I started this year encouraging Random Acts of Kindness as a super stepping off point toward being a happy person. I have seen over the period of writing this blog how many people abuse their bodies with food in their efforts to assuage real or imagined feelings of insecurity or as a misdirected way of dealing with stress. If they were happier at the outset, maybe they wouldn’t have a weight problem at all. The tags at the right with stress, happiness and relaxation will direct you to further items on these subjects.
Getting back to the act of kindness being dissected. I want to explain it from start to finish as I think there is some valuable information in it.
It started some years ago when my ex-wife got a puppy for Kate, my daughter. Kate was 11 years old at the time. She had been lobbying for a puppy almost since she began talking. We never got her one when I was married because neither my wife nor I wanted the hassle of owning a dog.
My personal feeling about dogs was the ‘grandparents’ one. You know, I am happy to play with these darling grandchildren, but I want them to go home with their parents when I am finished. That’s how I felt about dogs. I could enjoy playing with your dog, but I was happy to see him leave with you.
Following the divorce, my daughter continued her efforts to change her mother’s mind. Finally, after she remarried and had a house and a yard, the excuses ran out. They got Gabi, a poodle pup, in early 2006. My daughter was thrilled to have her new dog.
The trouble started almost immediately. Every time I called, I heard a new horror story about Gabi’s wildness (she was a puppy). Gabi got into the laundry basket and chewed up their underwear. Gabi got a hold of the toilet paper and chewed up the roll and there was toilet paper all over the bathroom. They had to close the doors of various rooms to protect their contents from Gabi.
I had met the puppy, of course, and she seemed a little wild and was also cute as could be. Pretty much par for the course for a puppy. I thought she had time to grow out of it. I enjoyed playing with her on visits. I was also happy to leave her there when I was finished. I didn’t have a dog, nor did I want one. I had one as a child that ended up being my father’s dog after my brother and I grew up. That was the last dog I owned. It was over 50 years ago.
When I heard that Gabi had chewed on my ex-wife’s antique dining room table, I feared that she wasn’t long for their world. I thought that my daughter would come home from school one day and Gabi would be gone. I expected my ex to ‘rehome’ Gabi in Kate’s absence.
I didn’t want Kate to lose her dog, nor did I want to own a dog, so I offered to take Gabi on weekends kind of a ‘split custody’ situation. I thought that way the dog would be out of their hair for the weekend and my ex would have some peace and also they might be glad to see her come back Mondays.
I was half right. They were glad to be rid of her, but as soon as I brought her back, my ex would be complaining about how she was jumping and how ‘ill-mannered’ she was. After a couple of weeks, I realized that there was no way the dog could ever be happy in that house, so I said that Gabi would live with me, but she would still be Kate’s dog. When Kate visited on weekends she could play with Gabi to her heart’s content.
This was an act of kindness and love for my daughter. I truly didn’t want the dog. If I had wanted one I would have gotten one any time in the five years that I had been divorced and living by myself. But, I wanted Kate to have a dog in her life if she desired one.
So Gabi and I started our lives together. I met fellow dog owners in the park who were very helpful in giving me info on taking care of my new canine companion. In the first days, it was clear to me that there was a lot involved in owning and caring for a dog. It wasn’t just taking fido for walks and feeding her.
I started watching The Dog Whisperer and It’s Me or the Dog on TV. I learned from both of these shows the importance of exercise in the dog’s life. Interesting that this coincided with my learning the importance of exercise in a person’s life, too. I also learned how to treat a dog as a dog and not as a new child in my life. I read books on dogs.
I was pleasantly surprised that from the very first day Gabi made me laugh. Every day without fail something new and rib-ticklingly funny would happen with her and I would crack up. I think it wasn’t long before that I started being a happier person because of Gabi in my life. She was a lot of responsibility, but the work dissolved into a labor of love. Then it wasn’t work at all.
Also, in the course of her daily walks, I met lots of other dog owners. Most of them are really lovely people with dogs that are also fun to interact with. I have more new friends as a result of Gabi than I can count.
Gabi turned 10-years old on December 12, 2015. She has been with me for 9-1/2 years now. I couldn’t imagine my life without her. I have a much broader circle of friends in my life and also in cyberspace. Most of my friends these days are people that I met as a result of Gabi.
I remember when I first started keeping her on weekends, before I owned her, people would tell me that I should own a dog because it would be a wonderful companion for me. I always laughed, thinking, “Sure, she will sit on the couch and listen to Beethoven with me.” Well, the funny thing is that Gabi does just that. And I enjoy it.
What I have learned from this act of kindness is that while I initiated it pretty much against my own will, I accomplished my end in that my daughter didn’t come home from school one day and find her dog had been given away. But, the wonderful surprise is that I think I was the greatest beneficiary of the act. Despite my initial strong misgivings about being tied down with a dog, I am really not tied down at all, and she is a constant source of joy in my life.
Although I am not a member of an organized religion, I think of myself as religious. This mechanism I described above reminded me of the New Testament words, “Bread cast upon the water comes back a hundredfold.”
Perhaps if you do something completely for someone else’s benefit, the same thing can happen to you.
There’s only one way to find out.
One final note: At the time I had been retired around 10 years. An integral part of my life was my daily bike ride for a couple of hours. I couldn’t very well do that and leave a crying dog in the apartment. So, I put a basket on one of my bikes and took her for a ride. She seemed fine, not distracted by squirrels in the park and able to sit still for the duration. Long story short. Since adopting Gabi, she and I have ridden several thousand miles together annually on my bike. I miss her when the weather is too cold for her to come along.