8 Things I Learned From Angel

8. Loyalty
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Loyalty is a virtue, a very popular virtue indeed and especially one that every person requires from family and friends. Loyalty is a character trait that seems to be instinctive in dogs. They don’t have to learn it in obedience school, they just are by nature loyal. We have all heard of the stories of loyal dogs that would not leave their owners’ graves. Or of the dog that kept on waiting for its owner at the train station as it had done every day of its life: waiting for his beloved friend to return.

Like most canines, Angel is quite loyal herself. She never forgets a loved one. I see this whenever our daughter comes home for a visit. Angel gets so excited and just loves on Heather as if they’ve never been apart. I think that loyalty means remaining trustworthy no matter what. Sadly, this is not so common in people. Some lose their loyalty after a disagreement, or after some separation, or if the other party is absent. Some lose their loyalty as soon as their backs are turned. Real friends and loving families provide that soft safe place for us when we know they are loyal to us. There’s no happier place after all than where you can be yourself and be accepted and loved.

We can choose to be loyal. We can make a conscious effort to remain trustworthy no matter what happens. And thus we can bless our family and friends with our unfailing loyalty. They will love us even more. And maybe we can pass it on to them and they will also be more loyal to us or their own family and friends.

This is the end of my “lessons from Angel series”. Thank you so much for reading. I have truly enjoyed sharing this journey with you all. You are awesome and I am grateful for your precious time and attention. Angel and I thank you all so much!

8 Things I Learned From Angel

6. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Don’t judge a dog by its breed.

This might be a very old saying, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’; but it still rings true today. We would be wise not to judge people by their outward appearance. Many women and men have been victimized by so-called ‘good looking’ serial killers. Just because a person dresses in a simple way doesn’t necessarily mean they are poor. We need to treat people nicely no matter what they look like. It is better to reserve that judgment of one’s character to a later time when you have learned enough about the person.

What is the point exactly? I guess it is simply this – ‘Don’t judge based on appearance. For the dogs, don’t judge a dog by its breed.’ Each pet has its own personality, regardless of the breed. Some pets are more loving than others, but you have to give them a chance to show it. The down side of pre- judging is you could miss out on some really great relationships. Also the reality is pre-judging is discriminating, it is viewing the world thru bias-filtered lenses.

Many people are intimidated by Angel’s appearance. They fear her when they don’t know that she is really nothing but a love sponge. I am so glad and grateful that my honey took in Angel. She has shown us the best side of a pitbull mix, she has shown that she is all about loving and affection. We adopted her but she has adopted us. All we gave her was love (and okay lots of food and treats, too, LOL) and she has given us a thousand joys, a million kisses and inifinite love. If we had just dismissed her for being a scrawny, thin, scarred and hungry little mutt, can you imagine all that we would have lost?

Don’t judge a dog by its breed. Yes. Angel taught me that!

Copyright karen galarneau 2013

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8 Things I Learned From Angel

4. Be grateful
Don’t you just love the way your pet appreciates you after you give it a treat, or after you played with it? You can just feel the gratitude from their affection. When you are appreciated like that, don’t you feel encouraged to repeat the deed? There is nothing like appreciation to make you want to do it again. Needless to say, Angel is a very appreciative pet. One of the things I have learned from Angel is to be grateful and show appreciation. I know exactly how good it feels when Angel shows me appreciation, how much more if we show appreciation to our spouse, our parents, our kids, our siblings, our friends, and our coworkers? It would probably make their day. We sometimes take it for granted and we think they should know just how much we appreciate them. But we need to express it and let them know. Life is short. We should tell them we appreciate them, before it’s too late.

I’d like to mention another facet of gratefulness: being grateful to God. If we take on an attitude of gratitude, we open the gates for more blessings. God hates complainers. God blesses those who praise and thank Him. When we thank the Lord for all His blessings, we not only bless God but we also lead our own hearts to peace and contentment. When we are thankful to the Lord for every blessing in our life, we focus on the good things and God blesses us with more of those good things in our lives.

With the thanksgiving holiday coming up, it is a great time to remember and appreciate all the wonderful blessings in our lives. I pray that this thanksgiving we are able to express our appreciation not only for the things in our lives, but also to the people in our lives. And after that hopefully, we could learn to be grateful every day. By the way, I would like to thank you for stopping by. I really appreciate it. Thank you for reading, liking or commenting. It’s people like you who make blogging worthwhile. Thanks and I hope you have a great and happy thanksgiving!

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8 Things I Learned From Angel

3. Forgive everyday

Yes, I learned this from Angel. We can learn a thing or two from our pets about forgiveness. I’m talking about forgiving the small hurtful things that happen between us and our loved ones and our friends. Any abuse and criminal offenses are beyond the scope of this blog.
I am talking about forgiving the small stuff, which we can do.

As I was saying, our pets seem to forgive the small stuff all the time. They don’t seem to carry grudges. They don’t keep a record of our wrongs. If I neglect to take Angel for a walk, or if I get so busy that I spend less time with her, she doesn’t get resentful or vengeful and take it against me. The next time she wakes up or the next time she sees me, she is happy and loving. This is the way with our pets. They love us just the same even if we have failed them in some way. They forgive us easily.

I wish it were that easy for us humans, but I understand that we sometimes carry grudges. And over time, these grudges become resentment. Sometimes, if the offense is something that we consider really grave, we can be unforgiving. Sometimes we were hurt so deeply that we choose to carry the heavy burden of un-forgiveness. At times it could get so heavy that we feel like we can hardly move forward. We think this is the only way to protect us from being hurt again; and so we carry on with our lives keeping the anger and hatred in our hearts and minds.

But the truth of the matter is, forgiveness does not benefit the one who offended us as much as it does us, the offended ones. If we forgive, we release our own heart from the pain and the repetition of the pain. We set our own hearts free, for healing. We take the power away from the one who offended us so they could not hurt us that way anymore.

Forgive every day. Don’t go to bed with hatred in your heart. As much as possible, we need to try to forgive every day for our own peace of mind, and for our own health. Just try it. It could mean a whole lot of difference in your life.

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8 Things I Learned from Angel

2. Remember to Exercise

Autumn and winter days are days with less sun. Have you ever heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? Some people get lonely, depressed, sleeping more in the daytime and other symptoms. Evidently, dogs experience this as well.

Cloudy days or not, our pets are tuned in to our moods. When they can’t understand what is going on, they get anxious and act up.
Cloudy days mean that we need to do something to be active. Studies show that exercise helps ease the seasonal affective disorder. During sunnier days, walking outside is more fun. Dogs just like people need their exercise. I have learned that the more you exercise, the easier it gets. After you do it for a month, it becomes a habit. After that, your body gets used to it, and you miss it when you don’t exercise.

Exercise is so good for our health. It helps our circulation and helps cleanse our bodies. It helps us get rid of excess body fat and give us a slimmer body. As we age, we need exercise to keep us agile and fit. Walking is my favorite exercise. It is an all-around great exercise that works out the whole body. Thirty minutes a day is not too much to spend for your own health. It is a great investment towards a long and healthy life. Having a pet means we have to walk our dog, and in so doing, we get the benefits of exercise as well. To those who don’t have pets, you still got to exercise. You won’t regret it.

Once when I had a foot injury, I could not walk or run. I started gaining weight. And then I met a therapist that showed me how I could still exercise while lying down. How happy I was then to be able to be able to exercise again. It also helped heal my foot injury. Exercise is really great. Yes, my Angel taught me that!

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8 Things I Learned From Angel

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1. Remember to Rest and Relax

In our busy schedules, we sometimes tend to go on and on with our tasks and activities. We could go non-stop just like the energizer bunny. This is not always the best for us. It could lead to burn out or to stress build-up; and neither of the two is desirable. Stress build up is detrimental to our health. Many diseases are exacerbated if not caused by stress. Some of these diseases are auto-immune disorders like psoriasis, eczema, lupus, etc. Diabetes, cancer, heart disease are usually associated with high stress levels or are said to worsen with stress. We need to take breaks, whether we work at the office or at home.

Stress is part of life, but continuous stress is bad.  We cannot totally eliminate stress in our lives, but we can learn to manage it.  Taking a break will stop the stress for a little time, and help the body go back to normal. We can take a ten minute break from whatever we are doing or whatever we are thinking. Relaxation can come in the form of a nap, some meditation time, listening to some calming music, or even just going outdoors to sit under a tree. When we are stressed or overworked; moments when we walk away for a few minutes can be powerful in recharging our energy. Maybe that’s why they call it a “power nap”.

After working for a long time, we need to rest. It is very important to get enough rest, it replenishes our strength and restores our energy. It relaxes our muscles and our mind. If we get a restful sleep, people sometimes comment that we are glowing. Maybe that’s why they call it “beauty sleep”.

Take time to rest and to relax, every day and every few hours in a day. Yes, just like Angel. And maybe, we will be more youthful, healthier and happier.

Copyright by Karen Galarneau 2013

Dancing Angel Part 2

I don’t really know anymore how it happened or exactly how we did it. Maybe some dogs are just meant to dance. The idea was born from watching a video of the dancing dog on “Britain’s got talent”.  I know. It was a silly idea. But thankfully, Angel was into it. And so, we started with the basic “sit” and “lie down” commands.  We did great! I remember thinking, “Now, if we could just teach her to dance”.  Like I said, Angel was really into it and it really didn’t take much to coach her. She just wanted to have fun. Either that, or she just loves watching us do funny stuff, and then copies us. Yeah, it’s okay, you can laugh.

Anyway, treats are very important tools in this process. Actually they are the secrets to success. Angel will dance, turn around, shake hands and lie down, for her treats. Oh, and yes, that is our simple little routine: “dancey-dancey” (which is like swaying to the left and to the right), “turn around” (which is her cue to make a complete turn), shake hands (left and right paws), followed by “lie down”, and the great finale – “roll over”.

Sometimes, when I hear a favorite song, I start to dance to it, and guess what, Angel will get up from where she is lying down and start to follow me as a I dance, so I just let her do the routine. And there we are dancing to our hearts’ content. I can’t begin to describe the joy that such a moment gives me. I don’t even have to give her a treat.  She just wants to dance with her Mommy. And when the dance is done, I just pet her, and hug her, and I praise her, and tell her I love her.  It is so awesome, dancing with my Angel. It is, as they say, “priceless”.

So go ahead and try teaching your doggie to dance. Just try it, play your favorite dancing music and dance. And I am pretty sure, if that dog of yours loves you as much as I think it does, it will try its best to dance along with you.  You might just discover that your dog’s got talent!

In this post, I am sharing a precious video. Here’s my loving husband Scott, dancing with our Angel. I am the videographer.  I hope you like it.

copyright by Karen Galarneau 2013

My Dancing Angel

You can teach old dogs new tricks. We taught Angel her new tricks only this year (she’s now three years old). I believe she can still learn more tricks in the future. They say that some dogs love to have tasks, they love to help. And just as much, they love to do tricks because they know they get their treats for doing them. I have a feeling that another reason is they can feel their tricks make us happy and they love to please us.

My husband Scott and I taught Angel to dance. I saw a youtube video of the winning dancing dog on the British Got Talent show. That gave me the initial idea to teach Angel how to dance. What we taught her is not a complicated routine. It’s simple really but she has learned it and we have a lot of fun with it. Angel loves to perform and she does it even when we have guests. She is a natural entertainer and we are very proud of her. She used to be shy about it but over time she has found her confidence and her rhythm.

I remember when I was very young, I liked to go to dog shows at the veterinary college. My mom was the pharmacist at the vet college hospital pharmacy and we lived on campus so it was easy to attend these dog shows. I was interested in dogs and wanted to be a veterinarian so my mom really encouraged me to go to these events. This is where I first learned from veterinary students how to teach your dog to sit, lie down, come, roll over, and stay.

There are many books on training dogs and also there are obedience schools that would teach your dog for you. But if you have the time and interest, you can try training your dog yourself. The process will be definitely fun and memorable for both you and your pet. The key is to use one syllable words. Also be sure to teach one trick at a time, keep on it until the dog gets it, before moving on to the next trick. This way the dog doesn’t get confused. You just need to be patient, it will be worth it in the end.

Deciphering Angel’s Dog Talk

I wish I could interpret everything Angel was trying to say to me, every time. But I just don’t have the complete guide to decoding her language just yet. I am not giving up yet though. My very own version of Scooby-Doo never ceases to amaze me with her efforts at speaking people language, or at least communicate with me. I swear I’ve never met a more expressive dog than Angel. And she is not loud at all, just communicative. She hardly ever barks. She is really always quite a good girl, very quiet and well-behaved.

For what it’s worth, here is a short list of my translations :

Licking my hand, and excitedly wagging her tail, after getting up from sleep – She wants to go outside
Licking my hand and excitedly wagging her tail plus soft whimpering sounds – She wants to go outside NOW!
Bringing her leash, or shirt to me – You’re right, she wants me to take her for a walk
Bringing her ball to me – She wants to play fetch
Bringing her stuffed toy to me – She wants to play fetch
Licking my hand as soon as I let her back into the house – She’s grateful that I let her in
Licking my hand as I walk by her when I am cooking or preparing food – She wants to taste what I am cooking
Licking my hand, my toes, or my clothes – She wants some food
Bringing me her empty food bowl – She wants some food
Bringing me her empty water bowl – She wants water
Licking my hand while I am sitting or studying and she has not been sleeping – she wants me to pet her
She lifts her paw to shake my hand – she wants to do her tricks i.e, dancy-dancy, shake hands, lie down and roll over, for treats
She suddenly becomes alert, looks at the direction of the front door, gets up and comes over to me – Daddy’s home
She suddenly becomes alert and looks out the windows and stands behind the front door – strange dog is outside our yard or on our porch

My husband teases me and says I got it backwards. That I should not try so hard as to understand what Angel is trying to tell me. He says what matters is that Angel should understand what I tell her to do. Maybe he’s right. But I just like to solve the puzzle that is Angel code. I figure I’d at least try, after all she tries so hard to understand me.

How about you and your pet? Do you have your own key to your pet’s code?

Copyright Karen Galarneau 2013

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WALKING WITH MY TRUE ANGEL

Do you believe our pets can sense our feelings? I believe Angel has kept me healthy and happy. Since the first time I walked with Angel, it has been quite impossible for me to lie in bed and be sad or depressed. She just wouldn’t let that happen. She would either jump in bed with me, or do something funny like bring me her leash, her toy, her “walking” shirt (a dog t-shirt that says “rescued and loved “ which I have been making a habit of letting her wear when we go for a walk). One time she even brought me one of my running shoes. It just tickled me so.
I remember one time when I had to work on completing a chapter for my dissertation and I thought I just didn’t have the time to walk with Angel that day. And so I tried to be smart and I put up all Angel’s leashes, far away from her reach, so she couldn’t bring them to me. At this time, by the way, my loving husband had also started his project of converting our carpet into hardwood flooring and some of his stuff were on the floor. To my surprise, Angel brought me my husband’s tape measure. She must have thought it was a leash because it had a black lanyard which resembled the black cord on her leashes. I couldn’t stop laughing. I had to call my husband and tell him. I guess you know what happened after: I ended up taking her for a walk when I took a break from studying. I figured she deserved it for all her efforts. I must have thought I was rewarding her by taking her for that walk, but after taking the walk, my mind was so clear and I was able to finish the chapter quickly that I was probably really the one who got rewarded.
My daily walks with Angel have indeed kept me healthy and happy. As you know, sometimes when you are writing your dissertation, self-doubt could rear its ugly head, and if you were not careful, it could rob you of your joy and inspiration. I believe that walking with Angel really helped me through those challenging days until I could finally finish my dissertation. Could our pets really have this positive effect on us? Yes, yes, yes! A friend of mine told me a while ago that her cats were the only reason she got up every day when she was clinically depressed. She had to get up to make the cats’ meals. Now that she is feeling much better, she is so grateful to her pets for her survival. And just yesterday I was reading a touching story about how a Labrador helped a lady from suffering depression after her brother, whom she loved very much, passed away (www.thepetplace.com). This dog did everything it could to get her out of bed including pulling her blanket or the sheets and even barking at her to the point that she would actually get up. The Labrador also helped cheer up another dog, her brother’s dog. It was so touching how this Labrador was able to help the lady and her brother’s dog in dealing with their grief and loss. Maybe you also have heard of other stories of the effect of the love of a pet on people’s lives, maybe you even have your very own story to tell. This human-animal bond can be so strong that it can be a source of healing.
Of course, there are those wonderful physical benefits of exercise that walking with my Angel has given me: a chance to better enjoy sunny days and get Vitamin D, get some fresh air, improve my cardio and overall improve my health. But more than that, I have found that walking gives me energy and focus. The walks also get me out of the house and give me a chance to take a break from house chores or from studying. It is fun for me and I know it is fun for Angel. She loves walking. Sometimes, I bring my Ipod and listen to an audiobook of John C. Maxwell’s “Talent Is Not Enough”. And sometimes I pray while we walk. I praise God and thank Him for His many blessings. I pray for our family and friends especially those who are sick. I pray for special intentions. I pray for our family. I pray for our friends. It is wonderful that in this sense, my pet has been like a true angel: bringing me closer to God.
Sometimes when we walk, I pat Angel gently and she looks happily back at me, with her mouth open as if smiling, her eyes almost winking. As we end our last lap, I say “Good job, Angel, you did three laps today!” I hug her close, just before I let her get in the backseat of the car. It’s time to go back home, after another day of walking with my Angel.

© Karen Galarneau 2013

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