In teacher training, one important skill we've been working on is the ability to come up with teaching aphorisms. These "nuggets," as our guru calls them, are based on a knowledge or text foundation and should be the result of earnest personal inquiry. They should be pithy, memorable, and concise.
Well, if you've spent more than 15 seconds reading any part of this website you will know that "concise" isn't really my strong suit. I was hoping that "pithy" meant irreverent, light-hearted, or humorous - I stand a chance at those - but to my dismay, it's apparently a synonym for concise:
Fortunately, I know somebody EXTREMELY pithy: a 9-ish-year-old named Barney. Barney is not one to mince words. In fact, I've only heard him bark a handful of times. Barney's got life pretty much figured out. I've jokingly referred to him as a sage, and tagged his photos #yogibeagle, but you know what? I'm not going to hide it anymore: he's my beaguru.
Barney has taught me a lot in the 10 months I've known him. Here are three teaching aphorisms from this beaguru.
Thump your tail.
When Barney's happy, excited, curious, or just wants to acknowledge that the humans are talking to him, he thumps his tail. Even if the rest of his body is completely still, the tail will be a-thumpin'.
Something beautiful about animals is that they don't have a sense of being self-conscious. As a kid I was teased for being "too into" a boyband or a book series (Animorphs, I'm sorry to say) or "too excited" about a school project. Being cool meant being generally "over it" - not particularly caring about anything. I learned to dial back my enthusiasm to fit in. But what is the benefit of that?!
As I've gotten older and learned to care less about others' perceptions of me, I've embraced my excitable side. It's an ongoing process to retrain myself that it's okay to show some enthusiasm about life. (If you're in my teacher training class, I don't need to give you any examples.)
Forget what it looks like.
Barney has no idea what he looks like or how he's perceived visually. Therefore he's unabashedly himself, suffers no lack of self-confidence, and presents himself proudly on walks throughout town. While my boyfriend and I are convinced Barney is the most beautiful pup that has ever lived, we're also aware he's a little bit goofy looking. You see, his torso is pretty long and potato-ey. His legs are pretty stumpy and little. And his snout is not as square as that of a "standard beagle." But forget your beauty standards, Kennel Clubs of the world. He's one of a kind and he's magnificent.
Barney loves meeting new people when he's out for a walk - and it's mutual. Everywhere that we go, he acquires new fans and adorers. This is simply because everywhere he goes, he makes people happy. His gait can only be described as waddle-esque. His ears swing from side to side like two floppy metronomes. His tail, meanwhile, is thumping (see above) and circling simultaneously - we think it also functions as a rudder...? And you know what? Everyone smiles at him! So I'm challenging myself to practice yoga as Barney would, not worrying about if others find it beautiful.
Toys are overrated.
Ah, my Achilles' heel: attachment to material goods. Barney, once again, has it figured out.
Before he was rescued by BRSM, Barney was a stray. During that time, he clearly mastered the art of packing light. Even when placed in a foster home with all the amenities, Barney was never one for toys. His foster mom told us he would pick one up once in a while but didn't really get attached to anything. Once we adopted him, we bought plenty of stuffed and squeaky toys for Barney to play with, but he wasn't interested. In fact, the little rope crab he sleeps with is there more for our own comfort than for his.
He also didn't even need the fancy creature comforts to which he's become accustomed here in the city - his usual hangout used to be a dirt patch! He's a happy dog without stuff - and that's a role model I need to hang onto.
What lessons have your pets taught you?
The canine in me bows to the canine in you. Namaste,
P.S. Beagle Rescue of Southern Maryland is an amazing charity and beautiful, volunteer-run cause. We're forever indebted to them for Barney. If you're looking for a dog or to support a great cause, check out their website.