Life Lessons from Tonka


Having been a dog owner my whole life, I have decided they are not only as smart as many people – including most of those who run for president – I think we can also learn a lot by observing how they live their lives.

One example from a few months ago: Tonka, our current dog, somehow managed to get up on my son’s desk and devour a candy bar his nose told him was up there.

I had to admire his plan of attack. First, he had to get up on a rolling desk chair that sits on a slippery wood floor without killing himself. Then, he had to locate the candy bar from beneath the mound of socks, papers and trash covering the desk. (Henry’s room is an ongoing experiment in the landfill sciences.) Then, he had to get down from the rolling chair of death. Finally, Tonka had to conjure up a convincing “Who, me? Must have been robbers” look when we discovered the mess he had made.

James Bond should do so well.

Now, of course, chocolate is toxic to dogs, and it wasn’t long before Tonka’s innards were doing the cha-cha-cha. After talking to the vet, we decided to let him ride out the coming storm rather than take him in to the office.

After 24 hours of turmoil – details of which you most assuredly do not want to read – he was back to his usual fool self, barking at squirrels through the picture window and tearing around the house. (If your dog ingests chocolate, has a helpful toxicity meter and tips on what to do.)

I admire that about my dog. Me, had I been poisoned, I’d have laid around for days moaning and groaning that this was it, this is the end, oh woe is me. It might be a week before I got back to being my usual, fool self.

That’s when I decided I would do well to emulate behaviors I have noticed in Tonka and other cherished dogs over the years, and thus came up with the following “Mutt’s Guide to Life.”

  • Thou shalt begin each day with five full minutes of stretching and scratching your face on the carpet. Because it just feels good.
  • Thou shalt dance and yip every time someone says,  “Let’s go outside.”
  • Thou shalt never pass up a chance for a good, long walk.
  • Thou shalt run with joy, play with joy and even sleep with joy.
  • And speaking of joy, thou shalt nap as often as humanly possible, for naps are good and holy.
  • Thou shalt never take a second of this life for granted and thou shalt always live in the moment.
  • Thou shalt always forgive instantly and completely.
  • Thou shalt always greet someone coming home as if
    you haven’t seen them for ten years even if it’s only been ten minutes.
  • Thou shalt love those who love you and take care of you with every ounce of your being each and every day from dawn to dusk.
  • Thou shalt rage gleefully at squirrels forever and always, because they are the mortal enemy. (Insert your own version of squirrels here, I guess.)

I feel compelled to add one more bit of advice for dogs and people: Thou shalt never drink out of the toilet because, c’mon, man, that’s just gross.


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