorite comfy couch, chair, or bed. Dig, burrow in, and nap. I promise it’ll do wonders.

I miss Swanny’s quirkiness every day and am so grateful for the time we had together. I learned a lot from him and I hope some of these lessons will help you as they have me.

Many people ask us why we named him Swanny. We actually didn’t name him. He had that name when we rescued him so we kept it. We assume it was because he had a long white neck and when he sat properly with his head stretched way up, he looked like a swan!

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