Lessons from the Queen
We now take a break from the regularly scheduled programming of talking about depression. I’m going to talk about one of my best friends, who eases my depression and gets me out of the house for long walks. Heck, she gets me out of bed in the morning because she needs to use the restroom facilities. She is reddish-brown, with a graying snout and four legs. She is Dolly, my 13-year-old dachshund mix, otherwise known as Queen Elizabeth (or the Queen) for short. She earned that nickname because she rules the roost, both inside the house and out.
Here is the Queen, enjoying her most favorite activity: head outside the car window, ears flapping in the breeze.
I purposely chose this picture because it leads to the first lesson from the Queen.
Lesson #1: Be present. Live life in the moment. Don’t look in the review mirror and don’t worry yourself by looking too far ahead down the road. Just be and exist fully in whatever you’re doing at each moment in time. Sometimes this exercise can be somewhat easy because the present is joyous. (For the Queen that means car rides, walks, dinnertime and belly rubs.) But sometimes it can be difficult to live life in the moment, particularly when really crappy stuff is happening in your life or when we take things for granted (which is a part of human — but not dog — nature). However painful or pleasurable your present is, you need to live it, breathe it, work through it. I am currently trying to do this and it’s one of the toughest things in the world, but I have a great role model to guide me.
Lesson #2. Love unconditionally. I can wake up with morning breath and bed-head, and the Queen thinks I’m the greatest. I can ignore her, shorten her walks when it’s raining or snowing (or out of sheer laziness) or forget to feed her at precisely 4pm on the dot, and she loves me to death. I cry, and she licks my tears away. I laugh and she wags her tail. She, on the other hand, can pee on the carpet or barf on my bedspread, and I don’t care. She can bark her head off at the Maltese across the street or try to attack the man at Starbucks wearing a baseball cap, and I still adore her. She has taught me the power of unconditional love.
Lesson #3. Be confident, despite your size, stature, etc. The Queen is about two feet off the ground, yet has the heart of a lion. She has no real pedigree to speak of (I got her from a rescue at age 2, where they had saved her from being euthanized and no one really knew what the hell she was mixed with), but she often prances around like a show dog. She tries to take down German Shepherds and other large dogs and protects me when anyone comes up too quickly on the street (or just doesn’t look quite right to her, baseball-cap-wearing men included). She doesn’t care that she’s a couple of pounds overweight, I realize, as I watch her flirt shamelessly with the Old English Sheepdog down the street. I could learn a few things from her about confidence and not getting anxious about what other people think.
Lesson #4. Have faith that sometimes misfortune is actually fortune in disguise. I swear the Queen is part cat; she has nine lives. She’s been through numerous medical emergencies and accidents through the years, and she always comes out stronger (despite my initial reaction that it’s going to be disastrous). Two years ago, the vet found a tumor in her colon. I was devastated and expected the worst. Total misfortune, right? We decided to operate on her and remove it. She made a full recovery and the tumor was benign. Very fortunate. Another more recent story: last week, she got into my messenger bag and pulled out a 14 oz dark chocolate bar I had purchased the week before in NYC. I came into the living room in time to find bits and pieces of the foil wrapping littering the carpet. She ate the whole thing, and since chocolate can kill dogs, I rushed her to the emergency vet. I was a wreck. We were fortunate that I was able to get her to the vet so quickly, before the chocolate metabolized. They were able to get it out of her (I will spare you the disgusting details) and after a night in the pet hospital, she’s as good as new. We are both fortunate, indeed.
Lesson #6. Grow old with grace and spunk. If the Queen were a human, she’s be roughly 75-ish years old. She can still run, jump and climb/descend three flights of stairs each time I take her for walks. She jumps up on my bed with one single bound and can outrun me when I take her along the river off her leash. She dances around the kitchen on her hind legs when I pull out the dog food or a treat. But she’s not all energy. She stops to smell the roses (quite literally) and rolls in the grass with a smile on her face. And she’s a hot cougar. The Old English Sheepdog down the street would marry her if he could (and he’s probably only about 30 in human years). I can only hope that I am a spunky and active old lady (and a hot one at that). You might even find me rolling in the grass.