All I need to know I learned from Fido

By Mike Murphy

There sure seems to be an abundance of stories on the Internet about dogs performing good deeds lately. A day does not go by without a dog receiving recognition for an incredible, even heroic, act. Quite often, I am skeptical about such gushing headlines, but this is one topic that I sincerely feel is not overdone.
I would even go further and say that dogs do not need to save a life or help humans avert a disaster to validate their value in our lives. It seems to me that if people would simply watch and listen to their dogs more often rather than constantly telling them what to do, they could pick up quite a bit of useful knowledge. Here are some things that dogs have taught me.
I have learned to be patient and not to pester people for what I want. My dog knows it isn’t going to help the situation if she whines, begs or clings to my leg so that I have to drag her along while mowing the lawn. I also figured out from watching her that such delays are a great opportunity to squeeze in a short nap.
You can’t get too much exercise, and there’s nothing better than a morning walk in the mountains. But dogs have taught me to be sure and take time to stop and smell the roses … and the weeds, rabbit trails, dung beetles, etc. Of course, dogs have a distinct advantage since they have high-definition nostrils so that a nondescript whiff to me is an aromatic rainbow to Fido.
During the month of July, the neighborhood dogs shout out a pretty obvious general consensus: shooting off firecrackers in the backyard is not fun for everyone. I’ve learned that loud noises hurt dogs’ ears, so they would prefer that rather than subjecting them to such torture, you take them down to the basement and possibly play some classical music to drown out the noise. In fact, that’s what I do, dog or no dog.
Thunder is scary also. I’ve had dogs that run upstairs and crawl under the bed covers any time of the day when they hear thunder, and I have to admit it gets pretty crowded under there when the dog and I are lying face to face.
Don’t bark at small stuff. And it’s all small stuff — except, of course, when one dog takes another dog’s chewy bone to gnaw on even though he really doesn’t want it, but takes it just because he’s a bully and gets a big kick out of teasing other dogs, then, yeah, you should bark your head off.
Don’t gulp your food. Take a breath occasionally. Pause between bites; take a look around; savor the taste; relish the moment because sometimes you can’t be sure when or even if the next meal is coming. Besides, you might miss something important if your eyes are fixated on your plate the whole time. Also, no second helpings, no dessert and don’t snack between meals.
Don’t mess with cats. I know, Pussy can look all cuddly as she rolls around on the carpet licking her paws and rubbing her head while purring. Then the moment you reach down to pet her, the cat snags your hand with its teeth and front claws while simultaneously grating your forearm raw with its hind claws by kicking them so fast they’re a furry blur. Of course, your dog knew this would happen the whole time so that’s why it just sits there shaking its head, no doubt thinking, “What a dope.”
Take the best chair or couch before anyone else does. However, failing at that, be patient; keep an eye on it, then pounce when the opportunity arises.
Sniff onto others as you would have them sniff onto you. I feel that’s pretty self-explanatory, so I’ll just leave it at that.
Try to avoid baths if at all possible. If you do shower, shake real hard before stepping out to dry off.
If you bark at everything, eventually your bark will have no meaning.
Forget air conditioning. Car riding is a lot more fun with the windows wide open.
If you pull too hard on the leash of life, you’ll choke.
Naps are a good thing.
If you have an itch, scratch it.
Probably the noblest trait I’ve learned from dogs is to die peacefully, to go gently into that good night. When their time comes due to old age, there’s no kicking and screaming, no complaining. Sensing that it’s time, they go without a whimper. I hope that I can be so brave — but I plan to have a megaphone handy just in case I can’t.

Mike Murphy of Pocatello retired after a 35-year teaching and coaching career. He has a master’s degree in English from the University of Nebraska and is an Associated Press award-winning columnist.