I “rescued” Nico from my hometown’s local animal shelter. He saved my life.
When I first got Nico, I read many training books about dogs. It was very important for me to do this whole dog ownership “right”. I even tried a few of the things that I read, rewarding him with treats when he listened, etc. then I realized that Nico would basically do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. Therefore, like any good scholar, I took what I needed from those books and forgot the rest. And the only thing I really learned from those books was that dogs reflect their owners. If their owner is happy and active, the dog is also active and happy. If the owner is a neurotic lunatic, then chances are the dog is also a neurotic lunatic, and so forth. I would like to think that Nico reflects me, but in all honesty, I strive to reflect him. Following is a list of things that Nico has taught me, or is still teaching me.
1. Kindness and cuddling are important. Nico cannot be next to someone without touching him or her. He is a cuddlier, and has to be in constant contact with someone. There is something very real about reaching out to others and letting them know that you love them.
2. Boundaries are important. Nico pees on everything he sees. Marks his territory every tenth step. Hell, he even goes through the motion of marking things when his pee runs out. It is important to protect what is yours, and to let others know where your boundaries are. And if verbally doing so doesn’t work, you can always use Nico’s method.
3. Being outside is the best place to be, even if you decide five minutes into being outside that you want to be indoors. Nico is a dog and therefore cannot be cooped up in doors for 24 hours at a time. He has to pee. He has to stretch his man dog legs. He is a happy dog, but never as happy as when he is outside enjoying sunshine, breezes and dirt. It is important to know where you come from and to go back to that every chance you get. It helps you stay balanced, and it looks good on you.
4. Everyday can be the best day ever. I am pretty sure that Nico does not remember yesterday, which is odd since he did indeed act like it was the best day ever, but you know what? He acts like today is the best day ever too. He lives in the moment and gets as much out of the day that he can, even if that means going outside 15 million times only to want to come back in.
5. Exploring is healthy until you roll in something dead. It is important to explore your world, and go into unknown territory, but is important to also stay away from the dead and the stinky, and you especially do not want to try to become “one” with such people, or you know… roadkill, because you will be left sick and stinky too.
6. It is best to greet others with a smile than with a growl. Nico is friendly, and has helped me to be friendlier as well. I am, at my heart, a nice person, but my face does not naturally show that, therefore I have to make a conscious effort at times to smile. I am actually shy, and rather hard to get to know, or maybe I am just a little more skittish of people since… well you know, life and all, but Nico makes it clear that when others can sense your warmth it is easier to make friends.
7. You never leave people behind that help to create a healthy balanced life for you, but you definitely take off if people are assholes. Nico runs pretty damn fast, and when we go to the dog park area he is typically a quarter of a mile ahead of me, but he always comes back when he has gone too far ahead. It is healthy to know what people are here to help you, and love you, and it is also important to know who is not. (See number 8.)
8. Safety is important, and one should always trust their instincts. Nico knows when someone isn’t safe, and he stays away from those people. He does not sit around and contemplate what exactly needs to change about that person, or if he did something wrong, he simply knows what he knows is true and natural, and self preserving so he avoids them, and the drama. He also knows my friend KT drives like a maniac so he chooses to use car seats when she drives.
9. It is okay to be sorry, show that, and move on. Nico does not get into trouble much, but when he does, it is because he is an asshole. His assholey moments usually involve my clothing, or the bathroom trash. When he has done something wrong, he typically owns up to it right away. Does his whole “OMG!!!! I THOUGHT YOU WOULD NEVER COME HOME!!!” butt wiggle and then goes directly into his shame face. This is where he won’t make eye contact and just acts aloof in general. That’s when I go searching for half eaten underwear and holes in random articles of clothing. He is sorry. You can see it; he shows that he is sorry. I am sure if he could communicate with words he would immediately own up to his asshole ways and then, he would move on. Life is no fun when you are slinking around carrying shame around for a stupid mistake, or even a big one (he did chew through a wall once). Ask for forgiveness and move on. Nothing can be done about what has already happened. Be sincere, but remember that forgiveness is the other person’s burden. You still have a life to live.
10. Nico is what he is. A dog. He does not go around pretending that he is something else, like a cat or whatever, he is a dog. He owns that shit and rocks it. It is important to accept where you are, who you are, and what you have been through. Only then can you really, simply, be happy.