There are a few dog tv programs that I watch regularly. In Korea, dog training programs similar to Dog Whisperer are gaining popularity. A recent episode of one of the shows was about a dalmatian with an aggression problem toward strangers visiting the house. The family could reasonably manage the dog for about seven years until the father became sick. They didn’t say details about his illness, but it seemed serious. Since going out became hard for him, he wanted his family and friends to visit him often. However, the dog wasn’t allowing that to happen. The dog trainer kindly suggested sending the dog to a long-term boarding school until the father gets better enough to handle the dog. The trainer also told a story about his mother, who died from cancer during Covid lockdown. She had this one wish to hold her grandson before she died. But all she could do was look at him from the other side of thick glass. He told the family to bring his grandson as often as possible, which they couldn’t do because of the dog. I couldn’t agree more.
Knowing how important a dog can be in one’s life, especially with illness, this story touched me more than others. I cried with the family who had to say goodbye to their dog not forever, but no one knows how long. I looked at my dog, Dingo, sleeping next to me, and patted him. It wasn’t new that I was thankful for having him in my life. But I was very grateful that he wasn’t too hard to manage, especially now. He is a very loving dog but not perfect. He has an aggression problem towards other dogs. I started working on it hard as soon as my husband and I noticed this problem. In the beginning, he lunged toward any dogs he saw barking frantically. Now, if I keep his focus on me, we can pass strange dogs without a problem.
While looking at Dingo, I remembered Dr. Jordan Peterson once said that having responsibility means you are living a meaningful life (I’m paraphrasing here). Since my husband and I married in Japan, I have wanted to have a dog. Unfortunately, our landlord didn’t allow us to have one. About three and half years ago, when we moved back to the US, even before buying a car, we adopted a dog from a local shelter. And we got Dingo, who just turned one. On his chart, he was a stray in L.A. and ended up in a shelter in eastern Washington. We will never know if he was born on the street or lost his family at some point, but the fact was he didn’t have any training whatsoever. For the first few weeks, I focused on potty training. I couldn’t take my eyes off him because he was marking everywhere in the house. I dedicated all my time to him. I started to read and watch about dogs and training dogs all day long and imply what I learned on Dingo one by one. He slowly adjusted himself to the new life with us. I intensely focused on him for a few months, and during this time, I didn’t have many worries but happiness. I had a goal that I wanted to teach him well so he could have the happiest life as a dog with us. From this responsibility, the meaning of owning a dog became more than just wanting to have one.
I thought about the second rule of ’12 rules for life’ by Dr. Jordan B Peterson. The chapter started with Dr. Peterson asking why people care for their dog’s medication better than their medications. When I first read this chapter, I didn’t think much about it because I thought I was taking care of myself fairly well. Then, I became a cancer patient. When many people hear the word cancer, they believe death is guaranteed and treat cancer patients as a character of a tragic misfortune story. And I have that illness. Even if I became cancer free, I would be afraid of it my whole life. Nevertheless, with my condition, I noticed that sometimes I skip my medications with all sorts of excuses. A few months ago, I saw Dingo limping a little. My heart dropped. My husband and I hurried to the vet. Fortunately, it wasn’t serious, but we got a prescription he had to have every 12 hours for one week. I followed the veterinarian’s order rigorously. After this, I reread the rule multiple times. I understood from the book that we take care of our dogs better than ourselves because we consider ourselves trivial. We are not innocent enough like dogs. We are too sinful. I thought that taking care of my dog gave me a sense of responsibility. Therefore, I can find meaning in my petty life. And I agreed with Dr. Peterson that if Dingo knew about me skipping my medication, he would ensure I have them. I must take care of myself like someone I am responsible for helping.
I can consider this life I’m living now as my second chance, and one may say, live it for myself. However, I still think it is meaningless if I live only for myself. Maybe because of this, I can’t stop smiling when Dingo is panting with his tongue out after playing hard with his ball outside. Every time I see him like this, the meaning of my existence gets bigger. It tells me that I’m doing good as his owner/parent. I heard that a human is a social animal so many times. It repeated so much that even the meaning of the phrase became muddy. I thought about it more and realized what the word ‘social’ meant. I think we need to be social not only because we can be lonely but also because we only can find meaning and true happiness when we interact with other people and animals helping them and getting help from them.
I’m trying to find what I can do for my dog and my husband every day. Therefore I can ponder on the meaning of my life and make my day full of happiness. And soon, I hope to expand my range to help people and animals.
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