Lessons from my Dachshund
I have a little Dachshund named Zoey, she was the first little dog that’s ever owned me. Previously all the other dogs that I’ve owned were big dogs, picture the size of a Labrador Retriever, or German Shepherd. Got the visual in your mind? Big dogs, often bordering 80 to 100 pounds (36 – 45 kg). My opinion used to be that big dogs were all that I ever wanted. In fact, I used to refer to little dogs as hors d’ovuvres, after all my little Zoey (she weighs all of 6.5 pounds – 2.9 kg) would be nothing more than an appetizer to my previous big girls that I owned. One bite, maybe two, and she’s gone! But, from the first day, this tiny little girl wormed her way into my heart, and taught me that even the littlest dog can have the biggest personality.
Zoey is a short-haired black and tan Dachshund, really I should say she was black and tan because since she is now a senior dog, at 10 years old, she’s turning white. Her muzzle, eyebrows, and part of her head are frosty white. I am the one human who has been constantly in her life since she came to me at the age of eight weeks old. The bond we have is strong, perhaps stronger than with any other dog I’ve owned.
When Zoey was a puppy, she was often called Zoey Monster. She was into everything! It seemed to me that she tore up more stuff than I can remember, including my favorite study Bible with the leather binding. I like to read different translations of the Bible, and when I am studying a book of the Bible, and I am at home, I can have as many as six to seven Bibles open in my study area (I can’t do this in our big rig of course, because we don’t have room for all my Bibles, so I have to use electronic versions). One evening I left several Bibles open and spread out on my bed, and I went to Bible study. When I came home, I found a good portion of my study Bible in shreds. And with every instance with Zoey like that, I would get angry, and I would look at her and say “It’s a good thing you are so stinking cute.” Otherwise, her fate might have been something else relatively early on in her life.
Being a Dachshund, Zoey exhibits some of those traits for which Dachshunds are famous. She’s stubborn, although she has mellowed greatly as she’s become a senior. Potty training was laborious, for sure. And, sometimes, in some rare cases, she still doesn’t always remember all of her house break training.
We’ve been through a lot together over these past 10 years. And through all of the ups and downs, through all of the happiness and suffering in my life during these past 10 years, Zoey was there. She never questioned what was going on, she always offered snuggles, reassurances, stinky-breath kisses, and plenty of tail wags. Through the years my little “Princess” Zoey has taught me many things (although this is a long list, there’s quite a few other lessons that I didn’t include here, maybe at a future date I will cover the rest):
Watch for the sprinkle of little crumbs all along the way, you just have to pay attention, and you’ll get a treat. Whenever I cook, or when we are preparing food (either at home or in the truck), little Zoey is always there waiting to see if we drop something. She’s more than willing to perform the function of getting those crumbs off of the floor, thus saving us the time of getting the vacuum cleaner from the closet or retrieving the broom and dust pan. I too can watch along the way for those little delightful treats that life throws my way.
When you don’t feel good, there’s nothing like a constant companion there to keep you company. Years ago I took care of my brother Scott while he was suffering from ALS. Little Zoey would get right up next to Scott and curl up to him. She kept him company while the disease progressed through his body. She was perhaps one of the greatest comforts to him. When I have a loved one, or friend, that is sick I too can offer them companionship and comfort by being with them.
When you lose someone, don’t be afraid to grieve. When I got Zoey, she was so tiny, and being a Dachshund, she liked to crawl into tight spaces and cuddle with others. She got used to being in a crate early on, but it wasn’t in her crate that she went. She insisted that she go in the crate with my big dog Maggie. Now my sweet Maggie wasn’t too thrilled with this little puppy, but she was a good sport none-the-less. When Maggie died three years later, little Zoey wandered around the house whining while looking for Maggie. When my brother died, I experienced deep grief, even deeper than the grief that I had when I had a miscarriage. I learned that I don’t be afraid to express my grief and to take the time that I needed to recover, even now over six years later, I still miss my dear brother.
Don’t give up. Dachshunds are stubborn little dogs with great big personalities. They were originally bred for chasing badgers out of thier holes. Once they get a scent of one it’s nearly impossible for them to get it off of their mind. Years ago, my little house near the country acquired a few mice. That’s when I learned how well the hunting instinct was bred into Zoey. For days this little dog, hunted mice in the house. She found their nests, and yup, she even ate a few before I could get her away from the mice. Her sheer determination was a force to be reckoned with. In a matter of a few days, the house was mouse-free and all the possible locations in which the mice entered the house were identified and sealed up. I also know great satisfaction when I keep at something and see it through to completion.
When you are scared or hurt run to your protector. If you’ve ever had a Dachshund, you know that back issues can be a very big problem for them. Their body is so long that it’s not advised that they jump up on or down off of things like couches or beds. It’s also not wise to let them get too heavy. IVDD (Intervertebral Disk Disease) is very common for Dachshunds, where they can experience severe back pain, or they may even lose feeling in their back legs. For Zoey, this is a real issue, she’s had disc problems four times, and this last time was by far the worst. She has limited use of her back legs, she can be a little wobbly, and she now wears an orthopedic brace most of the time. Each time she gets hurt, she heads right for me, and I’m pretty much the only person that she wants. I know that when I am hurt or frightened I head in two directions 1. to God and 2. to my husband. Both are my treasured protectors who provide me much needed comfort.
You can always find someone to look up to – now I realize that statement could be a play on words since Dachshunds are so low to the ground, that they pretty much have to look up to see most everything – but that’s not what I mean here. Zoey always seems to know just who the dog-loving people are, and she gravitates to them. She’s happy to oblige them for their fix, and she’s happy to give them the proper amount of adoration. For me, all I need to remember is that there are plenty of good people who surround us, and we can learn to emulate their positive traits.
Even when you don’t understand what someone is doing, you still trust them. This is something that always amazes me especially when Zoey gets hurt. She may be yelping in tremendous pain, as happens when she has a disc injury, yet she lets us, and the vet, try to find just where the injury is located. It’s like she knows that we’re working to make her feel better. There are plenty of things in my life that happen to me that don’t make sense. I’ve had some pretty devastating situations pop up in my life that I didn’t understand. Yet, by turning my focus upon God and releasing my situation to Him, time and time again, I have seen God orchestrate changes in my life that are far better than I could have ever imagined. (My husband is one of them! I’ve blogged about this subject on July 19th and August 7th).
You can have many people in your life, but there’s always one, or perhaps two people upon whom the sun rises and sets. Zoey loves most people, and she can see the good in them. But, by far, as I am sure you can guess by now, she’s bonded very strongly with me. When she needs, or wants something, it’s usually to me that she comes. Sometimes, she’ll go to Jim for whatever she wants. I understand, and now with age and hopefully some wisdom, that there are some really special people in our lives whom we need to treasure. For me, my husband is at the top of the list! But there are some dear people with whom I am close that also come to mind. The earlier you learn this lesson the better off you’ll be – always remember to treasure those special people in your life, they won’t be around forever.
Never forget your old faithful friends, no matter how long it’s been since you’ve seen them. It seems like no matter how long of a time that this little gem of a dog is away from someone whom she loves, she will remember them and be super excited when she is with them. It can be years, as with the case of a four-year absence between my son and Zoey.
Wag More, Bark less, I won’t spend too much time on this one, because I already did another blog on June 26th about wag more, bark less. However, Zoey spends much more time being happy about whatever comes her way than she does barking at others, or being grumpy.
Be friendly to others, a positive attitude will carry you far. It doesn’t take much to make another person’s day. In Zoey’s case it’s a happy wagging tail and the sparkle in her eyes. In my case, it’s a matter of smiling at others, and acknowledging them for whatever it is that they do. We all love to be appreciated. Take a moment to thank someone who performs an often thankless job, like those who clean up after us at restaurants, at rest areas, or those who make the coffee at truck stops. You’ll be surprised at the looks on their faces and the gratitude they have for the recognition that they get.
When you venture outside, take time to appreciate nature. Stop and smell the flowers. Watch the bees, the butterflies, grasshoppers, and chase the squirrels and chipmunks if you like. It won’t be long here in the USA before the leaves turn to glorious colors and then drop from the trees. Look at those lush green leaves, the ones that you were excited to see come out in the springtime, and enjoy them right now. Delight in the many vivid colors that you’ll soon see. They’ll soon be gone and the trees will be bare.
People watching is a great pastime. When we have a show loading, or unloading, our girls are often sitting on the seat looking out the window, they love to watch the people go by. It’s a little harder for Zoey to hang out the window or even see out the window because she’s so tiny. But Foxy and Tinkerbell love to stick their heads out of the truck window, especially in New York City. You’d be surprised at just how many people take delight at looking at, and stopping to pet our girls. Now, I’m not suggesting that you yourself hang out the window and wag your tail – can you picture that? You could if you wanted to, but you can take great delight in viewing your surroundings, making eye contact, and smiling at others.
Recognize your limits, but be willing to take chances. Zoey knows that she’s little, she also realizes that there are some places that she simply cannot get to without the help from others. Yet, at times she still tries. As much as she knows that she shouldn’t jump up or down on the couch, chairs, or beds – as that’s how she’s injured herself three out of the four times – she still sometimes attempts to do so, when we are not watching. Many times she’s successful, and some times she is not. In my case, she’s taught me that sometimes I am successful when I try something that seems to be impossible. I might fail, but then again, I might not fail. And as my favorite teaching Pastor once said: “Failure is not final.” After all, that’s how we learn and grow.
Even if you are disabled, or old, you are still you, you are still useful, and you have something to contribute. Zoey’s back injuries have certainly slowed her down. Both of her back legs no longer work as they should. She has limited feeling in them, and sometimes when she’s walking they criss-cross and get tangled in each other, causing her bottom to just plop down on the ground. Since her legs are weak, her rear end has a tendency to wobble a bit. Yet, she doesn’t sit and feel sorry for herself. She’s still interested in finding that pesky chipmunk that has taken up residence in our backyard, and does try to investigate with the best of her abilities. She still provides warm cuddles and stinky breath kisses.
Be a good listener especially when someone wants to talk, and never, ever tell their secrets to others. Dogs are sometimes the very best listeners that you can ever experience. You can tell them whatever you want to tell them and they’ll never, ever tell your secrets to anyone else. I’ve learned that when someone tells me something very personal, that they are entrusting me with something that’s really important to them. That’s a pretty sacred thing to me, they’ve shown trust in me, and I will do my very best to never break that trust.
Tomorrow is another day for a fresh new start. Each day presents itself with endless possibilities. Be alert for what you can notice. There is always something new to discover, learn about and investigate along your way.*
Sometimes you just have to stop and belt out in song. Since Zoey, Tinkerbell and Foxy travel with us in our rig, we often will have a “howling” good time. Either Jim or I will start howling, and in no time flat all five of us will be howling. The noise is loud for sure, and I often wonder what others would think if they could hear us. But for sure, when we are all done making our racket of noise, I feel a lot more relaxed and have a light-hearted spirit.
And most of all Zoey has taught me what unconditional love truly looks like. Even if I am cross with her, even if I discipline her, even if I am in a bad mood, even if I “forget” to feed her at the right time, she still loves me unconditionally.
And when I look through the list of those things that I’ve learned from this very little miniature Dachshund, I can see how so many of these lessons also transcribe into my life as a believer. If I love this little dog so much, and if my little Dachshund loves me so much, just how much more does God love me? Jesus gives all good things to me, His sacrifice gives me the assurance of a blessed life here and in Heaven. God delivers treats to delight me each and every day, be they a smile from someone else, a warm welcome, food to fill my empty stomach, purposeful work, lovely scenery (and we see some fantastic scenery as we travel through the country), wonderful warm sunshine, beautiful sunsets each and every night, words of encouragement, teachable moments, a place to rest, and the love of my wonderful husband (and that of Zoey, and our other two dogs Foxy and Tinkerbell). He teaches me His ways through His Word and through the Holy Spirit. He freely gives these blessings to me, even though I don’t deserve any of them. He’s my always constant companion, even if I ignore Him, He’s always there. He’s ready to pick me up, dust me off, and ready to set me back on a straight path. He delights in me, imagine that, God delights in me! He will save me when I am in trouble, He forgives me when I sin. He loves me unconditionally.
The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17, ESV)
* If you want to see our travels and what we learn along the way, I invite you to like and follow The Adventures of Princess Zoey on Facebook. It’s a page that I started, after I joined my husband out on the road, when I couldn’t find the things that I posted about our travels in my own newsfeed. So, in honor of my dear brother Scott, who used to make up and whisper stories about “Princess Zoey,” I created the Facebook page under her name. The Adventures of Princess Zoey takes a light-hearted look at our travels from the perspective of our 6.5 pound Dachshund, who believes that she is a Princess who is out on royal itineraries touring her country and territories. And, “Princess” Zoey travels the USA and sometimes into Canada in her carriage (our big rig), with the Queen (me) and the King (my husband), along with the royal photographer, tutors, and handmaiden (also me), and with her Ladies in Waiting Tinkerbell and Foxy (our other two dogs).